coworker is writing a dissertation on our boss being a narcissist, using social media comments to get a job, and more

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

1. Coworker thinks our manager is a narcissist and is doing her dissertation on it

I am part of a very small team, it’s just me, my colleague, and our manager. Our manager (John) replaced our previous manager (Pete) at the beginning of this year. My colleague (Sarah) and Pete are really good friends, and Sarah was quite unhappy when he was replaced. It was necessary due to slip-ups he made, though.

Sarah and John do not like each other. According to Sarah, John was gunning for Pete’s position and used immoral tactics to get it. I was not aware of it and I only have her word for it. They have also clashed due to communication methods and personality differences. Sarah says he does not fit in with the culture. Our office has a really relaxed culture and alcohol frequently plays a role, but John doesn’t drink and is seen as stuck-up.

I have not had the same experiences with John. I think he is a really good manager. He might not go out and drink wine with us, but he empowers me and he listens to me. I see him as more of a mentor than a manager.

Sarah recently started seeing a psychiatrist, and apparently her psychiatrist thinks our manager is a narcissist. (Can a psychiatrist diagnose someone like that? Is it even morally acceptable?) She gave Sarah some materials to read, and Sarah agrees with the diagnosis. Sarah is getting a psychology degree and decided to do her dissertation on narcissists in the workplace. She’s very excited about it and goes around telling everyone about it, also saying she got the idea after months of hardship. Everyone is aware she doesn’t get along with John, and it isn’t that difficult to figure out she might be referring to him.

Sarah did go to HR about her unhappiness, and she is being moved to another role in the organization. I am uncomfortable with her dissertation, though. Obviously in her private capacity she can make the subject whatever she wants to, but implying that he is a narcissist without any real proof doesn’t feel good. Can I do something about it? Must I warn John? Go to HR?

Dear lord. Sarah sounds like a problem in multiple ways (including saying someone’s not a culture fit because they don’t drink — !?). Unfortunately, I don’t think you’re well positioned to do much about it, but it sure wouldn’t hurt to let John know what’s happening so he can figure out if he needs to do anything to protect himself. It also wouldn’t hurt to tip off HR and let them know you’ve had excellent experiences with John so far. Sarah sounds like she’s really out to take John down, and there’s value in HR hearing another point of view.

Also, when you hear Sarah badmouthing John, ideally you’d speak up and say, “That hasn’t been my experience with John at all. I’ve found him to be a really good manager.” It’s useful for her to get that pushback, and it’s even more useful for the people she’s talking to to know that Sarah’s viewpoint isn’t universally shared.

(And no, ethical psychiatrists will not diagnose someone they haven’t treated.)

2. Trying to mobilize social media comments to get a job

A professional acquaintance (we work for different agencies in the same state government, and have had a couple conversations at events for a professional organization we both belong to) is applying for a new job with another state agency. He posted a comment on the agency’s LinkedIn post announcing the job opening and said that he had applied, and since then he’s been reaching out to seemingly everyone he knows asking them to like his comment and share a comment of their own on that LinkedIn post with their support. So far, he has amassed more than 150 comments in support.

He’s just reached out to me asking for a like and a comment as well. Because we work in government, hiring is supposed to be strictly merit-based and this kind of crowdsourced social media support is not something a hiring manager can consider when making a hiring decision. I find the whole thing very unprofessional, and even if I wanted to support him I’ve never worked with him and I certainly wouldn’t be able to speak to any of his qualifications. How should I formulate a response — and what should I think of everyone I know who has gone along with this and posted a comment in his support?

This is an odd strategy. Even outside of government, when hiring managers could theoretically take this kind of social media support into account, hiring isn’t a popularity contest where the person who gets the most likes on their comment wins the job. And in a lot of organizations the people doing the hiring are completely separate from the people doing the social media and wouldn’t even know this was happening … and if they did, it might get a candidate noticed in a bad way.

Anyway. You could just ignore the request. It doesn’t sounds like the two of you talk much, so I don’t think you need to give an explanation. As for what to think of the people who have gone along with it … probably just that they wanted to do a feel-good kind of thing for him without being particularly invested in whether it was a good or bad idea.

3. Our company will reimburse us for technology purchases … in seven months

Our company has been fully remote for a full year, and in that time, employees have been on our own to figure out what to do about office supplies needed to do our jobs. Then today, our HR team sent out an email related to this that I’m sure they felt was well-intentioned, but just feels like a slap in the face.

The big announcement is that the firm is providing all staff a $250 technology reimbursement to be used towards office supplies, and provided a list of appropriate items, such as printers, paper/ink, keyboards/mouses, headsets, chairs, and laptop stands.

However, this comes with two major caveats. The first is that this does not apply retroactively to anything that we may have already purchased, and the second is that we will not be reimbursed this money until NOVEMBER of this year, although they could not say exactly when. The instructions essentially said, hold on to the receipts and we’ll let you know when it’s time to submit them.

At this point, many of us have already spent quite a bit out of pocket for necessary items, and are now being told that it will only qualify for items purchased going forward. Frankly, I don’t need anything anymore — I already bought a mouse, printer, ink, paper, etc., all so I could do my job when they didn’t provide us with any initial guidance.

I am sure they are expecting an outpouring of gratitude, but it feels like too little, too late. Additionally, what if folks can’t afford to float the company $250 without being reimbursed for eight months? It just seems super out of touch. At this point, I don’t even want to take advantage of it because it feels super vague and poorly thought out, and I’m worried we’ll get to November and they will reject my reimbursement claim for some reason, and then I’ll be out of pocket for something I wouldn’t have necessarily bought. What do you think?

Yeah, this is crappy. As you point out, people who needed those items probably already bought them on their own; ideally they’d be willing to reimburse you for those. And asking you to wait until November to get reimbursed for purchases now … what if you’re no longer working there in November?

Your employer is saving a lot of money by not having employees on-site, and they’ve apparently shifted the cost of equipment and supplies over to you as well … and now are making it more difficult than it needs to be to get some of that reimbursed. It’s a bad arrangement.

4. Client always spells my name wrong

I work at a company that services many local and national clients. One of the clients in my portfolio onboarded with our company a year ago and I have had any number of communications with various representatives regarding their particular section of the business.

There is one client representative who has spelled my name incorrectly every … single … time they communicate with me.

My name is pretty common, think Michelle or Sarah, but they always spell my name with the alternative spelling, think Michele/Sara. The correct and more common spelling of my name is in my signature. In addition, I am copied on correspondence where others have spelled my name correctly and yet this person still addresses me with the alternative spelling of my name.

This client is VERY important to my company’s bottom line and it has been said more than once that they are the ones keeping the doors open, so I have been hesitant to make a stink about what should be a non-issue … but it is my NAME! Would it be bad form after a year to tell this person they have been spelling my name wrong? I don’t want to cause issues with my company if this person gets offended, but after a year, it kills me a little bit every time I see my name misspelled in correspondence directed to me because I feel like that isn’t me if that makes sense.

There’s no harm in “by the way, it’s Sarah (with an h)!” But if that doesn’t get through, you’re better off trying to let it roll off of you. As someone whose name is constantly misspelled, my quality of life is way better from just deciding not to care about it. Some people are bad with names or bad at spelling, or they know someone who spells it the other way and so it’s locked in their head that way.

This is a client, not a spouse or a parent or someone else who you’d presumably expect to be invested in getting it right.

5. What does it mean that a job I’m interviewing for keeps getting reposted?

I applied for an open entry-level position through LinkedIn about a week ago. I successfully went through the phone interview and scheduled an in-person interview later this week (yay!). I noticed on LinkedIn that this job has been reposted a second time, and now that post is no longer taking applications. Now I’ve seen they posted the opening again for a third time. What does this mean?

No good will come from trying to read anything into that. It could just be that they keep their job postings active until the position is filled (which is very common), and periodically refresh them during that time so they don’t look stale (also common). Or who knows, maybe they aren’t completely satisfied with their candidate pool and want to increase it — which wouldn’t necessarily indicate anything about the strength of your candidacy since most hiring managers want to have multiple strong candidates in the mix. Basically, it’s impossible to know what’s behind it from the outside, and there’s no point in trying to parse it out; this kind of thing will drive you out of your gourd if you dwell on it too much.

{ 536 comments… read them below }

  1. Phil*

    My name is also commonly misspelled. Guess how, you’d be right either way. I learned decades ago to let it go.

  2. WoodswomanWrites*

    #1, Sarah sounds like a real pain. In addition to Alison’s advice, I wouldn’t assume that her psychiatrist has done any sort of diagnosis about John. You’re just hearing Sarah’s comments, and who knows what’s really going on there. It sounds like a good thing that you won’t have to work with Sarah on your team anymore, and it would be good to draw boundaries around all these stories so you don’t have to take them on. Giving HR and John a heads-up is fine and then you can let these conversations with Sarah go and not get caught up further. You don’t have to engage in those discussions further beyond the replies that Alison suggested. Going forward, you can put your energy into being a positive contributor to your team, and learning from and supporting your manager.

    1. Liz*

      Agreed, this is my thinking too. I have occasionally known professionals to make suggestions of this nature, but it was never a diagnosis and was more about encouraging a patient to discount the opinions of individuals in their past who had behaved in an abusive manner. It’s a great tactic to empower survivors who have come to normalize poor treatment and see themselves as in the wrong despite all evidence to the contrary, but this is a prime example of how it can backfire horribly.

      1. WS*

        Yes, a therapist I was seeing discussed one of my difficult family members in this context – “not an actual diagnosis, but tips on dealing with people with this personality disorder are likely to help you” – and indeed, it was very helpful to see that the person in question wasn’t coming from a position of being right all the time, but likely covering for some deep insecurities. But it was in no way meant to be a diagnosis and I didn’t then write my thesis on it!

      2. Julia*

        In my years of therapy, none of my therapists have ever made a remark like that despite my mother fitting right in at r/raisedbynarcissists. But maybe Sarah’s therapist got their degree from the same place that’s allowing Sarah to conduct her research in this extremely sketchy way?

        (Also, apparently there’s another Julia posting here who I don’t always agree with. I guess it’s time to change my name?)

        1. Yorick*

          It doesn’t sound like Sarah’s dissertation is ON the boss, but rather INSPIRED BY her perception of the boss. While I can see why OP finds this weird, especially given how she’s discussing it with others, I don’t think it’s inappropriate from a research ethics standpoint.

          1. JustaTech*

            I should hope that the dissertation isn’t ON the boss because I’m pretty sure that’s a major ethical violation of human subjects research. You have to get approval from the ethics board (IRB or Institutional Review Board) for any research involving humans, even if you’re just asking people to fill out a survey. And you have to get consent from your subjects!

            If it is just inspired by the boss then Sarah’s conduct is merely obnoxious (until she gets her degree, when there will be more professional standards about not diagnosing people who aren’t your patient).

            1. Keymaster of Gozer*

              “Look at all the evidence I got about my boss!”
              “And…where’s his consent form for you using him as a subject?”

              I used to work in medical research and if you so much as wanted to quote ONE example in a piece of work you had better have gotten approval to do so. (I had an interesting time when one of the viruses I studied was one I’d personally been infected by. Boy that was a minefield)

              1. Anti anti-tattoo Carol*

                Yes-you beat me to it! IRB, in my experience, are very rigorous. I was once named in someone’s proposed thesis as an advisor. I was, but barely; my colleague was truly the mentor and advisor. I just gave technical and systems advice. I did not interact with interviewees, nor I did not give input on how to do the research. I still had to jump through all of the IRB hoops despite maybe putting 10 hours into a yearlong project.

            2. Lexie*

              If it’s strictly observation she might get away with it if she doesn’t interact with him in any way while she’s collecting her data and uses no identifying information but it’s still iffy. There was someone ahead of me in my program that was able to an observation type project without going through IRB.

              1. Yorick*

                This might work if you’re observing extremely public behavior (like drivers’ behavior), but likely wouldn’t be acceptable if you’re observing someone interacting with others at work.

                But anyway, OP doesn’t say the dissertation is on the boss at all! I think people are hung up on the headline that says “writing a dissertation on our boss,” but that doesn’t come from the letter.

                1. Lexie*

                  Like I said “iffy”. The person in my program was specifically observing people’s reactions to her while going about her regular duties and it was just a project as opposed to a dissertation.

      3. MissBaudelaire*

        This was my experience as well. It wasn’t my therapist rushing around with a Wand Of Mental Disorders pointing it at people saying they had one or the other. It was mentioned as a way for my to frame their behaviors. Not set in stone they did or did not have something.

        Sarah’s therapist gave her some reading materials so she could further explore a topic that caught her interest. And Sarah’s experience is not OP’s. I would probably also not like the way Sarah behaved about it, but all I would say is “That hasn’t been what I’ve noticed about him.” and change the topic and refuse to engage in that discussion with her.

      4. Wintermute*

        It’s also important to note that “narcissism” is a lot of things at once. Yes there is a personality disorder called “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” but there’s also a much larger set of Narcissistic Personality Traits, it’s an entire category of trait in some personality classification schema. And on top of all that, there is a massive set of Narcissistic **behavior** which people may engage in for many reasons which may or may not include being a narcissist or having NPD.

        It’s entirely appropriate for a psychiatrist or psychologist to say “that *behavior* sounds narcissistic, here are some resources to help you understand how to survive in that environment.” they’re not diagnosing, they’re naming a behavior, not a person, a person’s personality traits or whether they have a diagnosable condition. Unfortunately the distinction in phrasing is often lost on the patient.

        That’s the problem with imprecision and the fact psychiatric terms have become common thanks to pop psychology, and that psychology uses terms which have meaning outside the field, much wider and more accepted meanings. Many people are antisocial, antisocial personality disorder is incredibly rare. You also see this problem when you see people conflate “mentally ill” in the colloquial sense of “their state of mind and mental processes are not in line with those society finds acceptable and normal” and “mentally ill” in the sense of “suffering from a diagnosable psychiatric disorder”. For instance, when talking about people who commit violence– they may be mentally ill in the colloquial sense, but are rarely so in the medical sense.

        1. JessaB*

          And it’s also very possible that the therapist said nothing and that the whole thing came from Sarah’s own head but because she doesn’t have her degree yet she said “My psych told me,” because she thinks it’ll make people listen more. However, if she’s genuinely missing the point of what the psych said, and she’s taking a degree in the field, I fear for her clients/patients because seriously I’d wonder if she was listening to her clients.

          1. No Name Today*

            I agree with the borrowed authority. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. Sarah discusses her issues with her boss. Therapist listens and encourages her to expand. Sarah makes conclusions about boss’ mental condition. Therapist listens and encourages her to expand, to honestly and fairly think it through.
            Sarah concludes this means her opinion is correct and has been validated by her therapist.

          2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

            I bet Sarah told her psychiatrist “My boss is totally a narcisist” and the psychiatrist said “tell me more about how that makes you feel” which Sarah took as agreement and therefore a diagnosis.

            1. Lana Kane*

              My brother in law says his therapist said my husband (his brother) is “toxic”. These 2 haven’t spoken in years because of my BIL’s penchant for stealing from family. I sincerely hope that what you described is what happned (I also bet my BIL conveniently forgot to add that bit of history).

              1. No Name Today*

                I’m imagining your BIL telling his therapist how every conversation comes down to your husband demanding things from him, trapping him in the past, emotionally manipulating him.
                Not, I stole X from my brother who didn’t call the cops but wants either the item or the money back. Not, since I never made amends to my brother for how I hurt him, he is still reeling from it. Not, my brother won’t let me come over, won’t let me see his kids because I stole from everyone in the family…

            2. EchoGirl*

              I think it’s also possible that Sarah misrepresented John’s behavior to the psychiatrist (who has only her word to go on, after all), so the narcissism suggestion may have been based on a skewed reporting of the issue.

          3. Anon12*

            I have had a therapist say to me that a managers behaviour sounded like they had narcissistic personally traits in the context of giving me coping strategies to deal with them. Perhaps something to that effect was said rather than a diagnosis given.
            However, I do know that my experience with that particular manager was so incredibly difficult, and some members of the team had a similar experience, but others, who the manager valued whatever they had to offer her, had a 180° difference in their experience. That experience sent me on a decline so severe that I took years to come back from it, and others in the team thrived because they never challenged the manager, so never ended up at the blunt end of her tactics.
            So while I don’t agree that Sarah should be talking about it round the office, I also don’t agree that she must be wrong about John because not everyone who deals with him experiences him that way.
            If the poster is uncomfortable about what is being said they should speak to HR but I would concentrate on the fact that it makes them uncomfortable rather than that they feel Sarah is wrong.

        2. On Fire*

          +1. I know an individual who ticks off every box on the checklist for sociopathic behavior, but I wouldn’t dream of saying the person is a sociopath. It’s my observation on behavior, not a diagnosis of condition. (And I know “sociopath” is a complicated topic anyway; not trying to derail!)

      5. Guacamole Bob*

        Advice column comment sections often recommend subreddits and books for people with narcissists in the family – it doesn’t really matter if the person meets the clinical criteria if someone finds the advice about how to set boundaries helpful. I can imagine a therapist recommending such a book and Sarah running with it.

        1. Carol the happy elf*

          I’ve been binge-reading advice columns lately between binge-watching tv programs (broken foot) and it’s horrifying to see these non-PhDs telling someone “Your husband is cheating on you, your wife is a narcissist, your Grandpa is leaving you out of the will because the new wife is manipulating him, Elder Abuse,” with nothing but an angry letter as proof.

          I went to a therapist years ago, and she only told me how I might respond to what I perceived. But really, Sarah’s diagnosis is probably not going to pass the dissertation protocols, (I hope!!) because Sarah is too wrapped up in it, too emotional, and those things are pretty easy to spot, which would challenge (and hopefully derail) the entire dissertation. (BTW- does everyone KNOW that Sarah is actually in this program as she says?) If she’s diagnosing a severely antisocial disorder, and bouncing it around the workplace, PLUS sharing presumably HIPAA-protected information, I’d be afraid that anyone who annoys her would be in danger of an “I’m a PhD, and you’re psycotic!” outburst.
          I would give John a heads-up, and keep notes for HR.

      6. Sandi*

        A therapist friend of mine didn’t diagnose my difficult boss years ago, but she did offer coping mechanisms based on a likely diagnosis. My friend knew that I understood it wasn’t a diagnosis and that I would never suggest it was, although I did share the successful coping mechanisms with coworkers.

        Sarah seems like she is a bad candidate for psychiatry, which is very unfortunate for any future patients.

    2. Not Australian*

      MTE. It could have been a throw-away remark (‘That sounds a lot like narcissism”) that Sarah just ran with and drew her own conclusions from; a quick Google and she decides the ‘symptoms’ fit, and in her mind that’s a firm diagnosis.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Agreed. I’ve known and worked with too many people who heard a casual ‘possible explanation’ and asserted it as fact – always in support of their point, of course.

    3. Pennyworth*

      Something isn’t right with Sarah using her boss as a case study for a dissertation: her knowledge of him is limited to the workplace and is highly subjective, and I think it might cross some ethical lines too. I thought psychology was more rigorous than that.

      1. Forrest*

        I mean, unless Sarah is getting a “Psychology” “degree” for $200 from the University of Dodgy Internet Site, there is no way her dissertation should mention or diagnose any individual she knows as a narcissistic. Even at the level of “this dissertation was inspired by my experiences…”

        1. traffic_spiral*

          No kidding. Unless her thesis supervisor is actually her cat, Professor Butterscotch the Third, I’m not seeing how this would get approved.

          1. Velawciraptor*

            Better Butterscotch III than Prof. Butterscotch II–that guy was a stickler for ethical guidelines.

        2. Eukomos*

          Yeah, she might be writing a dissertation about narcissists in workplaces, that’s possible, but she cannot possibly be writing it about an unwitting boss. There’s no way to achieve sufficient academic rigor or ethical clearance. OP is right to worry about the effect her hostility will have on John’s reputation in their office but the dissertation is either unconnected, not happening the way she’s currently picturing it, or not real at all.

          1. Observer*

            the dissertation is either unconnected, not happening the way she’s currently picturing it, or not real at all.

            That’s a good point. Also one that means that it’s a really good idea for HR to know what Sara is saying because it speaks to a real potential workplace problem.

        3. ArtK*

          Using him as a subject, even “anonymized” is still an ethical breach. You cannot use someone as a subject for research without their consent.

      2. Green great dragon*

        I don’t think that’s quite what’s happening. She’s got a generic title on the dissertation, she’s just making a lot of meaningful comments to colleagues. We can’t tell from here whether the dissertation itself will inappropriate.

        1. Clorinda*

          . . . or whether it will happen at all.
          Speaking s an outside observer, I really, really don’t want Sarah to be a psychologist or counselor in any capacity.

          1. Tisiphone*

            She reminds me of a former coworker who went to therapy and started diagnosing everyone she knew. If you refused to accept that you had a psychological condition as assigned by this untrained amateur, you were in denial.

            It’s as ridiculous as me claiming to be an expert on dentistry because I had my teeth cleaned.

            1. MassMatt*

              I find this kind of thing is common with people starting 12-step programs also, it’s very irritating.

            2. JustaTech*

              Yeah, I’ve got a coworker like that who has decided that I have anxiety because I’m not a happy-go-lucky wing-it kind of person and I’ve gotten upset at people in the office being vague about masking.

              Thanks for pathologizing my personality and my reasonable response to the pandemic! /s

            3. Keymaster of Gozer*

              Ahh memories. The coworker who insisted I had split personalities because her psychiatrist had said…something..and it must be true because she’d seen me act differently in and out of work.

              That’s called professional detachment ya numpty!

          2. Observer*

            Speaking s an outside observer, I really, really don’t want Sarah to be a psychologist or counselor in any capacity.

            I agree with you SOOO much!

            1. Self Employed*

              I had a neighbor who really, really shouldn’t be a counselor or social worker.

              She harassed various people in our building for “not being normal” and explained it as “I have to spend all day at work dealing with people like them, I don’t want to spend any time with them when I’m off work!” OK, we are not talking about people asking her to work for free–they are just existing in the common areas of our apartment building while she used FaceTime to show her friends how weird they are and laugh at them. If she doesn’t like working with people who don’t fit in her box of “normality” then maybe she picked the wrong career!

              I finally told her I would look up her employer on LinkedIn and tell them how she’s behaving to her neighbors. That seemed to knock some sense into her; she stopped doing it and moved out in a couple of months.

        2. Marzipan Dragon*

          I don’t think she’s doing her dissertation on him at all. I think it’s a smokescreen so she can freely insult and gossip about a person she dislikes with a layer faux professionalism on it. “Oh, I’m not venting about my boss, I’m discussing my education.”

      3. Asenath*

        I’m sure it is improper for someone to use a boss as a case study, for the reasons Pennyworth gave and particularly since she doesn’t seem to have consent. I know of a few cases (one in which I was a subject) in which students were asked to interview or even do some small activities with people. They were at a lower level (undergraduate) and the person not only knew what was going on, but consent in was obtained in advance. It sounds like Sarah knows this, since she’s hinting around that she’s studying her boss, not, apparently, saying so outright. HR should be notified that the boss seems excellent, and OP should put her opinion forward every time she hears Sarah give hers.

      4. Not So NewReader*

        Sarah probably sees plenty of this going on around her in school. In my own experience, a prof used our class for her paper that she was doing. Because of an inherit ethics conflict she could not lead the groups activities because it would sway the outcome of her study of our class.
        And chaos took over. Because the prof did not lead, everyone ended up bickering among themselves. The last day of class involved people yelling. One person declared it the worst class they have ever had and another person wondered out loud “Why is everyone in this class fighting with each other!”

        No worries on my end. The prof failed to submit my grade. When confronted she said she did submit my grade and she would not be resubmitting it. I never got credit for the course from hell. I read her study that she wrote on us. According to her we were a miserable lot. Yeah, one can find the study on line and actually mistake it for a credible study. She buries the conflict of interest. TPTB did not do anything about it because they were all afraid she would label them with some random diagnosis.

        Sarah probably sees plenty of questionable things going on around her.

        Just remember, OP, that at some point Sarah will be faced with the fact that all her diagnosing does not change anything. She’s done a whole pile of nothing to improve the world.

        1. BethDH*

          This is horrible. By “find the study online” do you mean that it was published somewhere reputable? If so, you could certainly report it to the editorial board. Wouldn’t help with your grade, obviously, but a retraction like that could tarnish her enough that the local administration might not find it worthwhile to keep ignoring her issues. If the school is on the record as ignoring stuff like that they can lose their own accreditation.

        2. Artemesia*

          You can’t do research that involves human subjects without being approved by an ethics board that all colleges have. ‘Not teaching the class because you are doing research on the class’ is not even slightly going to fly at an IRB or any department that is managed at all.

        3. The New Wanderer*

          A friend of mine in college used his friend group (including me) as the basis of a class paper. It wasn’t a psych class so I guess that made it okay? He wouldn’t share the paper with me or others so there was likely stuff in there that he didn’t want us to know about. Years later I asked him about it and he said he regretted having done it at all. Distance and maturity gave him far more insights about his own motivations and lack of objectivity in writing the paper.

          I never took any clinical psych classes in my PhD program, but I can’t imagine her supposed dissertation topic being acceptable as described. In openly complaining about her boss and throwing around faux diagnoses, she sounds like she very much lacks the distance and maturity my friend was able to gain with time.

      5. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        It definitely is. As others have pointed out – assuming that Sarah is attending an accredited university that is also accredited by the relevant psychological body (like APA, or BPS, etc.) – a case study about her boss would not be acceptable as a dissertation.

        It is possible that she’s saying: ‘I think my boss is a narcissist and this has piqued my interest in how narcissists operate within the workplace enviornment, so I’m designing a study around that.’ That could potentially be acceptable as a dissertation.

        Although (based only on my own limited experience) that sounds like a….tough topic to get funding for and pass methodological muster on for a dissertation. Often dissertations questions are specific to the point of being pretty dull for people outside the area of study. What OP describes sounds more like an idea for a pop-psych book. I am actually really curious about what Sarah’s dissertation is, if she is doing one.

          1. Formerly Ella Vader*

            I was wondering if it was more like what Americans call “senior thesis” and Canadians call “honours thesis” and UK academics call “dissertation”, a long paper with references but little or no original research written as a capstone achievement to an undergraduate degree.

            It seems less likely that Sarah’s doing a clinical psychology doctorate with a research dissertation as part of the requirements, while working full time in this unrelated job.

      6. Wintermute*

        yeah it would cross all the ethical lines, her advisor would pop a cork because even using anonymized aggregate-level qualitative data from human subjects has massive institutional review requirements. On top of that it’s deeply concerning someone could make it that far through a degree program and still think that “data” is a plural form of “anecdote”.

        I’m firmly betting it’s her making stuff up, just to needle him, or that she was inspired to work in the area because of him and thinks she can get mileage out of “this guy is so bad it inspired me to make toxic managers my area of professional study!”

        1. AnonEMoose*

          All of this. And without going into too much detail, there is a thing called “fitness to practice” in fields like Psychology. And if Sarah is actually going to be a counselor…there’s a difference between studying psychology and actually training to be a counselor, and the latter is far more rigorous…but anyway, if she is actually attempting to do her dissertation on your boss without his knowledge and consent, that is a Big. Deal. I’m going to leave it there, but let’s just say that from my own experience, that’s not a thing an Institutional Review Board would look at kindly. At all. And if she is not being honest with her university about how she is intending to conduct the research, that’s an Even Bigger Deal.

        2. Paulina*

          If she is looking for information about toxic managers, she might end up here. If so, she may learn that your manager is not supposed to be your drinking buddy.

      7. JessaB*

        I can’t see a human studies committee, presuming they know the truth about the subject and the minimal contact and information Sarah has, letting her get away with it.

      8. Weekend Please*

        We don’t really know what level her degree is. Her “dissertation” may be an undergrad thesis paper which typically are much less rigorous. She also may not have gotten the topic approved yet and it is simply what she wants to do.

      9. Yorick*

        The letter doesn’t say that her dissertation will be a case study of her boss. It’s *about* narcissists in the workplace, and seems to be *inspired by* her boss.

        A person can think of a topic based on their personal experiences and then do a rigorous, ethical study about that topic.

      10. CoveredInBees*

        Yeah, I wondered about that too. It’s one thing to say this colleague inspired her to go in that direction, but if he specifically is a case subject there are a dozen things going wrong with the dissertation supervisor.

        At the very, very least there would have to be some form of ethics board approval and the colleague would have to consent. That’s to say nothing of writing a dissertation where there is no research or therapeutic relationship and some the dissertation work is being done during work hours.

    4. AKchic*

      I have a feeling that Sarah was perusing her DSM 5 manual and came up with narcissist all on her own. She may have mentioned it to her therapist, who said “yeah, maybe” just to humor her or move her along in the conversation, and then tried to redirect her back to whatever it was they were supposed to be focusing on, but Sarah latched onto the agreement of her idea.

      I think that any engagement of Sarah’s topic will only encourage her to keep talking about it. It’s time to Grey Rock her so hard she thinks she’s hit a grey wall. Yes, let John know what’s going on. Document any time Sarah talks about her “dissertation” and how she plans on including John, or what she considers John’s clinical diagnosis/diagnoses as a part of her dissertation, but do not engage her in any way. If she insists on some kind of engagement, give a noncommittal “hmm” or “I haven’t found that to be the case”.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I’d be surprised if she even went near the manual. Her speal is rather closer to ‘I watched videos on YouTube now I’m an expert’.

        1. Lexie*

          The word “narcissist” has been used to describe the previous president quite a bit so she could have just latched onto that word.

    5. NinaBee*

      She won’t be able to use him as a case study like that because all psychology studies need to pass strict ethic guidelines. Even if she did do that, the person would have to give consent to being the subject and the framework of the study would need to be approved by an ethics board, including provisions for any researcher bias. It is an extremely regulated process and she’d have her dissertation supervisors giving feedback every step of the way anyway. Sounds like she was ‘inspired’ in studying narcissism by her perceptions of the situation and is using very decisive language in describing her side of the situation.

      1. Boopnash*

        Yep yep yep. You can’t write a dissertation about someone (especially making a clinical diagnosis of someone) without their knowledge. Even if you anonymize them, you gotta go through ethics and consent.

    6. pleaset cheap rolls*

      ‘I wouldn’t assume that her psychiatrist has done any sort of diagnosis about John. You’re just hearing Sarah’s comments’


      1. CoveredInBees*

        I have seen many variations on the same conversations from diagnosing mental illness, cancer, legal issues, etc:

        Sarah: “If someone did X, Y, and Z, would that be a narcissist?”
        Psychiatrist: “Well, it could fall within a narcissist’s behavior, but I can’t diagnose someone who isn’t a patient. You were talking about lunch with your mother earlier?”
        Sarah hears: “Yes, that person is definitely a narcissist.”

    7. Observer*

      I wouldn’t assume that her psychiatrist has done any sort of diagnosis about John. You’re just hearing Sarah’s comments, and who knows what’s really going on there.

      Yeah, I was thinking much the same.

    8. RagingADHD*

      The whole dissertation nonsense is just an elaborate way to talk smack about John. She wants to write a “burn book” and make it sound grown-up.

      She doesn’t like him. Calling him names makes her feel better. Pretending that her therapist agrees, and that she’s somehow going to formally document how awful he is, makes her feel powerful.

      Disengage and ignore.

      1. Bostonian*

        Ugh. This really hits the mark. Unfortunately, this sounds like exactly what’s going on.

    9. Lacey*

      Yeah, I think it’s unlikely the therapist diagnosed anyone. I’ve heard a couple of people say, “Oh my therapist says this about Susie” and I always think, “You TOLD your therapist this about Susie and now you’re telling me”

    10. Nanani*

      Exactly. You’re only hearing second-hand reports through an unreliable filter.
      Even if this psychiatrist exists, Sarah is definitely only repeating the bits that conform to her pre-existing assumptions. It’s extremely common for people in any sort of therapy to take the therapist hearing and supporting them to mean unconditional agreement, when that is far from true.

      If giving a heads up would help, definitely do it. Maybe a second person’s word would help HR step up their game in stopping Sarah hassling John about not drinking?

    11. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      Yeah, I doubt the psychiatrist said that. He may have given her some materials to read on interacting with people who meet the non-clinical layman’s description of narcissist, because if she is describing John as a bully, those materials include strategies for coping with bullying and abuse, but the focus was likely on her, not John. I sincerely doubt the psychiatrist ever stated or even implied that John was suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

  3. Yikes*

    Alison, I’m sorry I spelled your name with two Ls in a recent comment. I noticed it right after I submitted it and cringed. Today’s comment gives me an opportunity to let you know it was a mistake, it was noticed, and I apologize.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I get the same–mainly with my last name, but occasionally on my first name. I let both go informally and dig in my heels on the official paperwork.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          My surname is Gaelic. My family uses the traditional Anglicized version, but most people unthinkingly use a more modern variant that would seem to have arisen at Ellis Island in the 19th century.

          My first name is shared between Greek, Byzantine Latin, the Romance languages, Russian, Aramaic, and Hebrew traditions (and probably more that I don’t know of), all using their own orthographies. I use the Byzantine Latin spelling (which does coincide with some of the others). It gets shortened carelessly, so I do appreciate it when someone avoids doing so deliberately.

          Both names have silent letters, which helps no one. It also helps no one that, between first and last names, my employer has people who spell my last name using every popular variant.

          +1 on “sola llingua.” I didn’t consider how one would misspell the screen name. =)

          1. ellex42*

            I feel you.

            My first name is constantly misspelled. I suspect if I lived in Europe it would be less often misspelled, since I share a name with various historical European queens and princesses (including one contemporary royal relative). Every nickname I have ever used has been misspelled and mispronounced, including the nickname I’ve used for the last 20 years, which is a whopping 3 letters and 1 syllable, but everyone wants to add to it make it “more feminine” (yes, someone actually said that to me as an explanation for why they constantly tacked an extra vowel on the end).

            My last name is long, Germanic, and rare even in Germany. I don’t blame anyone for misspelling and mispronouncing it. I’m fairly sure even identity thieves don’t want to bother with it, but I’m also fairly sure I’ve missed out on some opportunities because people don’t want to bother with it. A surprising number of people have assumed I am not a natural born US citizen because of my surname… the US is chock full of people with German names, and I live in a state that’s infamously populated with the descendants of German immigrants from the last couple of centuries.

            Neither of my names has silent letters, but not for lack of people trying.

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              In the grand scheme of things, I’m fairly lucky, because I can tell when stuff is intended for me. I’ve seen worse cases, like yours, ellex42, where I the mangling would be bad enough to make me wonder whom things were intended for.

            2. NameGame*

              I have an extremely short name and people get it wrong by adding extra letters or change it to a new name. I let it slide most of the time but sometimes have been a bit cheeky and replied to emails with a purpose mis-spelling of their name. I know it’s a bit immature lol

            3. mark132*

              I’m fairly fluent in German, but the challenge with German names in the US (probably elsewhere for that matter) is the pronunciation is often anglicized (sometimes inconsistently as well). So if I pronounce the name using a German pronunciation, I ‘ll usually get it wrong. Also sometimes the spelling is non standard, my wife’s maiden name is German, but I didn’t know until she told me what it meant in German, then I made the connection.

  4. Airy*

    OP #1, I really hope you can give us an update once developments develop, because Sarah sounds fascinatingly awful and self-righteous.
    And I really, really hope she’s not planning to become a therapist with that psychology degree, because yikes.

      1. Gan Ainm*

        You’d be surprised. My former roommate was a social worker who was generally immature and didn’t seem to have any concept of client privacy, she’d post all kinds of stories on social media, apparently thinking that removing names from a very specific, identifiable story was somehow sufficient.

        Then, she went to get a PhD in psychology. She started at a for profit school that went out of business, and somehow managed to transfer many of her credits to a real school and will be graduating soon. From what I’ve heard her habit of oversharing hasn’t improved and even the school she’s now attending doesn’t seem that rigorous.

        1. Le Sigh*

          Yeah, I mean, every profession has at least a few bad apples and psychiatry isn’t immune.

      2. Grace*

        Might not be a PhD – in the UK, colloquially a dissertation is the long final paper at the end of your degree, whether it’s a BA/BSc or an MA/MSc.

        From what I can see, in the US a thesis is shorter and a dissertation is for a PhD, but in Europe it’s the opposite. If Sarah is doing BSc Psychology part-time at a British institution, she would be writing a dissertation at the end of her course. I can’t see anything in the question that suggests it’s for her PhD besides the use of the word dissertation.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Yup, my dissertation for my BSc was a good 12000 words or so. They don’t go through as much rigorous checking as a PhD thesis but you are still expected to cite sources for all your stuff – and I’d love to see the professor who reads ‘source: bloke at work’.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            (Now I need to find my masters and phd work to see their word counts…and be ashamed that I’ve cranked out more on fanfic writing than the three combined)

            1. Grace*

              By a couple of years after I wrote my 10k BA History diss, I’d already written about 100k in fanfic. Writing self-indulgent fantasy is so much easier than writing sourced academic work.

              And yes, I didn’t do psychology but I can’t imagine “a bloke at work” would be an acceptable source for a psychology diss – but there’s nothing here saying she actually intends to become a therapist or that she’s doing a doctorate, which a lot of people seem to be presuming.

      3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        My first thought was, “don’t you have to defend a dissertation? Don’t you have to have an adviser to monitor your dissertation as you’re working on it? How’s anyone going to give Sarah’s a green light?” Admittedly, I do not have a PhD and never pursued one, but I had to defend my college graduation paper (not in the US) in front of a panel of professors, so…

        1. Spearmint*

          I have a feeling that the.LW is misusing the term “dissertation” and this is really an undergrad honors thesis.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            I am suddenly reminded of the first man I dated post-divorce, whose profile said divorced, who then said the divorce is not final yet, but is in the works; then, that they hadn’t started the paperwork yet; and, when I asked him on the last date he and I had, he indignantly said “I don’t know when we’ll start the paperwork, I don’t have the time for it, I am working on my dissertation!” I thought it was in the “this is so bad, it’s good” category of bad excuses.

            (He added me on LinkedIn five years later and we had a chat. He never finished the dissertation that he had supposedly been working on.)

              1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                I didn’t ask, though I was tempted. I once told a later boyfriend (who is now my favorite ex) about this guy and it resulted in one of my favorite quotes.

                Me (tells Favorite ex (FE) about the guy)
                FE: have you ever been to his place?
                Me: He was renting an apartment, with a roomate, next to the school he was doing his PhD in, and I’ve been to that place. He also said that his kids lived with his parents and that he was there too most of the week.
                FE: Have you been to his parents’ place?
                Me: No.
                (now comes the favorite quote)
                FE: Did this guy’s wife know they were separated?
                Me: (mind blown)

                1. Ray Gillette*

                  That’s an amazing story. My two cents as a random internet stranger is that That Guy convinced his wife that it would be a good idea to sublet a room from someone who lives near campus “to have a quiet place to study” and then used it to have affairs.

                2. EmmaPoet*

                  I was starting to wonder the same thing as your ex! It sounds pretty fishy in hindsight when you add in his excuses.

        2. Forty Years In the Hole*

          Yes to all. Hubby did his Master’s thesis, followed by his PhD dissertation (albeit in a different field). In both instances there was (1) subject matter approval & approach, so that the research actually reflected/supported his area of study/program; (2) ongoing review by his appointed supervisor(s), to stay on track [i.e.“selection and maintenance of the aim]; and (3) rigorous defense of both the thesis and dissertation, before a subject matter expert board. The entire experience was…intense.
          But he doesn’t dangle it as a “badge” in front of others nor use it as a “club” against some perceived wrong; he uses it for good, not evil. He’s just happy to geek out with others in his field.

    1. littledoctor*

      “I really, really hope she’s not planning to become a therapist with that psychology degree”

      Imagine how she’d likely behave towards or interact with patients who actually had NPD who came to her for help, if she already stigmatises it so much.

      Seriously, imagine someone going around constantly being like “my therapist thinks John has OCD” like that was evidence that he was a bad person, and then writing a dissertation on “obsessive-compulsives in the workplace” or something.

    2. Well...*

      There is a really problematic trend where narcissist is used as the label “evil: do not love if you can avoid it.” Therapists and psychologists are hella complicit in the effort to separate out good guys from bad/criminal/dangerous guys with reductionist labels. Not sure where along the literature-therapist-sarah pipeline this thinking was introduced in this case but the Sarah’s of the world (students and patients) didn’t start this trend.

    3. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      Yes, isn’t it a sign of narcissistic personality disorder to believe that OTHERS are the narcissists? Also, as a dissertation (if that’s really what she’s working on), the idea that NPD is common in successful business people is DONE. Isn’t the point of a dissertation to add to the body of knowledge, not just regurgitate previous studies?

    4. Hrodvitnir*

      In NZ to become a clinical psychologist (ie: work with patients) you do an additional, very competitive, post graduate qualification. I am 99% sure that’s the same in the US (might be a PhD specialisation?). A bachelors of psychology doesn’t make you a [clinical] psychologist or even a licenced counsellor.

      Even a psychology PhD doesn’t make you in any way qualified to call yourself a psychologist: therapy and research are quite different jobs (though obviously people can do both!)

    5. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Worked w/a guy who basically tried to bully everyone with the race card. Had multiple masters degrees and finally managed to pay a for-profit school to give him a doctorate in a field focused on caring — not because of any professed belief in the topic — but so that he could get a cushy government job. His reputation preceded him. He continues to be surprised and litigious about his inability to get said cushy government job.
      He stayed in school for years so that he doesn’t have to pay on his student loans.

      It was horrific to hear him working with clients.

  5. Trude*

    LW 1: a bit OOT, but will the dissertation pass muster? My program wasn’t as rigorous as psychology, but even then I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t.

    1. LilBean*

      Sounds like she would need informed consent to use this person as a research subject and this person is unaware that he’s the target subject of her dissertation. So, no.

      1. LilBean*

        I re-read the letter and it’s not really clear if she said she’s going to talk about this specific coworker in her paper, just that she told everyone she thinks he’s a narcissist and is going to write her dissertation on narcissists in the workplace. So. She can write a dissertation on the topic “narcissists in the workplace” using other resources and existing studies, but she would not be allowed to observe someone as a human subject without their informed consent. But she can write it and share it with all of her coworkers. Is there a word for an academic paper that’s basically a subtweet?

          1. Forrest*

            (Someone’s going to come in now with, “well, technically Wittgenstein’s highly praised dissertation *could* be considered a su”)

        1. BethDH*

          Conference papers! The only thing more common than the subtweet conference paper is the paper written by a senior scholar on the plane trip there that goes wildly over the time allotment.

          1. Paulina*

            That reminds me of a keynote I once attended at a scientific conference, which turned out to be a rebuttal to the previous year’s keynote. Nothing “sub” about it though, he kept referring to it specifically.

      2. anonymous 5*

        Also, this potentially presents a convenient opportunity for LW1: if Sarah starts asking LW1 about John, LW1 can reply with, “Hm. I didn’t consent to being interviewed for your dissertation. Can you tell me how my information is intended to be recorded and how it will be stored? Will it be decoupled from any personally-identifying information?”

      3. Wintermute*

        a dissertation on a single subject would generally not pass muster anyway unless it’s a really unique or famous case, or a case study. And in general as far as I’m aware case studies are rarely done at that level, because you’re not the doctor treating them.

        It’s fair game though for someone to inspire you to make an area your field of study, which is probably closer to the truth.

        1. Yorick*

          People get dissertations and papers published with autoethnographies, where they themselves are the case study. So if this were an ethical situation (he had given informed consent) and she did it well, it would probably work as a dissertation.

          But anyway, the letter does not say that he is a case study for her dissertation, just that her dissertation topic was inspired by him. That *can* make for sloppy research some of the time, but some people are inspired by their personal histories toward their research area and do great work.

    2. Elementary Fan*

      My thoughts exactly. You can’t diagnose people without them knowing. Her “study” is bunk.

      1. Pocket Mouse*

        I wish this were true. I found out after the fact that my therapist had given me a diagnosis before we ever met. It was in order to get the sessions paid for by insurance, but still. Would have been nice to know this was a thing. And kids get diagnosed without knowing all the time.

        I think it would be more accurate to say you can’t (or really really shouldn’t) diagnose someone without assessing them personally.

        1. Anon just here*

          I’m Medical Adjacent in my career – and sometimes help with filing when that task gets backed up (like at the beginning of the month – when all the end of month claims paperwork floods in).

          What I have noticed on the forms we frequently get is two lines: Provisional Diagnosis and Treatment Diagnosis. I do occasionally notice differences between the two. My understanding is that the Provisional Diagnosis is used to process the initial referral request with the insurance, and then after the specialist starts they give a more specific diagnosis that goes on the Treatment Diagnosis line.

          1. 10Isee*

            I was referred to my college counseling center (rather urgently) after filling out a mental health screening tool, and I remember the counselor I met with saying my initial visit was billed based on provisional diagnosis from the screen.

        2. PT*

          My MIL’s first therapist diagnosed everyone in their family- even the members she hadn’t met. It caused a lot of problems for several years until she moved and had to get a different therapist who was actually good at her job. It took upwards of 10 years to repair the relationships that were damaged in the process.

        3. DyneinWalking*

          Not a therapist, just a patient, but I’ll confidently say that this initial diagnosis to get insurance is very different from a “real” diagnosis.
          I know which initial diagnosis my therapist put on the paperwork because we discussed the most fitting umbrella term for my symptoms. And it was really more a rough definition of my symptoms than an actual diagnosis – like a physician determining that you have an injury on your left foot, no open wound but swollen, likely involves broken bones so an x-ray is necessary.

    3. tamarack and fireweed*

      Yeah, I came here to comment on that point. The post doesn’t say what level of degree she is aiming to get, but for anything that requires research work she can’t just write about a random person of her acquaintance, without a formal framework (diagnosis, patient-counselor relationship) and consent. Research subject ethics is these days taken quite seriously.

      I could imagine the “dissertation” is what I’d call a honor’s thesis for a bachelor’s degree, in which case it could indeed be on the topic of narcissists in the workplace – but it would have to be largely literature-based, possibly with a general introduction in which she writes about her motivation (“having worked in the private workplace, I have encountered behavior that fits characteristics X, Y, Z commonly associated with narcissism [citation, citation]”), but she would still get, hopefully, some pushback about diagnosing people from afar. And if she keeps it out of the workplace, you won’t be able to prevent her project.

      As for the workplace, a call to order to stop talking about co-workers in these terms, including about making them subjects of her academic work, should normally suffice.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        Agreed 100%
        This does not sound like any academic research paper I’ve ever completed. The rules for a direct subject observation are quite strict.
        That said, I have read some qualitative research papers where the researcher immersed themselves in an environment (say a large advertising agency) to observe that environment. Or, it’s possible she’s doing a phenomenological study, which explores what people experienced from a first-person POV, and focuses on their experience (what does it feel like to work with a narcissist?), but I doubt it. And you certainly wouldn’t brag about it in your research environment like this! Extremely unprofessional! No professor would accept that methodology or practice.

        1. Observer*

          Or, it’s possible she’s doing a phenomenological study, which explores what people experienced from a first-person POV, and focuses on their experience (what does it feel like to work with a narcissist?), but I doubt it

          That would work if the person writing the Thesis actually had solid information about an actual legitimate diagnosis. At least theoretically, in that it would mostly deal with the issues of doing a case study on someone without consent. But I can’t imagine any thesis advisor or committee accepting a thesis on “what it feels like to work with someone I think is a narcissist.”

    4. Detached Elemental*

      I was coming here to say this. I have a PhD in psych so I’ve done two dissertations (doctoral and honours).

      I can see Sarah wanting to do one of two things:
      1) Some kind of literature review on narcissism in the workplace – not sure if this will be sufficient for a dissertation as it wouldn’t involve data collection. She wouldn’t really be able to inject her personal perspective here, although she might claim that the dissertation is evidence of her expertise in diagnosing narcissism. (Spoiler alert: she would not be an expert. Or qualified to diagnose).

      2) Sarah will attempt to use her boss or the workplace as a case study. This will almost certainly require some form of ethical approval, and I think a review panel would be very concerned about the potential conflict of interest in someone collecting data in their own workplace, plus there’d be issues around informed consent.

      1. Asenath*

        I’d bet on 1) – not the literature review, which I agree wouldn’t in itself be enough for a dissertation, but that Sarah is implying that she is/will be such an expert on narcissism that of course she can spot cases anywhere. Some students achieve that level of “expertise” after a single undergraduate course! Fortunately, Sarah is moving on, so the problem she creates will solve itself – unless her new boss is also, according to Sarah, a narcissist!

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I do think Sarah could continue to do (or try to do) damage in her new role–she’s leaving the team not the organization.
          I hope I am wrong, but I’m concerned that she won’t stop her comments. And the new group will not have as much direct experience with John to recognize bs.

        2. SD*

          “Some students achieve that level of “expertise” after a single undergraduate course! ”

          ROTFL! My sister-in-law was positively insufferable the year she took Psych 101. Everybody got diagnosed.

      2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        She might be in the UK, where you would complete a dissertation at the end of a Bachelors, for example.

        Like you, assuming she is doing an accredited doctoral course, I’m super curious about what her proposal really is! Narcissism in the workplace sounds interesting, but tough with regard to passing methodological muster. What OP describes sounds more like an idea for a pop-psych book.

      3. Cthulhu's Librarian*

        So, a question – if the OP or John wanted to reach out to her university and find out which of the two it was, or file a complaint if it was the second – What group would they be looking for at the university to complain to? Is there usually a standing ethics panel that they could find listed, or would they need to reach out to her specific advisor?

        1. anonymous 5*

          There is, indeed, an ethics panel (Institutional Review Board in the US). And they can indeed, put a halt to research activities that aren’t being conducted ethically.

        2. The Other Victoria*

          If they are US-based, they could contact the Institutional Review Board (IRB). It’s not called that at every institution, but a google search of the university’s name plus “IRB” or “Human subjects research” will generally direct you there. IRBs are responsible for insuring research meets federal guidelines so they take it very seriously and usually have contact info for people who have encountered researchers they believe are mishandling their research ethics.

          That said, they couldn’t do anything if Sarah decided that she was going to use her interest that has arisen from her self-diagnosis of John to do a study that is completely above board. Like, if she said to herself “my experience at work has made me interested in this topic” but did a study that kept data collection entirely out of her own workplace, there would be no ethical oversight of that.

          1. Observer*

            That said, they couldn’t do anything if Sarah decided that she was going to use her interest that has arisen from her self-diagnosis of John to do a study that is completely above board. Like, if she said to herself “my experience at work has made me interested in this topic” but did a study that kept data collection entirely out of her own workplace, there would be no ethical oversight of that.

            Yeah, they couldn’t do anything about that. But they would not NEED to. I mean, Sarah is being a jerk, but the level of damage she could do is far higher if she could get away the thesis she seems to be describing vs what you are suggesting. In the latter case, there would still be a workplace problem but it’s far more contained.

      4. Yorick*

        There are way more options here than that (with the caveat that my doctorate is in a social science but not in psychology):
        1. Similar to your first idea, she could be planning a systematic review or meta-analysis. This would usually be sufficient for a dissertation in the fields that I’m familiar with.
        2. She could conduct qualitative interviews that focus on difficult workplace situations or difficult coworkers.
        3. She could collect quantitative data that includes a measurement of narcissism and questions about workplace behavior.
        4. She could have access to secondary data that includes a measurement of narcissism and questions about workplace behavior.
        5. She could do a case study of some other workplace that’s known to be dysfunctional.
        And so forth.

    5. Not A Manager*

      I’m pretty sure she is writing about narcissists in the workplace, “inspired by a true story.” I don’t get the idea that she is literally using her boss as a subject. It’s still stinky that she’s telling everyone in the office about it.

      1. Yorick*

        I had the same take on it as you. In fact, the letter absolutely does not say that the research is a study of the boss. The problem here is how she is discussing the boss with others. The research itself could be absolutely fine.

    6. EventPlannerGal*

      I doubt she is actually going to do a psychological study of this guy. It sounds more like she’s writing a paper about narcissism in general and then going around like “oh yes I’ll be writing all about NARCISSISTS IN THE WORKPLACE, such a RELEVANT TOPIC, inspired with my PERSONAL EXPERIENCE of working with NARCISSISTS, such an interesting topic isn’t it JOHN” etc etc.

    7. Wombats and Tequila*

      I wonder if she is even doing a dissertation at all. Perhaps she is simply trying to ruin John’s reputation, either to avenge the fate of Pete, or to advance herself.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Or she is writing something but it’s not actually a dissertation. It’s pretty clear she’s being unreasonable in multiple ways already, it’s not a stretch to think she might be inflating the importance of her academic work.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I get the feeling ‘dissertation’ is what she calls her journal which is updated daily with rants.

  6. Bob*

    Buy any technology supplies you need in 6 months and if they don’t reimburse then you can return them. Preferably from a store that has a longer than 30 day return policy.
    Buy extras of consumables.

    1. WellRed*

      Yes because retailers love taking stuff back six months after the fact /s. Better idea. Wait till November to buy.
      Of course, I’m curious if these employees have been asking to be reimbursed all along or sitting quietly and wondering. I took a few small items from my office that last day and went back a month later to grab my chair.

      1. WellRed*

        Oh I misread your comment. Need my coffee I guess! Yes, wait to buy supplies. Better yet, ask to put reimbursement toward stuff you already bought.

        1. Phoebe*

          Nice thought, but she states in the letter that the reimbursement is not retroactive and cannot be applied to previous purchases. That’s the problem. She’s already bought what she needs and now she’s been told she can’t get reimbursed for it.

        2. Spillz*

          Yup – we asked and they said no dice on anything purchased in 2020. Super disappointing!

            1. Spillz*

              I didn’t – my coworker had emailed HR to ask and they just said no outright, but I do have a one on one with my manager tomorrow so I may ask her there if we can push back on this or if there are any alternatives.

              1. PersephoneUnderground*

                Yeah, that’s complete (redacted) and sounds like a perfect situation for the “push back as a group” advice.

                If you have receipts for things purchased to work from home that would have been approved under the new policy, there’s no meaningful reason not to reimburse you for those things that I can think of. (Except that they actually don’t want to reimburse anything and are hoping to look good by offering something few people can actually use.)

                1. Bob*

                  “Except that they actually don’t want to reimburse anything and are hoping to look good by offering something few people can actually use”
                  This is the best theory i have heard so far about why they are doing this.

    2. Red Boxes and Arrows*

      It’s a pain for the retailer, but you can re-buy what you already have and then immediately return it (unopened and unused, ready to go right back on the shelf). Turn in the receipt for the purchase and toss the receipt for the return.

      1. It's Business Time*

        Yes this is what I would do, buy from Amazon or something and then return it, but you will have the original payment receipts so you should still be reimbursed.

  7. Kathlynn (Canada)*

    I work at a call center. I start with “my name is [Karra],.. . .” and get with did you say Jenifer/Karen/Karla/Kathy/etc daily. I’ve considered starting to go by Kay on the phone.

    1. Kay*

      As a Kay – fair warning, you’re going to be heard as Kate over the phone more often than not. If you’re just doing it for convenience, try Kathy?

      1. SaeniaKite*

        I go by Kat and have taken to quickly spelling it straight off ‘my name’s Kat, K-A-T’ and I still get Pat or Kath. And one woman who meowed down the phone at me and insisted I tell her my full name because ‘I know your parents didn’t call you that’. People are weird

        1. Jay*

          My name is usually a nickname. It is my whole entire name (think “Annie” or “Patty”) and is also not spelled the usual way. When we were married, the marriage license clerk tried to refuse the application because it didn’t have “your full name” on it. “This is a legal document, honey. You don’t get to decide what your n ame is.” I showed her my driver’s license and she rolled her eyes but couldn’t really argue.

          I correct misspellings once or twice and then let it go. I don’t fully understand how people can misspell my name when they are replying to my Email that has my name in the signature and usually in the signoff of my Email, but they do, and after one try, I let it go. My boss consistently mispronounces my last name and that I’ve dug in on. I correct him every time, including in public. Eventually he’ll learn.

          1. Esmeralda*

            Because almost nobody scrolls all the way down and looks. I know I don’t unless I’m specifically looking for signature info — usually in that case I’m looking for the person’s title or dept. I read the message and move along, who has time to read every email signature?

            1. MCMonkeybean*

              Looking at someone’s name before sending them an email where you use there name is so extremely easy and like the absolute lowest possible bar to clear for a polite email exchange I cannot understand why anyone wouldn’t do it.

              And much of the time the correct spelling is even in the email address itself.

              I wouldn’t push back on it in general and agree with the advice to OP that they are better off letting this go, but I will absolutely push back on anyone trying to claim that taking less than one second to check if you are spelling someone’s name correctly is too difficult or time consuming. That is absurd.

              1. tangerineRose*

                I always try to spell people’s names correctly because I think it’s a good thing to do, but my first and last name are easy to misspell, so I’ve learned to roll my eyes and let it go if my name’s spelled wrong (unless it’s on an important document).

          2. All Het Up About It*

            “This is a legal document, honey. You don’t get to decide what your name is.” I showed her my driver’s license
            Um. By showed her my driver’s license, did you mean “my fist accidentally collided with her nose when I attempted to show her another legal document that had my correct name on it.” Cause I’m pretty sure that’s what would have happened if someone was that condescending and rude.

            Names are weird. Parents name their kids really, really weird/stupid things sometimes. And then the kids are more often than not left to deal with it as adults. Changing your name “just because” is not usually as easy as people make it out to be. If people just accepted, moved on and then enjoyed regular “weird name” story time on the internet or over a shared beverage of choice, the world would be a better place.

    2. Akcipitrokulo*

      OP1 – bear in mind you have no evidence that Sarah’s therapist actually said any of this, or gave her any books.

    3. Definitely Susan*

      My name is Susan, which is definitely a first name that everyone would recognize and can most likely spell. I started my first office job at a senior services agency and I noticed that A LOT of clients would ask, “Did you say STEVEN?” I’m female and definitely sound like a thirteen year old girl on the phone (hint: I wasn’t 13 at the time) so this response was really odd- even if they couldn’t make out what I was saying (and I enunciate very clearly so that this wouldn’t happen), Steven was very odd in context. When I moved to a truck brokerage company and people asked the same thing, I decided it was just easier to roll with it. I never quite figured out how saying Susan got misinterpreted as Steven, but sure.

      1. Arabella Flynn*

        Ooh, i can actually answer that! Certain consonants get smushed on a low-bandwidth phone connection (in your case, sibilants and dentals). The other person can hear the first sound of your name, but is filling in the rest from the vowels and cadence. Depending on your accent, ‘Susan’ and ‘Steven’ have nearly identical patterns in that regard. It’s the same way we got a vicious internet argument over “laurel vs yanny”.

        1. Not Gucci either*

          This is very interesting to me! I have a name that IS a woman’s name, but much more commonly known as a luxury brand item. Think along the lines of “Chanel.” It trips people up on the phone 100% of the time if I say it without immediately spelling in and adding “Like the bags.” Something about the tonal nature of my name just does not translate across phone lines well. There’s no nickname derivative of my name so at work I’ve just made it part of the rhythm of introducing myself, but anywhere else where it doesn’t matter (take-out orders for example) I’ve entirely co-opted my partner’s technically gender neutral but leaning-masc name. The slight hesitation when people have to adjust their gender expectations when I show up is much easer than trying to spell my name 5 times just to get a pizza. We pick and choose our battles!

          1. tamarack and fireweed*

            I think this is a prime example of picking the most effective way of fostering change. I usually let misspellings of my name slide — however, I point out to students that attention to name spelling and pronunciation is important, and bring it up in the context of DEI as a side note. For example people can be trained to take a look at the information that people provide in their email signatures – spelling of names included along with pronouns, preferences about communication / expectations…

        1. Also Susan*

          When I say Susan, people think I’ve said Suzanne. They also think it’s Suzanne when they see Susan written, I don’t see why?

    4. Asenath*

      My name is mis-spelled from time to time. Like Alison, I mostly just ignore it, although from long experience, I automatically start off with “Asenath with an A”. I don’t mention the other letters which are also sometimes wrong, and after the first mention, I don’t bother nagging.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        My name can be spelled several ways – think Carrie, Kerrie, Kerri, Keri, Kari, Kary, Cari, Kheri, Carrey. I only get forceful about it if someone misspells my name for benefits and payroll forms, mortgage applications, etc.

        Outside of that, I pick my battles. If it’s my boss or someone on my team, I’ll nicely remind them. Otherwise, I don’t nag, either, it’s just not worth it for people outside my daily orbit.

    5. Lady Meyneth*

      It won’t work, sorry. My name is Amanda, which has to be up there with the easiest names of all times. And yet when I worked more client facing roles I still got “Did you say Anna?” or “Hi Ariana” pretty often. People are weird…

      OP, I get your name is important to you (why wouldn’t it be?), but your life will be a lot easier if you learn to let go when people get it wrong. I guarantee it’ll happen for the rest of your life and unless someone is clearly doing it to be insulting, it’s not worth it.

        1. Lady Meyneth*

          Ha! I got Brenda so often it went into my pile of close-enough. To this day, I still look up when someone says Brenda in the wild :D

      1. Elle by the sea*

        I know someone whose name is Ananda. It’s obvious that he is a guy but everyone seems to think his name is Amanda.

        1. Sasha*

          I know this guy! Or a different Ananda. Yes, he finds it infuriating, people call him Amanda to his face, and he is clearly a middle-aged man.

          My name is Dr Firstname Olsen. I introduce myself to patients as Dr Olsen. I also wear a large name badge. A surprisingly large number of them call me “Alison”, like that’s my first name. I am not on first-name terms with random patients.

          Actually, considering both this and my colleague above, maybe we just have some very rude patients?

          1. Elle by the sea*

            Haha, yes! I can never tell! Many people also refuse to call me by my name. At times, they ask me what my real name is (they think my name is a nickname or a fake name) and they want to call me by my “real” name. That’s my real name and even if it wasn’t, I want to be called that. Full stop.

            Also, I have a TypicalFeminineLookingFirstName ForeignButObviouslyLastname first name + last name combination. Some people for some reason – especially in business communication – insist to address me as Dear Lastname. I repeatedly asked them to either address me as “Dear Firstname” or “Dear Ms/Dr (whatever is appropriate in the given context) Lastname”. Many of them continued to ignore and some just became cold and stopped being helpful. What is wrong with people?

            1. Elle by the sea*

              I’m not strongly attached to my name and if I could, I would change it from time to time, but I still find it disrespectful when people get everyone else’s name but mine right.

              1. Flora*

                Me too. Outside of the issue of people who straight up can’t spell or have a speech issue which makes some sounds difficult (which I expect would be present in areas other than just my personal individual name), I don’t see why it’s okay to require people to correctly pronounce names they understand to be “foreign” but rude to ask that MY NAME, which is MY NAME, be pronounced the way I pronounce it, regardless of whether they have a sister named Floria or Gloria or Dora or whatever. Like, many Italian families continue traditional naming patterns and therefore have a Tony, Antonio, Tonio, Little Tony, Big Tony, Baby Antonio etc (all of who are age 35-85), AND they are able to call all of those people just Tony when they’re alone at home, but Big Tony (or Jane’s Tony) when they’re with other people, but NOT Big Tony to his face because he hates it, because they all know how to separate out name information into contexts, and so telling me they just can’t remember I am Flora not DoraFloriaGloriaNorawhatever is just disrespectful. If folks can be asked to remember to call someone a new name (because they got married or transitioned, or for any other damn reason), then daily colleagues and extended family etc can be asked to remember my name as well.

                (Also, like, I have a sibling with a name that was extremely popular in our generation, and for which there is one spelling that probably comprises about 90% of them, and two others that are not unheard-of. This name also has 2 common nicknames, of which each has a most common and two or more less common spellings; my sibling has the most common general spelling and the most common nickname spelling. I am positive that I know which of the like 200 other people with this first name I know are spelled which way, and use which nickname, spelled how; in the event I meet a new one I ask what they want to be called and then the first time I have reason to interact in writing in some way I check spelling. This has taken up a grand total of perhaps an hour of my life distributed over decades, and I feel that’s a pretty allowable cost. Clearly, based on other people, my opinion is not shared by a whoel lot of people, though.)

            2. tangerineRose*

              “they want to call me by my “real” name.” Why are some people like that?

          2. SheLooksFamiliar*

            ‘Actually, considering both this and my colleague above, maybe we just have some very rude patients?’

            I had several acts of medical care recently, and noticed some patients referring to their doctors by the first name. I always refer to my doctor by title but acknowledge that people are more casual than ever. I also think some people believe titles make the titleholder feel like they’re ‘better than everyone. Maybe they had a lousy teacher or professor, and using a title still aggravates them. Or maybe a college professor insisted their students call them by First Name. Maybe people simply think, hey, we’re just humans, there’s no need for rigid formality.

            1. SheLooksFamiliar*

              Hit submit before I could add that yes, sometimes people are simply rude. Not addressing you in the way you introduce yourself is rude.

            2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

              That might also be in response to “Hi Jane, I’m Dr. Jones.” If you’re Dr. Jones, I’m Ms. Device. If you call me Gollux without me telling you to, I might call you “Fergus” rather than “Dr. Jones.”

              It’s not “rigid formality” to insist on a formal title for oneself, and call patients by their first names. My doctor calls me Gollux–which is fine, she’s a nurse practitioner, and she and almost everyone else in that office use their own and each other’s first names, whether it’s “Doctor’s office, this is Will” or “I can give you an appointment with Tangerina tomorrow morning.”

              1. SheLooksFamiliar*

                I don’t disagree with your points. Remember, I was sharing examples as possible reasons for using first names instead of Doctor So-and-So.

              2. Lady Meyneth*

                That’s a good point. I’m on first name basis with all my doctors, and it never occurred to me it’s not the norm to call them doc. Joe. But in general, if anyone insists on being addressed by an honorific, I’ll insist on Dr Meyneth too (PhD, not MD).

          3. Clisby*

            Assuming you don’t address your patients by their first names, rudeness could certainly be an explanation.

    6. Sara not Sarah*

      No matter how many times I write it out I always get Sarah. I just let it go now.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        It’s really hard when you know a lot of Sara(h)s to keep track of who has the H and who doesn’t. I’m a really good speller and occasionally I forget too. Same for Al(l)isons, Phil(l)ips, etc. It’s one of those things where you are the most invested person in your name’s spelling and while most polite people will try to get it right, the non-polite people won’t care if they get it wrong and other people will just be oblivious. I agree, OP, you should try to let it go.

        Related, my name is Elisabeth and while I don’t care if most people spell it with a Z, my landlord, who has been receive rent checks from me with my full name on them for over three years now, still spells it Elizebeth when he texts me. I’m sure there is someone out there who does spell it that way (and woe be to her), but that’s so wrong I am just mystified. I use it as further proof of what a dope he is. (And never mind that I actually go by Liz to everyone except medical personnel, but since he never asked how would he know?)

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Also, I have a friend named Carolyn who used to work with a Caroline and people mixed it up so often they started collectively going by Caroblank. I don’t know why the difference between those two names is so tough but I do know that it is tricky for me to remember the difference when I’m thinking about a Caroblank who I know only casually. I eventually figured out the mnemonic “Carolyn, like my good friend” or “Caroline, NOT like my good friend” and that’s somewhat helpful.

      2. Hello Sweetie!*

        I’m a Sarah but my manager is a Sara. It is a constant struggle to not include the “h” so I’m just getting used to typing it Sarah and then deleting the “h” afterwards.

        1. SarahKay*

          As a Sarah with a cousin called Sara, I feel your pain about writing her name correctly. Alas, it’s harder to fix an error in a hand-written birthday card than in an email :(

          1. knitcrazybooknut*

            I used to be Sarah, and in sixth grade, I got a birthday card addressed to Sharha. In later years, I became friends with a girl whose name was often misspelled as well, and so we started addressing our notes with those misspellings of each others’ names!

            1. knitcrazybooknut*

              Sorry, I mean, I used to be named Sarah, not that I was Sarah the OP. Jeeez. My bad.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      Some days the best I can get is, “Well, they at least were TRYING to address me by name.”

      smh. All I can really do is try not to make the same mistake myself.

    8. Dust Bunny*

      My real name is (not Angharad or Persephone but something comparably obscure, at least in the US) and I went by sort-of initials at one job because clients couldn’t get the name right. Explaining it become so much of a distraction that they weren’t listening to any of the other information I needed to give them.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        Someone I went to high school with had a first name that was French and hyphenated, and this one student teacher ended up calling her by her initials the entire placement because he couldn’t get his head round it.

    9. Seashells*

      I’ve worked at the same company for 19 years. I have worked for my current boss for 13 of those 19 years. He still sometimes spells my name wrong (forgets a letter) and I have learned to let it go. I understand how you feel- it’s your name, is it really that hard to get it right!?!- but I let it go years ago. It’s usually not malicious, but you always have an exception to the rule (the coworker who does this kind of thing on purpose).

    10. Banana Pancakes*

      All of our calls get transcribed by a speech to text program and even my pronunciation of my own name gets transcribed incorrectly every single time. There’s no winning.

    11. Smithy*

      My name is Jessica – and the number of people who will interchangeably refer to me as Jennifer is certainly more than I would have thought.

      It’s not that they always call me Jennifer, but will switch back and forth between the two. Being unable to personally figure out that one, has just made me more gentle with those who choose nicknames I don’t use – because at least I get how that happens.

      I do think that a lot of people have that dynamic that once they start getting someone’s name wrong – especially in spelling – the more they try to overcorrect, the more likely they end up making the same mistake they did originally. When I lived overseas, my boss really wanted to pronounce my surname correctly, but clearly it just never stuck. Every time she’d hear me pronounce my own last name in a meeting/on a call – afterwards she’d go “now how do you say that again?” At the end of the day, it just was not what I wanted our conversations to focus on and not how I wanted to be remembered.

    12. Me*

      My first name is always spelled wrong and it’s longish. To make it easier at a popular coffee shop, I tried going by my last name. May. Very simple. Three letters. A month everyone knows.

      My coffee was called…for Meg.

      Good luck, but you probably can’t win no matter what you do.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        My name is Leslie. The best “misspelled” coffee I’ve had was for “Lissly.” That was a new one for me… haha!

    13. NotAnotherManager!*

      When ordering food now, I use a nickname of my middle that has no variants and is very clear because I was finding myself becoming irrationally angry at getting yet another Starbucks cup with some bizarre rhymes-with variant of my name on it. I love mobile ordering – now I get a sticker with my actual name!

      I normally don’t care, but, for some reason, the cup taunting me for half the day got under my skin. I’m used to having my name misspelled/shortened in emails and verbally, so I have no idea why I cared.

      As an aside, we ruled out the name Katharine for one of my kids because every single member of our family came up with a different spelling of it, and I didn’t want the kid to spend her life going, “Katharine-with-a-K-and-A” (and then likely ending up with Katharane).

    14. nottricky*

      Oof, I have a unique name (unique/rare in the US, very common name in my familial home country) and constantly get both autocorrect misspellings (which I can let go), but I also regularly get mis-called or emailed “Tricky” or other rhyming names, OR people just choose to “pick” a name for me because mine is “difficult”. The autocorrects are easy to spot, but honestly it boils my blood when I correct people on my name and they still get it wrong. It’s basic human respect to get my name correct, and especially after I’ve spent the time to clarify for you, it’s a slap in the face to get it wrong. To me it fits into that whole “don’t make folks with names you find ‘difficult’ change their name to appease you” idea. It’s not my problem you find my name strange or difficult to remember, and it’s offensive to ask me to (further) westernize or simplify it for you.

      That being said, I do have a coffee order name to make it easier on service workers. They’re too busy and too low paid to need to worry about me, but if you’re a business professional writing me an email, get it right.

    15. Ellen's Sister*

      My sister would answer the phone and say “Thanks for calling _, this is Ellen” and people would often say, “Hi Melon!” We couldn’t figure out why they would think she said Melon. There’s no M in that clause!

    16. Christ with an I-E*

      I, too, have a name that looks like a nickname (Them: “You must be a Christine!”/Me: NOPE) and has multiple spelling variations. Going to Starbucks is bad enough, but when I attended a meet-and-greet a few years ago for My Most Favorite Human and he was taking the time to personalize each autograph, I had the misfortune of being immediately behind a Christine. My brain was already short-circuiting based on the impending conversation, but after pleasantries, what came out of my mouth when it was name time was this:

      “It’s Christie. You know, like Christ with an I-E.”

      And that’s how I made a Grammy-nominated musician snort laugh. The H in my name has an extra curve in it from his pronounced reaction; thankfully, we composed ourselves for a nice photo after that.

    17. Michele*

      I send emails to people with not only a full, formal signature block (name, certs, title, department, company, contact info, company logo and tagline) but I also write some version of:


      And I will get replies written to Michelle, Michael, Melissa, and Mitchell.

      It always makes me laugh.

    18. It'sEvAlyn!*

      I have an unusual name compounded by a unique spelling. It’s Evalyn. As a kid, it was torture in gift shops to not find things with my name on it (first world problem, I know.). It took me a while to get over it when people misspell my name, but now I hardly even notice. I do have a nickname I use as a “Starbucks name” as it’s just so much easier for ordering food, reservations, etc – (Thanks, mom!).

  8. Cat*

    I find that in general, people who are very quick to label others with personality disorders usually have a few issues themselves. The whole pop psychology obsession with narcissism is useful for trying to articulate destructive relationship dynamics, but not so useful when it becomes a way to pathologize everything about someone you don’t like. In Sarah’s case, I wonder if there’s either some small, but legitimately annoying thing about John that she’s blown out of proportion by attaching this label to it, or alternatively, something about who he is that makes her feel insecure about herself. I think labeling people is a way of having power over them, and doing a dissertation on someone that’s dependent on said label is a major power trip. If that’s what’s going on with Sarah, I’d be worried that she would react pretty negatively to being challenged on those views, but agree that it would be useful for other people in the office to hear different opinions. If she’s writing a dissertation on it, then I’d worry that telling her about positive experiences with John would be an invitation for her to launch into a rant about why he’s actually a giant narcissist underneath it all.

    1. 10Isee*

      It may also be a ticket to getting your very own section on “Enablers of Narcissism in the Workplace.”

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Adding; A diagnosis is not the same as implementing a solution. A diagnosis alone doesn’t change anything.

      From what I have read, the general advice is to move away from the narcissist. And she has already done this step. I am not sure what else she expects to gain here.

      1. Lessons from the playground*

        My inner 7 year old wants to call out in a sing-song voice: “Takes one to know one!”

        1. EPLawyer*

          Me too. Sarah is all bent out of shape because her friend lost his job. Which he was her boss, shouldn’t have been close friends in the first place. Now she is taking all her butthurt out on the new guy — for not being her friend. that’s it. He also seems to be actually DOING HIS JOB by managing people. Sarah liked the old situation where she could hang out with boss who apparently let things slide. She can’t do that anymore. So John must be the enemy. Because its all about her.

          So much unprofessionalism from Sarah. Who instead of being told to knock it off is being rewarded with what she wants – no longer working for John.

    3. littledoctor*

      Yeah, like, even if John literally did have NPD–so what? How would his private health information be any of his employees’ business, even if he did have a personality disorder? NPD is a mental illness, just like depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc. It’s not a catch-all for someone being a bad person.

      1. Well...*

        This. I wonder how many narcissists are actually labeled that way to get them treatment and how many are labeled that way for the convenience of othering them.

    4. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      Yes to this. I have a person in my life who is very quick to “diagnose” everyone in their orbit in ways that are very judgmental and stigmatizing. Everyone who has crossed them in some minor way is now “a narcissist” or “autistic” or “bipolar.” They wield this “diagnosis” like a weapon.

      That same lens never gets turned on themselves, however, and they see zero need for diagnosis or treatment – they are offended at the mere suggestion. This despite lifelong patterns of thought and behavior that cause tremendous anguish and real harm to themselves and those around them.

      1. Super Duper*

        It’s so tough. I’m connected to someone who *does* self-diagnose, but uses that as a weapon, too. The “logic” goes: I have a mental illness, so I can’t be held accountable for my behavior. I am vulnerable and a victim, everyone is out to get me, and anything other people do to protect themselves from my harmful behavior is an attack on me that worsens my mental illness. So you are not allowed to have any reaction to my behavior besides total, unwavering support of my actions and perspective (even when I accuse you of victimizing me, too). The type of person who does something hurtful and then cries, tells you how it’s your fault, and makes you apologize to keep the peace. We are no longer in contact for a reason…

        1. Well...*

          This is exactly why I find it super grating to take problematic/abusive behavior and give it a label that doubles as a diagnosis. Abusers are obviously going to be the main beneficiaries of such a reductionist system, as exemplified by both this comment and the previous.

        2. Keymaster of Gozer*

          That kinda behaviour is not only deeply offensive to those of us with real, serious, psychiatric issues but is also very harmful to us. The more people going around saying e.g. ‘I’ve got schizophrenia so I’m not to blame if I punch you’, the more society believes that everyone with those illnesses is a real and present danger to everyone.

          (And the key reason nobody at work knows about my diagnosis)

      2. Richard*

        It’s a corollary of a Dan Savage truism, if a person has a long string of catastrophic interpersonal relationships, you have to look at the common denominator.

    5. Thursdaysgeek*

      Which is why, when I read the book “Quit Walking on Eggshells” about BPD, and the checklist was something like 9 out of 10 for a relationship I had, I didn’t label the other person in the relationship, but instead realized it was a tool for helping me deal with that person – it was a book for how I could deal with a difficult person, no matter why they were difficult. (It was too late, btw – perhaps we would still be friends if I’d read the book a few years earlier.)

    6. Tomalak*

      Great comments, Cat. I think another point about these kind of armchair diagnoses is that even if you happen to be right they almost certainly don’t actually change how you should react to someone, anyway. I have read web articles by women obsessed with being able to diagnose narcissism in the men they date, when the behaviour itself should be all they need to know. If someone is a bullying, controlling boyfriend, you should leave him whether or not he is a narcissist. If someone at work is poor at picking up subtle social cues, you can be less subtle whether or not they are “on the spectrum”. Obsessing over what to call them just feels like name calling.

  9. ShoopBaby*

    Before we take Sarah out with the trash, don’t forget narcissists are often very charming to their favorites, and can hide their abuse toward others.

    1. Casper Lives*

      It’s possible John treats his reports differently. But OP is wise to judge Sarah on her actions: accusing John of stealing Pete’s job when OP knows Pete had performance issues; being derisive toward someone for not drinking, running around to tell everyone in the office that John is a closet narcissist, and writing a thesis on someone who doesn’t know about it, much less consent to it.

      This isn’t Sarah speaking to OP privately and professionally about her concerns about John. I think Sarah has shown to be unreliable by her actions. She’s someone to steer clear of.

      1. Myrin*

        Very true! OP has observed Sarah’s behaviour irrespective of John as a person, and it seems very much out of bounds. Even if John is a lying, bullying narcissist, Sarah’s behaviour doesn’t speak well of her (and also doesn’t fit into a “she’s only reacting this way because she’s being bullied” scheme).

    2. Cat*

      True, but then it does strike me as wildly inappropriate of her to tell everyone at work that she’s writing a dissertation on John being a narcissist. Like, even if he is super problematic, the way she is going about dealing with the situation feels underhanded, or at best misguided. If John is doing something inappropriate, she should take it up with HR – but if she just doesn’t like his personality, then spreading word around that he’s a narcissist seems destructive.

      1. someone*

        OP did say that Sarah did take her complaints to HR and it’s being moved as a result.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          I note that they’re moving Sarah, not John. That suggests they think it (at most) a personality clash.

          1. traffic_spiral*

            I mean, HR could just be ass-covering or picking the path of least resistance, so I wouldn’t use that as my evidence. However, what I *would* use as evidence is that 1.) this lady is in no way qualified to diagnose someone with narcissism; 2.) there is no way on god’s green earth you can get approval to do a dissertation on your boss like some sort of psychiatrist Jane Goodall for coworkers; and 3.) even if the above 2 were false, there’s no way you’d be telling everyone about your study while conducting it.

            So… yeah. This lady is either a few fries short of the happy meal herself, or just lying in order to undercut the boss.

    3. John Smith*

      Very true indeed. My manager wouldn’t dare speak to or treat a couple of colleagues the same way he does me and another colleague (Steph). Steph and I get long winded, snotty emails from him on a regular basis, he hardly speaks to the other colleagues and is very quick to chastise me or Steph for (not) doing the same things other colleagues (don’t) do but remain silent with them. I’m actually having a meeting with him tomorrow and will be raising this with him.

    4. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

      Was gonna say this. If, after Sarah leaves, there’s soon another co-worker who suddenly dislikes John ‘for no good reason’ it might behoove OP to take another look.

      And, pace other comments, there’s nothing on earth wrong with being inspired to choose your thesis topic by a life experience, assuming you broaden the thesis enough to then make it, y’know, a thesis and not a memoir. She doesn’t need to mention John at all in said thesis in its final form.

      1. Smithy*

        I think this is really fair, because the reality about most senior theses is that their audience is likely to be incredibly small and by the time all of the technical academic work is included – any personal anecdote will be largely buried in the larger text. As well as buried in the general anonymity of academia, particularly if this is not at the PhD level.

        A colleague who I worked with as a peer for three years seemed largely reasonable to me, though made some technical comments about our work that I disagreed with. It was only after someone I knew reported into her that I realized how she was really a wildly unpleasant she was as a manager and that those technical disagreements I had indicated far more technical weaknesses than I knew before hand. For three years, she was someone I would have been happy to refer within my network.

        Right now the OP’s experience with John is providing the impetus to perhaps defend John from Sarah. But this may put the OP in a place to burn a bridge with Sarah that doesn’t need to be burned.

      2. Le Sigh*

        True, although as someone points out upthread, there’s also evidence of Sarah as an unreliable source here. She’s still upset Pete lost his job (even though OP noted performance issues) and seems angry at John for “going after that job.” She’s mad he doesn’t fit in with the culture (a phrase that always makes my hairs stand on end) because he doesn’t drink. She’s running around giving him a diagnosis….etc. I think watching out how the next person interacts with John is wise, because you never know. But Sarah….I got some questions there, too.

        1. Smithy*

          In the workplace, when someone brings their own problematic context (i.e. Sarah) – I think that it can become an easy default that the other person in question (i.e. John) is not problematic or not contributing to the problematic context. And while perhaps not as personally satisfying, I think it is helpful to take a step back and acknowledge there may just be a lot more gray happening.

          Since Sarah is moving departments, John has to have some understanding that she wasn’t happy with larger situation. The OP bringing up the senior thesis to John/HR or that Sarah is calling him a narcissist only puts the OP in the middle of that dynamic that potentially has been resolved. And also risks burning a bridge with Sarah.

          Sarah may never be someone the OP wants to work with again, but at this point – there’s also really no need to get involved.

      3. Naomi*

        If Sarah wants to write a thesis about narcissists in the workplace and knows in the privacy of her own mind that she’s doing it because of John, that’s one thing. Openly implying to her coworkers that she got the idea because of John is quite another thing, and definitely not okay regardless of the actual content of the thesis.

        1. Smithy*

          I wouldn’t call it the height of professionalism, but depending on how these conversations are happening…..I don’t think they’re wildly inappropriate to the point of being obligated to bring in HR.

          Provided that Sarah’s not working for this organization as a mental health expert or a personnel sensitive position, like in HR, this may just be some more unique and specific versions of people complaining about their boss.

      4. Observer*

        And, pace other comments, there’s nothing on earth wrong with being inspired to choose your thesis topic by a life experience,

        Except that that’s not what Sarah is saying. She is actually saying that her psychiatrist has diagnosed John as a narcissist, which is either a lie or the sign of an incompetent / unethical therapist, and indicates that Sarah herself does not understand the basics of appropriate diagnosis. Also, she is strongly implying that she is doing her her dissertation about John. At best, that’s just sloppy.

        If, after Sarah leaves, there’s soon another co-worker who suddenly dislikes John ‘for no good reason’ it might behoove OP to take another look.

        Well and good. And maybe John is not a great supervisor. But what she is saying is out of line. And complaining that someone is not a culture fit because he won’t drink with staff is wildly out of line even if John is a terrible manager.

        It reminds me of a FORMER colleague I had who was wildly sexist and just a poor manager as well. In fact, I was one of the people who went to the ED of the organization to complain about the guy. That did not make it ok for a different colleague to basically accuse the guy or being a pervert and imply that he was a molester and probably sexually harassing people. (He was definitely not harassing employees.)

        The bad manager did wind up getting managed out. But the accusations turned out to be the beginning of a degeneration in the accuser’s behavior that led to their being fired. They started feeling free to say some pretty awful things about anyone they didn’t like for some reason, as well as some related seriously problematic behavior. And they finally crossed some bright red lines. A lot of people didn’t even know that they had made the old accusations, but NO ONE was surprised when they got fired once they heard the line that had been crossed. And since it happened in front of a number of people there was no way to spin it around, with people who they were friends with and stayed in contact with.

    5. WorkingGirl*

      YES, thank you!

      My ex-bff was a narc. He had a posse, if he decided you were useful and would look good to him, then he treated you well. But if he decided you weren’t valuable enough, or if you dared need anything from him in return, he treated you like shit. People who knew him but were just outside his inner posse, always seemed to adore him! Charismatic, confident, funny, talented etc

    6. RC Rascal*

      I previously worked for a raging malignant narcissist. He was incredibly charming. His direct reports knew differently, but even then didn’t know the degree of his depravity towards certain people. I started out a favorite and ended up a target. It was hell, and was what brought me to the AAM blog. My advice is to stay out of the situation entirely. Narcs love to enlist others in their campaigns; don’t do anything to make them think they can start using you. Once you are useful to them, they will keep using you. The day they stop being useful to you, WATCH OUT.

      I agree it is unwise for Sarah to be sharing her opinions around the office. “Narcissism in the Workplace” sounds like an interesting thesis topic, though!

      1. Carol*

        I think this is good advice. Once the Narc term comes up at work, best to not get involved in it.

        Sarah seems to have her own vendetta here and seems like some major boundary violations regardless of what John is or isn’t. I have worked under or with a couple of people whose extreme behaviors could fit the N disorder profile, but didn’t tell anyone my suspicions because…well, that wouldn’t be appropriate b/c I am not their therapist, and it’s not really a solution in the workplace. You just try to move out of their sphere of influence and out of their notice, and stay on your guard.

        Running around announcing your armchair diagnosis of a former boss is definitely an attempt to continue the conflict…assuming this wasn’t a couple of casual, off-hand conversations and is more like a continuing campaign. It makes me mistrust whether Sarah truly believes she is dealing with a narcissist. My experience with people who could be Ns is that you start to tread very carefully or you can reasonably expect some kind of retribution, either obvious or covert. Particularly now that she’s been moved elsewhere, it’s odd that she is continuing the drama by openly badmouthing a former boss who is still in the organization, with such an inflammatory label.

        So…maybe John’s behavior toward Sarah could plausibly be in narc territory? If so, Sarah’s behavior makes very little sense as a response.

    7. Analysis Paralysis*

      Yeah, I had the same thought. What we actually know is:
      1. OP has had a good experience with John
      2. Sarah has had a bad experience with John
      3. Sarah’s talked to HR about her experience and is being moved (it’s pretty typical for the more junior person to be moved when moving employees due to a conflict)
      4. Sarah’s therapist has brought up narcissism (as mentioned above, this isn’t uncommon when trying to help patients understand dynamics affecting them— it’s not the same as a diagnosis, though patients might misunderstand that, willfully or otherwise)
      5. As a result of her personal experience, Sarah has developed an academic interest in narcissistic traits in the workplace (she certainly isn’t the first person to research the topic).

      #1 and #2 can both be true. It’s possible John is behaving differently toward them. When someone is nice to us, we tend to try to ignore or justify any time they treat others badly. It’s natural to want to feel good about being treated well, and to discount people with a different experience.

      As for #3 & 4, OP might disagree with the assessment of outsiders Sarah has gone to for help, but that doesn’t make them inherently bad or wrong.

      #5. This is probably fine, and not relevant to Sarah’s workplace. If it is a problem, it’s not OP’s problem. Leave it alone.

      Is Sarah over sharing about this at work in an inappropriate way? Sounds like it. But if she really is being treated unfairly, it’s not inherently super weird that she would talk to coworkers to try to get support or find out if they see it her way. She’s just not being particularly graceful about it. It’s 100% ok for OP to avoid chatting with Sarah, change the subject, disagree about events they witnessed, or to say “I haven’t experienced that, John’s been good to me” but it would be overstepping to claim that this proves Sarah is wrong or lying about her own experience.

      John’s an adult in a managerial position. He can defend himself. OP can speak their truth, but doesn’t have to proactively champion him or undermine Sarah.
      In fact, if OP does, that’s a bad look for John. After all, designating one’s admirers to silence one’s critics gives a somewhat narcissistic impression. Most people can handle it when someone with less power than they have dislikes them.

      1. Smithy*

        Early in my career, I once heard someone use an incredibly rude phrase to detail that two things aren’t necessarily correlated. The response was that “you can be fat and ugly”, and while I certainly would never use that in a professional context, I have remembered it.

        The fact that when it comes to manager or workplaces that experiences like 1 & 2 can both be true can be difficult to process. I think it’s also fairly common that when new managers start, it’s not uncommon to see hesitancy/reluctance from existing staff. It can be a personality clash, it can be dislike of the new, it can be lots of things.

        If the OP finds themselves sucked into venting/complaining sessions, then it’s definitely prudent to remove themselves from those spaces as they both seem uncomfortable and less professional. But also doesn’t rise to the level where the OP needs to get involved.

    8. Analysis Paralysis*

      I wrote a longer comment that I think got eaten, but TLDR, I agree.
      When looking at a conflict where there is room for any doubt, it’s useful to consider “how does this look if I give the person with the least power the maximum benefit of the doubt?

      It seems like that would look like:
      OP is having a good experience with John (so far).
      Sarah had a bad experience with John, bad enough that she spent a lot of time talking about it in therapy and went to HR to ask for help resolving it.
      As a result of her personal experience, Sarah developed in interest in narcissism in the workplace (she would not be the first).
      Sarah overshared about all of this at work, which wasn’t good professional behavior, but sometimes happens when someone is going through a difficult time.

      If that’s the story (and probably even if it isn’t), then I don’t think any of this is OP’s problem. Sarah’s professors/advisors will evaluate whatever she produces in that context. HR will mediate any conflict between Sarah and John. John is a manager, and in most situations would have his perspective weighted more heavily than one of his reports. OP’s best path forward is to avoid conversations OP isn’t interested in, and speak only to OP’s own experience. It’s up to OP if they feel the need to be proactive about that, but I’d advise against it. Having his admirers pro-actively contact HR and coworkers to undermine his critics looks kinda of, well, narcissistic.

    9. Observer*

      Before we take Sarah out with the trash, don’t forget narcissists are often very charming to their favorites, and can hide their abuse toward others.

      True. But it doesn’t excuse all of the problematic behaviors that others have pointed out.

      Also, the fact that she has a problem with the fact that John doesn’t drink cast her reliability and judgement into doubt. So, to some extent, does the fact that she is focusing on the unnamed “immoral means” that John supposedly employed to get the job while refusing to acknowledge the problems with Pete’s performance.

  10. AcademiaNut*

    When it comes to names and spelling, you do have to be a bit careful when it comes to official documents (plane tickets, financial and immigration stuff). Having my name misspelled doesn’t bother me, but when the misspelling ended up on a plane ticket (someone else was corresponding with the travel agent), it definitely bothered the airline check in person. So when anything is official, double check to make sure it’s correctly spelled.

    1. Dan*

      Forget that… I had my name misspelled on my first passport. My last name is commonly misspelled (and when I get emails greeting the misspelling, I know they’re not spam, so I read them.)

      And when I got that first passport, it was for an overseas trip that I was taking ASAP. So the only remedy was to haul my rear end down to the passport office and get it fixed on the spot. I’m not sure what I would have done if I was living in area far from a passport office.

      1. BubbleTea*

        My driving licence had my first bane and my first middle name hyphenated, making my second middle name a single initial. My passport had both middle names spelled out. It didn’t matter for using those documents individually, but I did get a form that rejected them for not matching (perhaps a criminal records check?). Frustrating! Resolved when I changed my name entirely though!

        1. Jay*

          My husband has a very common name – think Bob Jones. When we were renting and moving frequently, another Bob Jones moved in right after us. He’s had some financial issues over the years so we always use my husband’s full middle name for financial and legal documents, just in case someone does a background check. So we submit our tax returns with his name listed as Robert Alan Jones. A few years ago the IRS kicked the return back because his Social Security card has him listed as Robert A. Jones. He looked into changing the card and it was such a pain in the patoot we started using his middle initial on the tax returns instead.

        2. Jaydee*

          In high school, my best friend was going on an overseas trip and needed to get a passport. In the process, she discovered that the vital records folks in the early 80s had no clue how to handle a hyphenated last name. Let’s pretend her name is Hermione Jean Granger-Weasley. Her birth certificate read Granger Hermione-Jean Weasley. So it’s not that they couldn’t use a hyphen. They just had to throw the whole name in a blender and mix it all up.

    2. LDF*

      Not disagreeing that it’s best to spell things correctly, but also if you get something misspelled it might still be usable, if the institution recognizes spelling mistakes happen. An older relative sends me a check every year, they’re spelled right less than half the time but I’ve never had issues depositing. Correct is best but even with banks, not always requried.

      1. Anima*

        You can have your name misspelled on your passport in the USA?!?! This would sooo not fly in Germany! I had my place of birth wrong on some official documents, and I had to get that fixed – because then this document would not have identical information with another. Also, you have to have the right name on plane tickets, otherwise it’s a hold up at the gate for you! (Ask me how I know.)
        Dear LW, please be careful, when you travel to German and your name on your documents is spelled wrong!

        1. Julia*

          It’s not as if Germans don’t make typos, though we sure love pointing out other’s mistakes. Some passport offices are sloppier than others – when I got my first passport done, they asked me what my eye color was (height and eye color go on your passport in Germany), and my father gave them the wrong color. (Thanks, Papa…) The lady didn’t even look at me and just started writing it down until I stopped her and said, “no, it’s actually [other color].” People are people. The fun starts happening when one office messes up and another one gives you trouble about it.
          (And don’t get me started on my official school transcripts having my name misspelled every. single.year…)

        2. Asenath*

          I’m in Canada. I’ve never heard of a passport getting names wrong, but birth certificates are another story, especially for those old enough to have been born in a part of the country in which hand-written documents were used for registration. And then you have the problem of documents with names that don’t match. I helped one of my aunts get hers corrected when she was well into adulthood. Her middle name was “Marguerite” after a friend of her parents, but someone somewhere along the line either mis-read the original, or assumed it must be the much more common name “Margaret”. The husband of a friend of mine discovered that his legal name was different from the name he’d used all his life when he needed a birth certificate to get a marriage license – I think his father registered is birth under one of the family names his parents were considering, and he was called by another. Back then, you could be registered for school and medical care under the name your parents told the school or doctor; no one wanted documentary proof.

          1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

            Indeed this is one of the scenarios that can lead to people having difficulty getting sufficient ID for voter ID laws.

          2. Greetings from Eastern Bubblonia*

            There’s a similar story in my family. The intention was to name my great aunt Lily Anne, but between my great-grandfather’s enthusiasm over the birth of his first daughter and his accent, it was written on the birth certificate as Lillian. The family just kind of rolled with it and she was Lillian ever after.

          3. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

            The Canadian side of the equation buggered up my mum-in-law’s Nexxus pass by flipping her married and maiden names. Even though she corrected immediately, this error has caused mild annoyances and extra time every renewal.

          4. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            FWIW my child is known by a name that doesn’t appear on his birth certificate and isn’t derived from any of his names or initials (imagine John Henry Baker known as Ace). There’s a “known as” field in the paperwork when you register the child at school so we put Ace where maybe the parents of Catherine put Katy or the parents of Taylor James put TJ. School* are happy to call him Ace, but have stressed that any official paperwork will say John. Example: his school report is about John Baker, and the attendance printout says John Baker, and the narrative says that Ace gets on well with his classmates and is confident with multiplication.

            So they’re able to greet a human being with that person’s comfortable name whilst ensuring at the same time that anything official matches up.

            * except that one teacher, but that’s a whole other story

          5. Elizabeth Bennett*

            This has tripped up genealogists for decades, particular when the Census was primarily taken orally. Tracking gets even more fun when completely unrelated nicknames are used, or in the case of my grandmother, she used her step-father’s name at school until she got a marriage license at the age 18, essentially never using her real name until she changed it at marriage.

          6. nonegiven*

            My MIL was born in 1925 and didn’t know her birth certificate didn’t have her name on it until she needed to apply for social security. She had to have gotten her drivers license, social security card, and two marriage licenses without it.

            At least I found out about mine when I was 16 and needed it to get my driver’s permit.
            My birth certificate said Baby Girl [lastname.]

        3. Seeking Second Childhood*

          It wouldn’t fly here in the US either–Dan did say he immediately visited the passport office to get it corrected.

        4. Bridget*

          Even in Germany: when I lived there I had fun with my middle name which exists and is common but with a different spelling in Germany. Let’s say it’s Bridget. It was impossible to convince people of how it’s actually spelled, so I just accepted that all my official German documents said Birgit. Then it evolved from there to Brigitte when I had new documents issued. People see what they can make the most sense of.

      2. Vanellope*

        Ah, older relatives and checks…when I got married, one of my husbands out of town aunts sent a check to [his brothers name] and Vanellope [his last name] (I didn’t take his name). Despite both names being wrong, we managed to talk the bank into depositing it into our joint account, likely because we were also depositing several other wedding checks and it was an obvious mistake.

        1. Asenath*

          I once paid a home care worker (so, someone I hired personally and who was paid by me directly) with a check, and foolishly spelled her surname phonetically, based on what I thought I heard. I was way off – I thought it was a variation on a local name, but her husband, whose surname she used, was Dutch. She actually got the check cashed – she lived in a small town and was well-known (apparently in a good way!) at the local bank. She told me the correct spelling, I wrote it down and didn’t make that mistake again. She was quite nice about it – her name was often mis-spelled.

        2. Le Sigh*

          I didn’t take my husband’s name either. About 1/2 the checks were to His name, My name His Last Name, the other 1/3 to our correct names and then the rest was cash. We have separate bank accounts so I just told him to keep the first half and I’d keep the second. The bank probably would have been okay with it (since, as you point out, we were also depositing a ton of wedding stuff), but I didn’t feel like dealing with it.

        3. turquoisecow*

          When we got married, checks were addressed to 1) me, with maiden name 2) husband 3) me, with maiden name, and Husband 4) me and husband with husband’s name.

          I did change my name to his but this took some time and in the meanwhile people really wanted us to cash or deposit those checks. Even though we didn’t have a joint bank account, Husband’s bank allowed us to deposit the checks addressed to some form of both of us into his account. The ones addressed only to me were put into my account. I had to sign my not-yet legal married name onto a dozen or so checks for the first time.

          (I still periodically find things that haven’t converted names. Four years into marriage CVS pharmacy finally changed my name in their system to my married name. Before that, doctors would send prescriptions in that name but the bottles would say my maiden name.)

    3. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      It really depends. One time I had my documents questioned because I had different titles on them (Miss vs Dr). Another time a relative didn’t realise that I didn’t change my name when I got married and bought a ticket for me in the wrong name entirely and nobody even questioned it. But the first instance was an international flight and the second a short domestic flight so maybe that was the difference.

    4. saassy*

      I feel this – especially you get into computer characters and names that are technically incorrect without certain characters, and some systems accept them and some do not. For a mild example, every time I fly Delta in the states I get held up and have to go see a gate agent because my last name is hyphenated. The booking systems don’t accept the hyphen when booking, so my plane ticket is always wrong, and then the automated checks don’t accept that my passport doesn’t match.

      In other systems it’s been a matter of a hyphen vs an en dash vs an em dash all reading differently to a photo-to-text algorithm: – vs – vs —

      1. saassy*

        …. and even there, the comments plugin encoded the hyphen and en dash the same and changed it from what I typed!!

    5. EvilQueenRegina*

      My aunt who is from the Philippines had her maiden name misspelled on her wedding certificate – this was due to go to the Home Office the following week as part of her application for her visa to remain permanently in the UK so she was worried about it. It did get resolved, but she still keeps complaining about it 20 years on.

  11. Casper Lives*

    #3 I sympathize. That sounds frustrating and really badly thought out. Like they’re trying to push reimbursement to the next budget year without actually offering a perk.

    My company gave everyone a small stipend of $30/month for 6 months. Then stopped. We’ve been working at home for a year. The stipend was touted as paying for higher tier internet if needed, but we’re supposed to keep it up anyway.

    1. Ganymede*

      I sympathise too, but was hoping Alison would give some script suggestions for how to deal with this. It’s obviously wrong, but how does LW3 get their expenses paid? I would be inclined to submit a matter-of-fact expenses claim for everything spent so far – just assume it will be paid. Behave as if the promise of $250 is a signal to apply for your previous spend. I know this could be risky in the US where you can be fired for very little, but LW seems like a good employee and would have the chance to backpedal “oh, I assumed… sorry” (and consider what to do next). It would at least show the company exactly how much they are stealing from their workers.

      It would be easy to say that the employees shouldn’t have let it get this far and should have put expense claims in after the first month. But if you are not usually someone who has to claim expenses, and you’re all “pulling together” due to the pandemic, one can see how it reached this point. As a former employer, I would be horrified to let my employees go longer than a couple of weeks without reimbursement for even a small amount.

      1. Colette*

        I think she has 2 options: ignore the potential reimbursement, or go to her manager and say “I’m disappointed that we won’t be able to be reimbursed for the equipment we’ve needed to buy in the past year; I’m already set up.”

        I am a little confused about Alison’s comment that the company is saving lots of money by having them work at home, though. They’re saving electricity and cleaning costs, but if they still have the office with the intent of going back one day, they aren’t saving tons of money.

        1. Sparkles McFadden*

          The company has basically shifted the cost of office supplies to the employees for an entire year. That’s an entire budget line item. Depending on how big the company is, supplies can cost a surprising amount. The toner bills alone are probably a separate budget item.

          A long time ago, in the early years of dial-up service, I used to be required to carry a beeper so I could call in to talk employees through certain technical problems. When network speeds increased, some of us were told we had to get broadband service to perform direct remote support and the company would reimburse us. Then, one day, they said “At home networks are ubiquitous, so you are still required to have a high speed network, but we won’t pay for it.” I went back to explaining things over the phone. The company agreed to pay for two more years of my network fees, provided I didn’t tell anyone.

          The company will push off what they can. Sometimes, they’ll push off less if employees say “This matters.”

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Those costs aren’t insignificant. If they’re making people use their own computers, printers, etc. and obtain their own office supplies, they’re also saving on the costs of equipment maintenance/replacement, paper, supplies, furniture, toner, etc. That all adds up, and they’ve transferred it to employees.

          1. Colette*

            Sure. My employer supplied those who could work from home with laptops, keyboards, monitors, etc. Employees mostly had to figure out desks – but they still exist, sitting in an empty building, so they’re not really a savings. (It is an expense for the employee, of course, but it’s not a saving for the employer.) There’s definitely a case to be made that the employer should pay for that stuff, but there’s not a bucket of money they aren’t spending because no one is in the office – particularly since they had to bump up gateway capacity so that people could work from home.

            If the employer isn’t supplying electronics, or if they supplied more things at the office (e.g. free food), maybe that’s different. I just don’t think it’s a sure thing.

        3. CatsOnAKeyboard*

          Well, it depends on the company and what it supplied, but it sounds like this one is at the least saving on toner, paper costs (both for documents and hygiene – toilet paper, paper towels, kleenex) … my company is also saving on coffee, tea, cocoa since they supplied those in the kitchen. They’re also saving on office supplies like pens, highlighters, notepads …

          I was talking with a friend this weekend and her organization also had fresh fruit delivered every day, popcorn/soda in the office …

          1. Lacey*

            Yeah, my company is saving a fair amount, plus, they’re planning on renting out some of the space we’re no longer using. Fortunately, I really don’t have additional costs to working at home and they’ve let us take our work computers home.

        4. Tired of Covid-and People*

          Utility costs can be massive! Also, in-office equipment does not need to be upgraded or maintained. The company is indeed saving lots of money, just by having no routine wear and tear on the facility, wearing down the carpets and the like.

        5. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

          to add on the list from others — bottled water (every office I’ve ever worked in had a water cooler multiplied by however many floors/buildings, etc.), and even though I’ve been one of the few people going into the office the whole last year, the org stopped all water deliveries. They’ve cut the cleaning crew (sorry for the lowest wage earners who have lost their jobs), cut security personnel, ended the bonus program for carpooling, walking, biking or reimbursements for taking public transport…

          For my coworkers at home, many did not have an office set up at home at all — no proper chair, no desk — so many have had to purchase furniture; sitting on the couch may have been a “make do” solution for a month or two, but isn’t sustainable long-term.

          It’ll be interesting for the future too on workers comp claims — if you get injured “on the job” at your own home, is that your insurance problem now? What about repetitive injuries like carpal tunnel, eye strain, or new/worse back problems from a poor work station? I can work for a day or two on a laptop (bad middle age eyesight) but weeks/months/years…no.

          1. OceanDiva*

            Does that qualify as workers comp? I worked from my couch till I completely threw out my back last summer and bought a desk (we didn’t get any stipends to transition to WFH). A year into WFH they emailed to say we could get office WFH things reimbursed, and I 100% sent in my cheap desk receipt from last summer (and it was approved)!

            1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

              The many lawyers on here would have a much better response than I would, but to my knowledge repetitive injuries caused by the job can be claimed on workers comp. In the before times, if I informed my employer that my work station was causing back problems, they would send a ergo specialist to evaluate my space and work habits and make recommendations both for me (how to adjust my chair properly and position my monitor) and my employer (provide a foot rest and lumbar support or new chair with proper adjustment).

      2. Le Sigh*

        It sounds like they’ve already said it isn’t retroactive though, so I wonder how far just submitting old expenses would get OP? Perhaps before submitting anything, it might help to talk to her manager or HR or whoever is appropriate here, and say, “I appreciate the company’s offer, but need to point out that I’ve already spent $563 to date for materials the company normally provides, and I’m hardly alone. What are the plans for reimbursement of expenses already paid?” stated a though *of course* there’s a plan.

        I also think it might help to talk to other coworkers, see how they’re feeling and how it’s affecting them. I wouldn’t be surprised if OP isn’t alone in their thinking and collective pushback could be useful. It’s quite possible leadership just hasn’t thought through how impractical this benefit is and how tone deaf this is. It’s also quite possible it was a deliberate strategy by management.

      3. Spillz*

        I too was hoping for a little more guidance on ways to push back, but I think that as a first step, I will speak to my manager. I know that my coworkers are also upset, as we had several side conversations about it, and one of them was the one who reached out to HR to inquire about the reimbursement for 2020 expenses and was told no. I’m not sure if anything will change, but as to your point about letting it get this far – I think that there was definitely a thinly veiled sense of “you are lucky to have any job at all right now” looming over us for the last year, as there were both “voluntary” (very generous in calling it that) and then involuntary layoffs over the summer, plus the pay was cut across the firm, so there was definitely a message from leadership that we all had to buckle down, band together, and make do.

        I think folks were afraid of making waves and just trying to be thankful for a job, but in hindsight, it would have been better to speak up way sooner. For example, I didn’t get a company laptop until last week – a full year after the pandemic began. Before that, I was working on my own personal tablet which was less than ideal, to say the least.

        All this to say that despite their attempts at rallying employees with stupid picture day slideshows and virtual bingo events, folks are feeling frustrated, devalued, and for me, at the end of my rope. Honestly, I think it would have been better if they didn’t offer the reimbursement at all – I had already spent the money on these items and didn’t think I would be reimbursed, but now knowing that the $250 is out there but not retroactive just pisses me off! LOL

        1. DJ Abbott*

          I’m so sorry you and your colleagues are dealing with this. In my experience none of this is a good sign.

          Your company is too cheap to pay for WFH supplies even though they must have had a budget for it because they paid for these things in the office. IME this kind of penny pinching just keeps getting worse.

          Doing things like this that are obviously(!) bad for morale and then trying to make everyone happy with games and social activities indicates they’re aware of what they’re doing and trying to mitigate it or turn it around. So many employers don’t understand no amount of games or social can distract from bad management that’s hurting the company and employees.

          I think the best thing you can do is look for a better job. Whether your company is sincerely in dire financial straits, or giving all the money that should be going to employees to the C-suite, IMHO getting a better job is your best option.

        2. It's Business Time*

          I agreed with a comment in the other thread, can you order the same items again from amazon or somewhere and return the items unopened, but use that new receipt to claim the expenses?

        3. Speaks to Dragonflies*

          Good grief…they cut your pay while they pass the buck of paying for office supplies on to you while your using your own equipment. It sounds like these ( really bad words ) know exactly what they’re doing. Makes a body wonder if the next step is that they’ll want you to pay them for the privilege of being employed by them.

    2. TWW*

      I’m curious: how to most companies/workers deal with this expense?

      I only had to work from home for two months, and it was pretty bleak having to work having to work in my inadequate home “office”.

      If I had to reproduce my in-office setup at home, it would easily cost $2000+ for furniture, monitors, printer, etc.

      That’s not even accounting for the use of the limited floor space in my apartment, or the fact that best available internet in my neighborhood is spotty at best. If I had to move somewhere with space for a home office and fast, reliable internet my rent would increase by at least $600.

      1. Spillz*

        OP here for #3 – sadly things have been bleak for the last year, even with the supplies that I did buy (printer, wireless mouse, etc). I didn’t get a company laptop until last week so I have been working off my small personal tablet for the last year, switching locations with my boyfriend between our kitchen table and our bedroom dresser depending on our meeting schedule.

        It just makes this all feel worse that we have been cobbling together random devices and making do with the set-up in our living spaces to do our jobs, while still expected to maintain full productivity, and there’s no recognition for it or any relief from the company.

  12. Common name uncommon spelling*

    LW #5 – I would just move forward. Sometimes companies keep reposting on LinkedIn regardless. I saw one that was are posted every week and I was in the final interview stage. Also they sent me an offer and I declined it for a different offer. So it makes sense to keep posting even if you have candidates, just like you might keep applying for jobs even if you are in the interview process.

    LW #4 – as the opposite side of that (common name but the less common spelling, I have pretty much learned to roll with it. In spite of all the weird variations of my name people come up wit. (I kind of understand the common spelling but I keep seeing extra Rs or weird stuff like that). People with the common spellings are less used to it, haha. You learn to live with it and remember about being gracious every time you accidentally wrote “John” when you should have written “Jon” and realize it write after you hit send…

    1. Common name uncommon spelling*

      Right after* obviously.

      Misspelling right as write was not intended as humorous but I’ll pretend it was.

  13. anonnonaanon*

    OP #1, you’re really just hearing all of the psychiatrist/narcissism/dissertation talk from Sarah. You don’t know what the psychiatrist has actually said. You also don’t know that Sarah will actually be allowed to write a dissertation about this one specific person (which, yeah, seems very unlikely to be something that an advisor/committee/department would sign off on). Most people choose dissertation topics that are related in some way to particular interests/experiences of theirs, but they generally don’t focus on specific individuals like that, and I can’t imagine that any dissertation advisor worth their salt would allow someone to write something that unrigorous. (Unless she’s getting her degree from a diploma mill maybe?)

    1. Bree*

      Yes, and while it would to unethical for a psychiatrist to diagnose someone they haven’t treated, it’s not unusual for them to provide advice and resources to clients being mistreated by others. Hypothetically, I could describe the actions of an abusive partner or parent and my therapist could say – based on my description – that it sounds like narcissistic behaviour, and then support me in dealing with it. It’s possible Sarah is exaggerating things to her psychiatrist, and also the things they say to her.

      Of course, it’s also possible there is more truth to this than the LW knows, but the dissertation showboating makes me doubt that.

    2. un-pleased*

      There’s also an Institutional Review Board issue if she wants to focus on one person and she is at an ethical college or university. To write a dissertation about one person, especially when the person will be the focus because of an imputed medical condition … let’s just say I doubt very seriously the diss will happen in the way OP has heard.

      It’s entirely possible to write a diss that is a study on workplace narcissism, but there are a lot of safeguards/protections that would have to be built into the methodology. I will make no predictions about whether Sarah is capable of producing an IRB application that addresses those things. At my grad institution, there was at least one psych faculty on the Board and they can be pretty strict about explicit methods and how you protect people in the course of academic research.

      1. Neener*

        At my institution, case reports (fewer than 5 people) aren’t counted as research and don’t need IRB review. This is bc the regulatory definition of research includes “designed to contribute to generalizable knowledge” and case reports by definition aren’t really generalizable.

        I came here to agree with Bree: totally fine if the psych said “what you’ve described sounds a bit like narcissism, let’s talk about strategies for dealing with narcissists and see if they help at all.” That’s about helping Sarah deal with the situation, not about whether John really has a diagnosable pathology.

        1. un-pleased*

          I did a dissertation that focused heavily on one person as an example of something (social sciences). I still had to get a letter from IRB after stating that my work did not fall under federal guidance. I could not have and would not have ever proceeded without it.

          1. Neener*

            I believe you, I’m just saying it varies by institution and it’s entirely possible Sarah’s institution would simply point her toward their case report policy as documentation.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      My thought is that Sarah was being a drama llama or being flip and not really intending to study John. But she’s a problem in many other ways for even broadcasting this around. Ugh! I’d distance myself from her.

  14. miso*

    As someone who has a “difficult” name, who uses a fairly easier nickname to be called and STILL be called wrong is just a way of life now

    1. Dan*

      One of my bosses was an Indian guy who chose to retain his birth name in the US. At work, he’d go by a shortened version of his first name. When we would go out for lunch, they’d still butcher his first name, and he would grumble. I suggested that he use a shortened version of his last name, which was a common male name in the US. He said no, he was the paying customer, they could get his name right. And I was like, “well… when you’re hungry, do you want to eat or not? Me, if they don’t burn my food, I’m happy.”

      1. miso*

        I feel for him but also yea, when I eat out at places where they call names or the sort, I just give a fake name. I usually go by Cat, they’ll Kat it sometimes but oh well food is food. Unless I’m a regular somewhere, my expectations are nowhere when it comes to getting names right.

        1. traffic_spiral*

          Yup. I know a ‘Tad’ who goes by ‘Andy’ in all restaurants (“Lad?” “Grad?” “Brad?”) and a Molly (Holly? Polly? Nolly? Mary? Norway? [not kidding on that last one]) that goes by Bob, and several more.

          Refusing to do so is basically the name version of refusing to use the Alpha Bravo Charlie phonetic alphabet when spelling things out over the phone, then getting annoyed people think you said ‘B’ instead of ‘P.’

      2. Antony J Crowley*

        This seems like a classic microaggression, though, can’t blame him for being upset.

        1. Julia*

          Yeah, I agree with the boss. Paying customer, but also, “can you make your name sound less *exotic* so it’s more convenient to white people?” is a huge insult.

          1. MK*

            I don’t know if it is a microagression or just the servers mishearing names in their haste, they certainly get even common names wrong. And as a customer youbare paying for food, not for them to spell your nakme correctly. But I agree that the suggestion that someone who already shortened his name to accommodate others should use a version of his last name as a first name wasn’t appropriate.

          2. Gan Ainm*

            Mmmm I don’t know. The whole point of this letter was to not take wrong names too personally. I’m not sure why you’d advise different for a name that’s going to be extra challenging to most Americans, just seems like inviting someone to be disgruntled. My name is a pretty common white woman’s name in the US and still gets consistently butchered, I get about 6 variations some of which I hate, but as long as I get my food I’m happy. People posting pictures of their Starbucks cup to show how completely wrong they got the name is a meme / joke for a reason, because it happens to everyone. I get that if you already feel like an outsider it can feel worse, but it’s not personal, just look at how many Sarah’s and Amanda’s on this thread are saying they get called Brenda. I had the reverse where i lived in another country where they don’t have the sound for my name in their language, I can’t force the whole country to learn a new sound just for me, so I just picked a pronounceable name for restaurants and the like and moved on.

            1. Anon for this*

              Names get mangled. Even “Mary” –I’ve gotten Merry, Mari, Marie, even Marry and Barry.
              “Marry” I assume was an autocorrect. Barry though… Barry was traumatic to a flat-chested 7th grade girl in the Farah Fawcett era.

              1. Lacey*

                I’ve gotten “Lance” before, when I was speaking to someone on the phone. I don’t have a masculine sounding voice!

            1. Dust Bunny*

              And, yes, I’ve had people choose nicknames for me or insist that I should use them to make life easier for everyone else.

            2. Julia*

              It’s not news to me as white person with a Polish surname (now Japanese upon marriage), but even then I’d say the level is kinda different. At least I’ve never been told to get a more “Western” sounding name, or act more like someone not my race.

              This is getting close to “men get harassed too, you know!” when talking about the experiences women have.

        2. MK*

          Is it? Places like Starbucks get most names wrong all the time, I assume because of their haste to serve everyone as quickly as possible. I am white and in the majority ethnic group in my country and my name is the incredibly common Maria, and they still get it wrong often.

          1. Julia*

            Maybe the getting it wrong part is equal opportunity, but the “just use a less foreign name” part is not…

          2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

            Honestly, I think it’s tricky. People get my name wrong often (as I wrote below, because it is a Germanic form of a fairly common English name – they’ll default to the English name). In that sense, my problem isn’t dissimilar to Dan’s boss’s issue.

            BUT these interactions aren’t happening in isolation. I arguably benefit from the fact that most people have positive associations with my parent’s home-country. And no one assumes that I’m foreign or different based on my appearance, etc.

            In addition, I know lots of Asian/South-Asian/African people have been encouraged to adopt ‘less unusual’ names and are told to sympathize with others who struggle or refuse to prounce their names. Meanwhile, I’ve found that people are often very happy to try and pronouce my name correctly, or learn more about why my parents chose it. I think all that makes it far more empowering for me to be really nonchalant about when people can’t or don’t say it.

            That’s what’s tricky about micro-aggressions, IMO. They’re not aggressive acts in-and-of themselves but because of how they fit into a larger cutural context, where they are essentially continued re-iterations of messages like: ‘you don’t belong here’ or ‘my culture is normal and good, your culture is exotic and weird’.

            (NOTE: Not a social scientist, so I might be wrong about my interpretation here. Open to corrections!)

            1. MK*

              I think there is a distinction to be made between people one deals with on a regular basis, like coworkers, who absolutely should learn your name (and you should be understanding if it takes time or if they get the pronunciation a bit wrong) and servers who never met you before and have to serve ten people in five minutes. In the second case, letting it go is probably better, and sure, maybe you are dealing with a racist batista, but more likely with a distracted one.

              1. Anonymous for this*

                I’m not the person you replied to, but just to be clear: The microaggression here isn’t necessarily the barista getting the name wrong, which is kind of a baseline coffee shop experience. It’s Dan suggesting that his manager choose another name.

                And I don’t think Dan or the barista is necessarily racist or xenophobic or anything. Some microaggressions come from people who have no idea what they’re doing, who wouldn’t do it if they knew better.

              2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

                I agree with your distinction in practice. With regard to the theory though, it’s more complex.

                Micro-aggressions (at least, as they are defined by Wing Sue, for example) exist independent of intention. It’s not about whether the barista is racist or whether a white person might have a similar experience, but whether it re-asserts a consistent cultural message of non-belonging. The attributional ambiguity is part of why micro-aggressions are so wearing for recipients.

                So, like….on a micro-level, the boss might be ‘unreasonable’ to be upset with the server. But on a macro-level, this could be the proverbial straw on the camel’s back, and an employee lecturing him on being more reasonable could be really dismissive. Personally, I’m sympathetic, because the feeling of isolation that can exist when you’re operating far from your home culture – especially if that’s not by choice – can be incredibly exhausting. A similar debate is one around asking “where are you from?” in casual conversation – there’s nothing inherently wrong with that question, but if it’s disproportionately asked to people of color, it starts to communicate a cultural message. If I ask that question everytime I meet someone new, I’m contributing to that message, irrespective of my intention.

                1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

                  I should also say: something could be a micro-aggression and ‘letting it go’ could still be the most practical choice. I think that’s the approach most people take most of the time.

            2. The Rural Juror*

              I went to university in a rural town of a bible belt state, but it was a large state school with a pretty diverse student population. We had a lot of international students and faculty, so I spent time with a lot of people from all over the world, which was wonderful.

              In my major, I had two classmates that were from Japan. I spent a lot of time with them because our schedules were usually pretty similar and we had multiple classes together each semester. One was outgoing and had a very bubbly personality. Her name was two syllables and had two simple vowel sounds, so everyone picked up on the pronunciation quickly. However, the shier one of the two was always introduced by a more “typical” American-sounding name.

              I can’t say that I ever found out if SHE preferred to use the American name, or if it was thrust up on her. It was really the first time I was aware of someone adapting a “less unusual” name. It was especially highlighted by the fact that her classmate, who went side-by-side with her through the college program, didn’t use a different name from her own.

              I’ve been much more aware of it through the years now. Struggling to pronounce it is one thing, especially if the person is trying. Refusing to pronounce it correctly is just awful, and I’m so sorry that it happens.

            3. Shirley Keeldar*

              “ That’s what’s tricky about micro-aggressions, IMO. They’re not aggressive acts in-and-of themselves but because of how they fit into a larger cutural context, where they are essentially continued re-iterations of messages like: ‘you don’t belong here’ or ‘my culture is normal and good, your culture is exotic and weird’.”

              I think you nailed it! This, exactly. Plus the “it’s the seventeenth time today” thing.

              Allison =/= Alison, but not in the same way that Polly =/= Parvati

        3. Anonymous for this*


          That’s why my family’s been using the English mispronunciation of our last name for 100+ years. Someone helpfully advised my great-grandparents to either change the pronunciation or change the spelling, and now here we are.

          People with non-English last names don’t really need to be told that an English substitute would be easier for English speakers to pronounce. It’s kinda clear. They know.

      3. Akcipitrokulo*

        I’m with your boss – and I wouldunderstand his being upset at that suggestion, which devalues his name and him.

      4. AvonLady Barksdale*


        My surname is somewhat long and looks like it’s hard to pronounce and spell. Yet many, many people who pay attention (or, you know, ask me) can pronounce it and even spell it. I’m not going to change it to appease people who can’t be bothered to try. And for the record, I know what it sounds like when people try and I appreciate it.

        A customer service representative once said to me, “Oh, my mouth doesn’t go that way.” A new colleague shrugged off my, “Hey, you spelled my name wrong in every intro email you sent to clients [even though it is written down in front of you].” These people are jerks. Your colleague had every right to use his own name wherever he wanted to.

      5. Firecat*

        Yes! I have to deal with this too with a very common name. I think a lot of people who work in service jobs are just rushed/stressed so more likely to mishear in a crowded restaurant.




      6. Slow Gin Lizz*

        There really should be a category of names called “take-out name” that is the name you use for when you’re ordering food or Starbucks. Friends and work contacts should definitely learn your name but generally unless you are a regular at a restaurant they aren’t going to be seeing your name enough for them to learn it, so it does make life easier for everyone involved if you give them a more common name as your take-out name. (Unless you forget which name you’ve used, haha.)

        I’ve learned over the years that even though I go by Liz I have to give Elizabeth as my take-out name because it’s realllllly easy to mishear Liz or have it just blend into the background noise. Elizabeth is a pretty unique combination of sounds and works much better when you’re listening in a loud environment.

        1. Marillenbaum*

          My mom does this, and so does my sister. Mom’s name is Persian, sister’s is Welsh, and both of them get garbled when we go out for things (though sister’s less so now she lives in the UK).

        2. Slow Gin Lizz*

          I mean, I totally get why Dan’s Indian coworker wouldn’t want to use a different name – everyone should be allowed to use the name they want to use – but maybe he could stop grumbling when the random take-out people get it wrong because it’s a name they aren’t used to seeing and hearing. He could maybe cut them a little slack, they are dealing with a LOT of names every day, and like Dan said, if they get his order right, that’s what matters, not getting his name right.

      7. SpellingBee*

        I used to work for a guy named Otto. One morning he came in to the office laughing, and showed me his cup from the coffee place next door on which the order taker had written “Auto.” I asked if he’d said anything, and he said “nah, I got my coffee and it was what I ordered!”

      8. my name is she-devil*

        I’d like to point out that it’s totally possible this would be even more problematic for your boss than what he’s currently doing!

        Case in point: I’m also Indian, and my name is actually very similar to an American English name (think Neena vs Nina). I just give my name “Neena” at Starbucks, and if they wrote “Nina” on my cup and called out “Nina” I wouldn’t mind. But half the time they look at my ambiguously brown face and write something like “Elena” (or “Nadia” or “Natasha” or “Denona”).

        If your boss did what you suggest, he could continue to get butcherings and misspellings of his fake nickname, and he wouldn’t have my advantage of being used to them, so he could very well miss his “name” being called out a decent fraction of the time.

  15. JKateM*

    One thing NOT to do (I hope #5 does know already) is not to keep applying each time they see the position reposted. I’ve had a job running for several months now – we haven’t had many strong candidates and we’re not in a rush to hire. We will hire someone when the right person comes along; it’s a job where personality is inportant (this person will be on call sometimes and has to be able to cheerfully take emergency phone calls at 3am) but also has to have skills specific to our industry. We have people already doing the job but it’s always great to add another person to the team, but we have learned that the wrong person can be disastrous.
    Regardless, we have one applicant who has applied 3 times and in the most recent application seemed a bit irritated/annoyed with us that we have reposted the job when they already applied . . . Like we were somehow obligated to hire them because the applied. I have been imagining this individual with a “Karen” haircut :) Maybe they will call and ask to speak to the hiring manager. Also their application was different each time, and of course didn’t fit the skills needed.
    TL;DR – Be patient # 5 and know your application has been received, and if you are the right candidate you will get a call for an interview.

    1. Forrest*

      Maybe consider this an argument for getting back to candidates to let them know their application has been received but is not being taken forward? I’ve been on the other end of this recently and it’s incredibly frustrating not knowing whether this is a, “we didn’t receive your application”, “we received your application but haven’t moved forward with any candidates yet” or “we received your application but aren’t going to take it forward”.

      1. Grace*

        I’ve been involved with hiring at my company for the last few weeks (for the same role as me) and you’d be surprised at people’s nerve. Everyone gets a rejection email, but some of them will still apply repeatedly. We took a role down over Christmas and reposted it after New Year, and a solid handful reapplied, including ones we rejected for a poorly-written application (near-perfect English and excellent grammar is an absolute requirement) and one guy who just went ahead and emailed the hiring manager to say he’d redone and resubmitted the data-gathering/writing test that he’d failed last time. (He’d failed it because he couldn’t follow basic formatting instructions, and he did the same thing again the second time.)

        Bonus shout-out to the guy who failed to follow the instructions on the very first question of the test (please reformat the addresses in this style) and then emailed the hiring manager to complain about how he had two degrees and we clearly couldn’t appreciate talent when we saw it.

      2. London Lass*

        I don’t see JKateM mention whether they have done this. If they haven’t, I agree they should. But perhaps they have and this applicant just isn’t getting the message.

      3. MassMatt*

        A “thanks, but no thanks” form letter email could be done, but Alison and many others that hire have often mentioned how telling candidates “no” frequently leads to angry responses. For entry level jobs candidates should just apply and move on.

        The whole “did you GET my application” thing seems overblown. If you sent it where they told you to send it, assume yes they did and move on.

        1. Observer*

          A “thanks, but no thanks” form letter email could be done, but Alison and many others that hire have often mentioned how telling candidates “no” frequently leads to angry responses.

          That’s a misread of what Alison actually says. And simple excuse making for plain and simple rudeness.

          Where Alison talks about angry responses is when people ask for feedback and then take it poorly. Is it possible that someone will take a standard rejection poorly? Sure, and Alison has posted a few really interesting samples. But those are not the norm, nor a good reason to ghost everyone else.

          PS My favorite is the guy who complained about an “astute air of refusal”.

    2. Nitpicker*

      I think you missed the part where the LW says they got a call and are already scheduled for an interview ;)

    3. Firecat*

      Actually this varies by company. A previous employer of mine did want you to apply to each version of the role because they were in different cost centers/locations (not that you could tell from the posting).

    4. MassMatt*

      #5 also many entry-level jobs have multiple positions and a lot of turnover so they are doing a lot of hiring. Don’t torture yourself trying to read meaning into anything about frequency of job postings or the like. Just keep looking and send strong resumes/cover letters to the right jobs.

  16. Smishy*

    Is it possible this client is from a different culture? I’ve been in the US for almost 30 years now and I STILL have to remind myself that here the name “Marc” is spelled “Mark.” The spelling I grew up with is just stuck in my head even though it’s a super easy name. And because there’s a million Marks here, I’m always paranoid about double checking.

    1. Rara Avis*

      I gave my daughter a name that has two variants. It is always either misspelled or mispronounced. (In my defense, there’s a semi-famous actress who spells and pronounces it our way.) It’s partially cultural — we’re in an area with many Spanish speakers, but that’s not the pronunciation we use. It does bother me when I send an email to a teacher/counselor/friend spelling it the right way, and get a response with the other spelling! For instance:
      “Elizabeth will miss class today.” “Oh, I hope Elisabeth feels better soon!” I do resist pointing out that I did not misspell my own daughter’s name.
      My dad has a name with several spellings, and my mom’s aunt never got it right, in all her 96 years. She was otherwise wonderful to him, so I don’t think it was an in-law thing.

      1. A.N. O'Nyme*

        I’m wondering if part of it could be either autocorrect or muscle memory? Say you have a friend named Allison and a coworker named Alison. If you spend more time writing to Allison than to Alison, then either autocorrect or your muscle memory may automatically decide that obviously you just misspelled Allison and “helpfully” makes you type Alison.
        Which you probably only notice right after hitting send…

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          There are some of us who just have to look it up every time. Eric/Erik, Jon/John, Brennan/Brenden, Anne/Ann .. it’s not that I don’t love my friends, it’s just that my brain doesn’t retain it. I’m the same way about grey/gray.
          And in an email, we add in the likelihood of software pre-fills and autocorrects.
          Since this bothers you, that last might be a way to bring this up — casually ask the teacher to add your child’s spelling to their software dictionary. “It’s funny, but it’s getting frustrating how many software packages add one spelling not the other.”

          1. Lacey*

            Yup. I know a Kiersten and a Kirsten and I do not ever remember which one is spelled which way. I love them both, but I have to check facebook every time.

      2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        Assuming you’ve never explicitly pointed out the error, the most likely explanation is that she’s not seeing the letter difference.

        Once we’ve learned to read, we don’t tend to parse out the individual letters. This is famously why you can rearrange letters within a word and the majority of readers will understand or even not notice. To quote from Cambridge Uni’s Cognition and Brain Sciences website:

        “Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.”

    2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Yeah, I think that’s a good point. While I’m from the US, my name is not pronounced/spelt in a way that is common here, but it is very similar to fairly common English name (really, it’s just the Germanic version of the same name).

      Like commentor Mae Fuller mentioned below, I have NOT noticed a correlation between people who misprounce my name and people who are disrespectful to me.

      HOWEVER, I have noticed a correlation between people who misprounce/misspell my name and:
      – people who are close to someone with a similar name (think ‘Christopher’ vs ‘Cristian’)
      – people who are speaking English as a second language
      – people who are currently overworked / in a hurry

  17. Renee*

    Names are important. It’s rude and disrespectful to continuously fail to get it right.
    I say this as someone whose name is mispronounced and misspelled on a regular basis. The people who respect for and care about you will get it right.
    Those who do not well, I have a bin for them.
    I hope LW #4’s company will support her in getting that recalcitrant client to demonstrate the bare minimum levels of respect.

    1. Limepink*

      Gently reminding them once is okay. In person you wouldn’t know their saying Ann without an e, and it’s not worth upsetting the client who is not being rude or difficult. I would be unhappy to have a report who couldn’t roll with such a light punch and caused an issue during a fiscally uncertain time.

      1. Drag0nfly*

        Exactly. It’s only rude if the person is purposely misspelling the name, like someone who is hung up on Catherine being spelled “Katherine,” like Anne of Green Gables was in the Megan Follows mini-series. Only Anne was awkwardly attempting to bond with the Katherine in question, not being rude.

        I have a name that is commonly misspelled, sometimes in amusing ways. Imagine “Alison” misspelled as “Alysanne,” and other weird ways. But I don’t care. It’s pointless to care when the person is simply in error. It’s only worth caring about when your name is misspelled on official documents or on nametags and whatever else.

        The OP makes a big deal about having her signature on her emails, but a couple of things about that. One is that the signature might not be included in the body of the receiver’s email. It might be placed as an attachment that her correspondent is ignoring. The detaching of signatures from emails happens often enough that I don’t think it’s reasonable to get angry about someone not noticing the signature. Just assume they literally don’t see it and move on.

        Also, even if the signature IS in the body of the email, there’s no guarantee the person is READING it. I treat signatures as the end of the letter and X out from there. I only *look* at signatures when I’m trying to double check details I wouldn’t know, like your street address, or maybe your title. The OP’s correspondent thinks he or she knows the OP’s name, so they’re not going to double check the name. Not everyone is temperamentally suited to editing. That is, not everyone notices or cares about typos. For me it’s weird not to care, but for other people, c’est la vie.

        Just let it go.

    2. John Smith*

      A bugbear of mine is our email system putting surnames before first names. My real surname is a common “female” first name and I often get addressed by that name even though my signature clearly shows my name. It’s usually about two or three emails in before people twig and apologise but if really irks me if they don’t. Otherwise, when I use my name, I add “not otherwise known as (wrong name here)”. That usually does the trick.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        I have that exact problem and get fed up with being addressed by my surname (which I have never liked and honestly don’t even know why I’ve kept it) – not helped by the fact that in my current job, that name happens to be the name of the person I work most closely with. In another job, it was the name of my predecessor.

    3. LDF*

      I don’t really need clients to “care about” me as a person to successfully work with them so I’m not sure if this is a helpful way to look at it. It’s annoying, but at some point you gotta let it go. Saying this as someone whose name is unusual enough where I work that I don’t even get wrong-spelled (e.g. ann instead of anne), just full on wrong-named (e.g. anna instead of anne). If it’s an external client at some point it’s not worth pushing on.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah. I have a feeling that vendors would get the name right if they want to make a sale. Clients have more power, because they can always decide to stop buying from you.

      2. Firecat*

        And honestly there are so many more explanations then “disrespectful to me” like “absent minded” “overwhelmed” and “rushed.”

        Frankly I couldn’t imagine how miserable I would be if I took it as a sign of disrespect and kept a list! Does it irritate me a bit? Sure – because I take the time to check their signatures for spelling – but I don’t get hung up or feel disrespected that many many many people don’t.

        1. tangerineRose*

          Yeah, what Firecat said.

          Taking this as a sign of disrespect when it easily might not be one is a great way to be angry a lot (people frequently misspell my name).

    4. Mae Fuller*

      I used to think this was true but experience has taught me that it’s really not – the friend of mine who most commonly spells and pronounces names wrong is one of the most caring, considerate people I know, she just doesn’t relate to words in that way. She’s also neurodivergent – and most of the colleagues who use the wrong alternative spelling for my name are dyslexic (yes, I have reason to need to know this) – which makes me cautious about being judgemental about people I don’t know as there’s clearly a risk of ableism.

      1. onco fonco*

        I think this is really important to appreciate. People relate to words differently and spelling aptitude varies enormously.

    5. The Other Dawn*

      How is it rude and disrespectful if OP hasn’t even said anything to the client to let them know they’re spelling it wrong? All she says is she’s copied on correspondence where other people spell it correctly. That’s not telling the client directly. That’s just OP hoping the client notices and being upset when they don’t. The client likely isn’t noticing, since OP’s name is in the CC field. And if they’re such a big, VIP client, they probably get tons of correspondence and aren’t paying attention to a CC.

      1. Clisby*

        Yeah, this doesn’t even come close to the bar I set for “rude.” Rude is more like, “Oh, Hermione is too hard to remember – I’ll just call you Annabelle instead.”

    6. Sara without an H*

      A quick scan of the comments will turn up plenty of reasons besides “disrespect” for getting someone’s name wrong. I’ve seen my name spelled differently within the same email, but I decided long ago that it wasn’t worth stewing over.

      I do double check the spelling of my name on any official communication and insist on corrections if necessary. But within a routine email? Not worth it.

    7. Me*

      It’s not that cut and dry in business relationships. You can’t write off an important client because they cant’ get your name right. Making it a big deal is going to make you look out of touch at best and potentially a lot worse.

      Also, names are important to some people to the degree you feel – you don’t speak for all. Some of us aren’t that invested in someone we periodically deal with getting our name wrong. That’s obvious by a scan of the comments. My paternal grandmother has spelled my name wrong for 40 years now. I really just don’t care. The birthday checks cash the same.

      1. tangerineRose*

        Yeah. I mean, I’m not thrilled when someone misspells my name, but at some point, I thought about it and figured I had 2 choices:
        1. Put in a lot of effort to get people spell it correctly. (They still won’t always spell it right.)
        2. Shrug my shoulders and get on with life (but make sure it’s spelled correctly on important documents).

        Option 2 is what I went with, and it’s a *much* easier way to live.

    8. turquoisecow*

      If it’s someone I work with continuously and regularly, them not knowing the spelling of my four letter name annoys me. It’s a less common variation so it happens frequently, but it is fewer letters. If it’s a client I interact with infrequently, or never talk about personal things, it annoys me but I just chalk it up to the person not being detail oriented. It would be kind of unprofessional to derail a professional conversation (via email) by talking about my name. I just file that as information about the person: “doesn’t pay attention to how names are spelled, might want to proofread any documents they write for accuracy because maybe they forgot other small details.”

      If it’s a friend who keeps spelling my name wrong, then we have a problem. But strangers doing it happens so frequently I’d be spending half my life really angry if I got upset every time.

  18. Emily not Emili*

    #4 It could also be the client is from another culture where the spelling they use is the default spelling. For example, in some countries Sara is the common spelling, not Sarah. Not excusing their inability to notice your spelling though!

  19. Annabel*

    Proudly, gratefully sober here. I don’t like the idea of workplaces that make alcohol part of the culture. It makes things difficult for sober folks like me, as does people who do not drink for cultural/religious/other reasons. I had a boss try and force glasses of wine on me at the Christmas party as a joke. Another coworker accused me of being a “born-again Christian” for not drinking. It was weird, toxic, and yes I left shortly after!

    1. Speaks to Dragonflies*

      Wow…trying to force a drink on you is bad…like when Egon Speingler says it’s bad, bad. After the first, maybe second if I’m feeling nice, offer is refused and the hint not taken, the next offer would be accepted with a smile and promptly dashed against the first available hard surface in a safe direction….” I said no… Is my point clear?” but YMMV.

    2. Asenath*

      It must have been difficult to manage in such a workplace. Alcohol is very much part of my local culture, although not in the workplaces where I have been employed, and yet I have been very rarely if ever pressed to drink alcohol, once I’ve declined, and accepted water or a soft drink instead. I know I would have had a very different experience in different social groups, though. My closest friends started serving sparkling fruit juice at special dinners, in addition to wine, beer etc. – no mention of course of the fact that they knew I wasn’t drinking any more, just on offer to everyone. I really appreciated that gesture.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Oh for the love of dog, what bubble do these people live in if they’ve never met someone who has to stay sober? Drinking killed my ex’s father and grandfather, and now we all (including his children, who are also my children) worry about what it may do to the ex’s own health. This is a serious matter. I’m sorry that your coworkers and boss(!) were such asses about it, but glad you were able to leave that place!

    4. Sparkles McFadden*

      I am so sorry you had to go through that.

      I don’t drink much because I am just not much of a drinker, and I wouldn’t drink during the day or if I were going to be driving, because it makes me sleepy. I shouldn’t have to offer any of those reasons, though. I should just be able to say “no thanks.”

      I, too, worked in a department where everything centered around drinking to the point where my boss spoke to me on more than one occasion to tell me I was making my coworkers uncomfortable by not drinking. “It’s like you think you’re better than us.” (She was upset that I didn’t curse either. A very weird place.)

      I switched departments shortly after a particularly bad (mandatory) department dinner. I went to the rest room and, when I came out, the waitress was waiting for me so she could tell me that she saw the person next to me put something in my drink. She had taken the drink away, but she wanted to let me know to be careful. I made an excuse to leave and then spoke with the manager to tell him how the waitress helped me, and I left a large tip for the waitstaff. The manager informed me that he was getting ready to have the whole party removed from the restaurant. I heard stories later on involving the police, an ambulance and someone passed out on the bathroom floor. I really did not want to know.

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        OMG! You should write Alison about that for the worst office party stories. That has got to be one of the top worst (best?) stories I’ve heard. Was the waitress able tell you who put it in your drink? If I was the waitress I would have kept the glass, talked with you, then called the police and gave it for evidence!

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        What the hell?!?!?! Your coworker? from your department? at a department dinner??? I… have no words. I’m really sorry.

      3. Observer*

        OMG! The waitress was a hero, and your department TERRIBLE.

        But, what happened to your boss? Why was she able to get away with such flaming mismanagement? I mean when it gets to the point where the police is being called on your employees during a work function that should raise some red flags!

    5. I'm just here for the cats*

      Urgg! I agree with you 1000%. I used to work at a place where, at least on my team, there were people who would go out to bars after work. A coworker was promoted and moving to another department in another building and after work they had a celebration at the bar down the street. I didn’t go because of various reasons, mostly I didn’t trust my coworkers around me. One person, who was actually a senior member of our team, kept telling me that she wanted to see me drunk. When I explained that I don’t drink much because of medical reasons and that I’m a lightweight she kept pushing the idea, saying we had to go out after work some time, etc. Then she joked ok no alcohol but how about ‘shrooms! I think you would be so fun drunk/high!
      Because of those comments, I never went out, which I probably looked like I was stuck up or something. But why would I trust my coworkers not to spike my drink. Since I don’t drink alcohol I probably wouldn’t notice if a really sugary drink (the only kind I like) had something in it.

    6. Lacey*

      People are so obnoxious about this kind of thing. I have several friends who can’t drink for medical reasons, but they don’t want to disclose their medical history just to make people leave them alone about alcohol and they shouldn’t have to!

      I barely drink just because I don’t care that much about it, but even though my office has a super heavy drinking culture, people don’t bother me about it either.

    7. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      So, I think this memory belongs here: a childhood friend of mine ended up working in a field similar to the workplaces described in many of these comments, where drinking was part of the workplace culture, and you risked upsetting your higher-ups and/or clients, and damaging your career, by not drinking. (Not in the US.) So my friend was drinking at all those work functions, as he thought he had to. Now my friend’s father was an alcoholic, whom my friend’s mom had divorced specifically because he was an alcoholic. Before long, my friend developed a drinking problem, just from trying to be a good worker and to fit in with the culture. It got really bad. His wife packed her things and tried to leave more than once. He lost his job because of his drinking (the same job that made him drink in the first place). He died in his 30s of an unrelated reason, so this story will never have a happy ending, he never really got a chance to get sober and straighten his life out. I cannot overstate how big of a deal this is. Personally I am very fortunate that I can get to the slightly buzzed state and then stop and tell people I’ve had enough, and no one will be able to talk me into having more. But a lot of people (including the man I was married to) cannot stop once they’ve started, they will drink until they run out of alcohol or pass out, then the next day they’ll drink again because they’re hungover and so on. Back when I was married, I’ve seen his friends’ wives hide bottles at parties, because their husbands could not stop either. My ex’s father would go on month-long binges because once he’d start, he could not stop. He was a great guy otherwise! I honestly want to physically fight anyone who thinks it is okay to force a drink on someone else, especially in a work setting, especially from a position of power, for crying out loud, how can they? I have no tolerance for this crap anymore. Everyone in this thread that has been a victim of this attitude has my sympathies.

    8. tangerineRose*

      People can be so weird about that! I don’t drink alcohol because I don’t like the taste. People need to chill about this kind of thing and let people stay sober if they want.

      1. PersephoneUnderground*

        In encouraging news, NA beers seem to no longer stink so much in the US, so there seems to at least be a bit of a culture shift away from the old “if it’s not alcoholic why bother?” line, and generally more acceptance of the fact that not everyone drinks. (Athletic Brewing and Partake are my favorites, actually taste like beer not wheaty water.)

  20. singlemaltgirl*

    my name is 5 letters but it gets misspelled and mispronounced all the time. it’s an unusual name but with the spelling right in my signature, in a different colour and font, it does make me question people’s intelligence and ability to be polite. that being said, i don’t care since it’s happened soooo often. not worth getting indignant about.

    i also get misgendered all the time – b/c i’m the leader in my org (w/ the appropriate title) i must be a ‘he’ right? even though my pronouns are right next to my name…! tbh, the issue of misgendering bugs me more but it’s not worth getting into. people meet me and see i’m a woman so that usually ends the misgendering. i also get thought of as ‘white’ on the phone until people meet me, too. don’t ask me about how that pisses me off.

    1. allathian*

      Ouch! That said, many Black Americans have a white-sounding name and non-whites are still a small minority in management, non-white women an even smaller one, that I hope you can forgive them for thinking you’re white. Unless you expect everyone you’re in contact with by phone to look you up on social media?

      If you can format the signature, it’s possible some email systems strip it right out of your message and your readers never even see it.

      1. Bay*

        I think it’s extremely important to not make assumptions, simply because the majority is of a certain category. It doesn’t matter if most CEOs or presidents are white men, it’s damaging to use that as a basis for assuming the gender and race of other CEOs or presidents when you don’t know. People need to check and be aware of their unconscious beliefs so we can make progress.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I agree – it reads as, by default, people expect a leader to be a white male – like that is normal and anything else is an outlier. Which may have been true a few decades ago, but is something we have to be moving away from fast.

      2. Insert Clever Name Here*

        Nah, she doesn’t need to forgive them for thinking she’s white. It is 100% reasonable to expect that people don’t make asinine comments about being “surprised” by someone’s gender or race. They are free to be surprised, but if someone is stupid enough to say “oh, I thought you were white” to her face, singlemaltgirl has every right in the world to be pissed about that.

        1. tangerineRose*

          That’s the thing. I’ve been surprised (sometimes by how tall someone is, etc.) about how someone looks compared to how they’ve sounded on the phone, but it’s not something you say. And why do I have the uneasy feeling that they said something like “You sound white” and meant it as a compliment? Ugh.

        2. Observer*

          It is 100% reasonable to expect that people don’t make asinine comments about being “surprised” by someone’s gender or race.

          Really! You would think that this is manners 101.

      3. Kristi*

        Why on earth do people need to make assumptions, or let her know they made that assumption? It’s not like you need to use different pronounds based on ethnicity.

      4. Observer*

        many Black Americans have a white-sounding name and non-whites are still a small minority in management, non-white women an even smaller one, I hope you can forgive them for thinking you’re white.

        That’s a weird assumption to make. Why would you think of someone who you don’t know as being white as opposed to not thinking about their race ethnicity? Especially since a lot of names are not really “white” in the sense that you seem to mean. Jane Smothers is not a particularly “white” name. Now, if her name were Jane Smitenhaufen I might think “German extraction”, or Ioanna Smith I might think Greek if I thought of it at all.

        But generally, there is no really good reason to think of someone as “white” (or any other race / ethnicity) just based on their email signature or name absent some other cause. And most of the “white-sounding” names that Black people use are actually not especially white sounding.

        (And, yes, I realize that this comes largely from the history of Blacks being named by white people and often in a deliberate attempt to obliterate Black culture. But it still remains the case that at this point, in the US at least, most “generic” / non-“ethnic” names are as likely to be Black as White.)

  21. Psammead*

    Once a colleague who we were doing a favour for kept spelling my name wrong in emails. Eventually I snapped and spelt his wrong on purpose (think Dear Nikk instead of Dear Nick) and from then on he somehow managed to spell mine correctly! I would not advise this approach for an important client, however!

    1. Lacey*

      I had a coworker do this to me. I hadn’t realized I’d spelled their name wrong and I didn’t notice when they spelled mine wrong! They pointed it out to me later!

  22. Speaks to Dragonflies*

    OP 3, it sounds like your company is trying to make themselves look good by providing reimbursement for workers that are working at home, but doing so at juuuuuuust the right time that it won’t cut into the revenue. This is a complete and utter douchcanoe move. This is gonna sound really bad, but is there a way to fudge the receipts? Or maybe, if you can float the cost, purchase a duplicate of any equipment you have bought, then return it for a refund and keep the receipt and use it to claim the pittance that your company is offering. The date of purchase would be within the allowable timeframe (not making it retroactive is the icing on the douchcanoe cake) and they need be none the wiser when ( if ) they pay out in November…( that’s the cherry on top of the icing of the douchcanoe cake).
    Before I get tackled for this, yes I know this is dishonest and underhanded, but when a company does underhanded things like this, they should expect it in return. As bad as it sounds, I believe that you can’t steal what is legitimately owed to you. Some companies would steal the cotton thread from your underwear if it benefited them and they could get away with it.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      I wouldn’t recommend fraud (which falsifying receipts or claiming reimbursement for something you’ve returned seems almost certain to be) as a response to the company’s actions which may be “douchecanoe” but actually it’s a grey area whether they need to reimburse anything at all.

      1. NoviceManagerGuy*

        And even if you ignore that stealing from bad people is still wrong, it’s $250. Not a small amount of money, but not worth getting in trouble over either.

      2. tangerineRose*

        And fudging receipts is something you do NOT want to admit to a prospective employer when they ask why you left your last job, so don’t fudge the receipts.

    2. Speaks to Dragonflies*

      Yeah, I know it’s wrong… I let my emotions over ride my logic. I honestly don’t know if it would be fraud or not. I’m sure there are other folks on here that know more about it. This kind of situation really gets my hackles up though, especially after reading the OPs response explaining in more detail how bad the situation is. I hate seeing someone get taken advantage of. OP3, don’t take any of the above ideas I gave to heart.It was written from anger at the bull stuff your company is pulling and cooler heads should prevail.

  23. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP1 – bear in mind that you have no evidence the phsychiatrist actually said anything of the kind!

    (Or gave Sarah the books.)

  24. Alice*

    My take on names (spelling and pronunciation) – it’s completely fine to correct people who get it wrong. But it’s much easier to correct people when they first make the mistake, not after a year of seething about how they haven’t corrected themselves.

    1. Drag0nfly*

      Oh agreed. If you’ve gone a year without opening your mouth or otherwise *directly* addressing the error then you forfeit the right to be outraged as it were. Let it go. “Speak now, or forever hold your peace” applies to more than just weddings. It goes for grudges, too.

      1. pleaset cheap rolls*

        I might actually be annoyed the other person didn’t correct me (assuming I didn’t hear other people saying it right or see it correctly in writing, in which case I should have noticed).

        1. Esmeralda*

          Yes. Because now I’m embarrassed that I’ve been doing it wrong for all this time and am wondering if anyone else noticed and thinks I’m a clod.

          In this case I think OP4 could email or say, Oh Client-Name, I should have mentioned this sooner, but my name’s spelled Theresa not Teresa. Thanks.
          And then never mention it again, unless there seems to be animosity or bigotry behind the mistake.

    2. pleaset cheap rolls*


      I’ll also add that a one-off mistake that’s not based in racism or sexism or xenophobia is not a big deal. My real name is very common but sounds like another very common name. If the guy at a coffee shop I’m visiting once says the wrong one to me I don’t care.

      A colleague screwing it up repeatedly is quite another matter. Particularly if it’s from laziness with uncommon names – that’s BS. If the name is less common to me I frankly pay more attention.

      It’s pleaset with a “t” on the end. Not a “d” at the end, not just “please.” pleaset.

    3. Lacey*

      If you don’t act like you’ve been seething it’s fine to correct them after a year. I just tell people, “Oh, I just realized you’re spelling my name wrong, it’s with a “y” if I have to.

      I usually just let it go, because it usually doesn’t matter.

  25. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    Many years ago a very prickly, rude colleague persistently mis-spelled my name, and I took to making the font of my email signature slightly larger each time. It was up to 72pt and bright red Comic Sans before she got the damn hint…

    1. BatManDan*

      This is the single best comment on this thread (at this point), in my opinion. I have a successful business relationship (franchisee to his role as franchisor) with someone who called me by my last name for 6 months, and occasionally still does. My name is Daniel Andrews, and I will be addressed as Andrew not infrequently. I never say anything about it – if they value me for my services, what else matters? As a side note, I notice that one ethnicity gets it wrong more often (1 new acquaintance in 3, as opposed to one new acquaintance in 30 for the general population), which is an interesting but-as-yet-unsolved point of curiosity for me.

      1. Mostly Managing*

        There are a couple of cultures where the family name comes before the given name. If your colleague is from Vietnam or a few other countries in that region (not enough caffeine to think of them yet) this would be a very easy thing to mix up – our way is “backwards” for them!

        Add that your family name is a common first name, and it’s even easier to get confused.

  26. Elle by the sea*

    #1 Sarah sounds awful. I’m not surprised, though. This narcissism topic is a big hype now. Even among my self-proclaimed skeptic and rationalistic acquaintances, it is acceptable to call their ex boyfriends a narcissist just because the relationship didn’t work out the way they wanted. They read and share pseudo-scientific content on narcissism and advice on how to get rid of narcissistic. In my opinion, this way of thinking is extremely dangerous. I tried to explain to one of my friends that she just cannot armchair diagnose people with no qualifications in psychology. I have studied psychology- it’s just a minor, I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I would never go around armchair diagnosing people. She claims that she knows all about narcissism. Another reason why I find this deeply problematic is that most of these people advocate awareness and support for mental disorders. NPD is a personality disorder and requires support and understanding. There are no personality types whose main goal is to destroy people. People have different ways of achieving things and for people with less empathy, not hurting others on the way is less of a priority, but they don’t deliberately want to hurt others, either. This whole thing is a myth and a very dangerous one. This sort of talk should be shut down because it doesn’t belong in the workplace and creates a toxic environment.

    1. Grace*

      Yes, all of this. The prevalence of people talking about “ex-narcissists” every time their ex cheated or was a bad partner, or responding to any story of a bad childhood with “it sounds like your mother was a narcissist”, is so frustrating.

      As someone neurotypical with no personality disorders, I can confirm: sometimes neurotypicals are dicks. Sometimes neurotypical people are terrible abusive people. I know it’s so much easier to rationalise things as “my boyfriend cheated because he’s a narcissist” or “my mother neglected me for her string of boyfriends because she’s a narcissist” because then you have a reason, but… Sometimes your boyfriend is just a dick. Sometimes your parent is just selfish. Sometimes people are just bad people, no personality disorders required.

      I can see how it maybe started as a useful framework, but in some corners of the internet (that really have to be seen to be believed) it seems to have become a witch-hunt. Anyone who has ever hurt you is a narcissist, or a sociopath, or a psychopath, or is borderline, or or or–

      Nope. Statistically, your partner/parent/friend/boss/coworker most likely does not have a diagnosable personality disorder. They’re just a bit of a dick who doesn’t really care about your feelings.

      (Also, that is not how personality disorders work, oh my god, they do not make you bad people, I hate internet pop psychology so much.)

      1. Elle by the sea*

        Yes, most people have narcissistic traits – you need a little bit of this to survive. But people with real diagnosable NPD are really rare and are hard to diagnose. And to be honest, people who throw around the term narcissist all the time seem to be a bit higher on the narcissism spectrum. :)

        1. FisherCat*

          ^this. I know one person who has an actual diagnosis of NPD (the reasons I know that are… exhausting) and that person is constantly going around about the people who have wronged them and how they’re the REAL narcissists and the circumstances of their own diagnosis were actually just a conspiracy…

      2. RagingADHD*

        Personality disorders aren’t the same thing as neurodevelopmental disorders, either.

        Being neurotyoucal has nothing to do with having or not having a PD.

    2. Trude*

      This is my experience as well. People who throw around the word narcissist to describe their ex-partners/in-laws/colleagues/whoever tend to be the unreasonable ones. When their partners or whoever refuse to kowtow to their unreasonable demands, they turn around and accuse them of narcissism.

      1. doreen*

        The person I know who throws “narcissist” around the most is the ex-wife of a relative. I don’t know whether he is or he isn’t – certainly he could behave differently around me than he did with her. But there are a couple of things that make me think she is a major part of their problems – and one of them is fact that she is Facebook friends with many of his relatives and repeatedly posts vague comments about him being a narcissist. She could limit her audience for those posts so his relatives don’t see them, she could unfriend his relatives or she could just stop posting these comments but it almost seems like she want us to see these vague posts and think badly of him ( and I do mean vague – she’ll make comments about dreading hearing his car pulling in the driveway but no further detail.) I’ve been seeing these comments for years, still have no idea what narcissistic tendencies he displays and I don’t think I have the right to know- but I do think she has issues of her own regardless of what his might be.

    3. littledoctor*

      Thank you for pointing this out, it was actually what I came here to comment. People with personality disorders, especially NPD and ASPD, and people with callous-unemotional traits already face such extreme stigmatisation in society and especially from medical professionals. NPD is a complex mental illness, not a catch-all term for someone who’s abusive to others.

      It’s frustrating to me especially, because I actually do have callous-unemotional traits and symptoms of antisocial personality disorder. I don’t have those things because I’m a bad person–in fact, I think I’m generally a reasonably good person. I don’t do things that are harmful to others. I have to work significantly harder than most people because my brain doesn’t produce the same things other people’s brains do, and I need to spend a lot of time and energy working to mask that and to mimic those things. That doesn’t make me bad. I’ve experienced a lot of stigmatisation that I didn’t deserve, because of something that was not my fault, and I’ve experienced that stigmatisation since childhood. Being in this workplace and hearing a personality disorder talked about as evidence of someone’s moral flaws would be difficult for me.

      1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

        hearing a personality disorder talked about as evidence of someone’s moral flaws

        This, I think, is one of the things that I find the most frustrating about the current use of the term narcissist. People keep using it as a way to assign fault to others, when, in reality, if someone is a diagnosable narcissist, that would point towards their behavior NOT actually being the peron’s fault. It seems like we’re moving forward with establishing some level of empathy and understanding for most other non-neurotypical people as a society, but narcissism just makes us want to say “Well, they’re bad.”

        Hopefully we’ll get over that.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          These are really good points that I admit I hadn’t thought about before. Hopefully narcissism will be the next frontier.

    4. Guacamole Bob*

      I think it may be more popular to toss around the narcissism label lately due to the Trump presidency. Periodically a journalist would go looking for psychologists willing to diagnose him based on behavior and public statements, and would sometimes find one. More frequently you’d get a professional willing to say something about how he or she couldn’t offer a diagnosis outside of a clinical setting but that people with NPD often exhibit behaviors such as X, Y, and Z, and leave the journalist to offer up relevant examples.

      I have no idea whether or not Trump has NPD or any other personality disorder, but I can also understand why people feel that some of his behavior is in line with what one might see from someone with the disorder. And why “does the leader of the free world lack sufficient empathy for others?” might be considered a newsworthy topic, even if it’s inappropriate to for mental health professionals to offer any diagnosis from afar.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        I agree with this. A former coworker posted in 2016 about how Trump was probably a narcissist (but used more clinical descriptors). I replied that it was unprofessional to diagnose someone she’s never met, and that kicked off an interesting discussion.

        She’d only meant to use him as a jumping-off point to discuss how harmful someone with unchecked NPD can be toward others, but her initial framing left a lot to be desired.

    5. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      Ah yes, the lady on the internet with the narcissistic mother and/or mother in law. Always makes me wonder how they compare quantity-wise with the dudes with the crazy ex girlfriend. Cause it seems like the same phenomenon.

    6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I dunno. I have an ex that everyone who’s met or heard about him, *that is not his friend*, thinks he might be narcissistic. I can say that two years of being close to him really messed with my head and turned me into someone dysfunctional and distrustful of people. (Thankfully, he left, and I got back to normal within months.) I also have other exes, that things also did not work out with, that no one suspects of having even a touch of narcissism. I don’t know if I could say if it is a trend to call every ex a narcissist (though I agree I’m seeing it thrown around a lot!) My guess is that maybe it’s a spectrum and that a lot of people have some narcissistic traits, and that it may be more prevalent in the older generations because the “old-school” parenting contributed to it in multiple ways. And I agree with you that people who do have NPD would probably give anything not to have it. I also agree that we don’t yet know as much about NPD as we should. (Not a psychologist and only took a pass/fail class in college – a close family member has a minor in psych and I can ask their opinion – they actually gained a lot of insight into people and psychology from even being a minor.)

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        I’m just spitballing here, but I wonder if there’s a bit of a disconnect between people using the term colloquially and intending it more clinically. Like, some people say ‘depressed’ and they don’t mean a diagnosable condition, they just mean pretty sad or down for a while.
        I think sometimes people just say ‘narcissist’ when they just mean vain & petty, and don’t mean to imply the host of traits or behaviors that come with a personality disorder.

    7. Generic Name*

      What gets me about throwing the label of “narcissism” around is that it’s really not terribly helpful in everyday life. It’s much more useful to observe behavior and respond accordingly. So if based on someone’s behavior, you wonder about their ability to empathize with other people, you know that you probably shouldn’t seek emotional support from them. Or if you observe from behavior a person only seems to care about themselves, then don’t expect them to help you unless it somehow benefits them. Stuff like that. Unless a person is seeking specific mental health treatment (and sometimes not even then) labels really don’t do all that much.

      As we’ve seen in this thread today, throwing out the word “narcissist” immediately makes people question the person saying it. If the OP’s coworker had said, “I’ve noticed that John never helps anyone unless it makes him look good” or “John made me come in to work the day after my mother died because ‘I should be over it by now’ ” that would be a different story.

      1. Delphine*

        It can be helpful, I think. It was certainly helpful in my family, to understand that there was a word for the behavior of one of our family members. That the trauma and abuse was something that had an explanation. We could look for support and guidance based on the term without raising suspicions by, for example, seeing a doctor with this person.

        I think these terms are misused and overused, like gaslighting and OCD, but there are still people who will benefit from being able to define what they’re experiencing.

      2. Anon for personal drama*

        There is one specific case where it’s useful – explaining to others why I’m estranged from my dad. Some people really don’t take mental, emotional, or psychological abuse seriously. And this was especially true when I was in my 20s and still viewed as a kid. When I mentioned to people that I’m estranged from him, it’s so much easier to just use a label like narcissist or sociopath because it gives it an air of credibility and allows me to exit that awkward conversation. But as a 24 year-old just saying that he’s a bad person, many people assumed I was just some naive ungrateful kid in a tiff because my dad wouldn’t buy me a car or something. And you better believe that abusers love that narrative and push it as much as possible for their own benefit.

        It shouldn’t be this way, but it is. Ending a relationship with my own parent is the hardest decision I have ever made in my life, and I certainly didn’t do it flippantly. But instead of rehashing all the lurid details, sometimes I would just use a convenient term even though he was never officially diagnosed. Thankfully now that I’m a bit older people tend not to pry as much.

        1. Julia*

          I completely agree, and I’m very sorry you had to go through that. Hopefully you have an awesome chosen family now and lots of support!

      3. Generic Name*

        I guess I had the opposite experience. Therapists I’ve worked with (for my son, myself, and through the court system) have thrown the word around in regards to my ex, but I still have doubts about any diagnosis he may or may not have. For me I decided that a label wasn’t important, but how he treated me and our son was what was important. I did tell friends and family that I was emotionally abused, and I have described his behavior in detail (and presented supporting evidence) the court without ever using the label “narcissist”. Handling things that way has been successful for me because the court has awarded me full custody of our son.

  27. TimeTravlR*

    Re Names. I learned long ago to let it roll of me. I have an unusual name that is complicated by an unusual spelling (think Ghoti for Fish). A lot of people mispronounce it. I finally made a rule for myself to only correct people if I care that they pronounce it correctly. That is, people I will see again, do business with, or am/want to be friendly with. Most times I ignore. Other times, I just say “It’s XXX.” Most people thank me because they recognized that they probably weren’t saying it right. Not quite the same as Sarah with an H, but I think it’s ok to correct them once, and just hope for the best!

  28. T2*

    For LW4,

    I am really sorry. But I am apparently one of those people. I am really close to an AnDREa. Where I come from, every AnDREa is pronounced that way.

    Then I met an ANDrea, and I really really tried to remember. But every time I came to her name, I had to stop and think about the pronunciation. And still got it wrong every single time.

    It wasn’t on purpose, but I just couldn’t retain it. It got to the point where I tried to avoid using their name as much as I could. Even now, years later, my colleagues will phonetically write out the pronunciation.

    On the other hand, I have one of those names which can be both male and female. And the number of emails I get with the female spelling would blow your mind. So I guess the universe balances out.

    1. MissBliss*

      My childhood best friend’s name was (still is) ANDrea. She lived next door. My grandmother, who saw her regularly, could not for the life of her remember. Sometimes she was AnDREa. Sometimes she was Angela. She seems to get it right these days, but I don’t know, because while they’re still neighbors I moved. Sometimes you brain just won’t cache that name!

    2. Caraway*

      Oh gosh, same thing for me. I am very detail oriented and conscientious, and I myself have a frequently mixed-up name. But I also have a friend named RuBEN, and I almost never get it right on my first try now when I’m speaking to RUEbens. It’s probably not personal, OP4!

  29. That's not my name*

    #LW4 – I spell my name very slightly differently from the most common form (as in, one letter of a difference) and people frequently get it wrong. As Alison says, I think a lot depends on how you frame this – if you take it personally then it’s gonna annoy you, if you think “Hey autocorrect fail, oops!” it won’t. I must say I find it easier to overlook if it’s coming from someone I feel respects and/or likes me generally, than from someone I feel is dismissive in other ways (there is a guy in our head office who gets it wrong every. single. time and I am really tiring of it, but that is because he is a patronising jerk generally). Most of the time I feel like there are other things to spend my energy on than getting angry about a single letter, but I do have my moments.

    #LW1 – if everyone who was accused of being a narcissist actually had Narcissistic Personality Disorder the world would be an even more screwed up place than it is. I’m all for recognizing destructive patterns of behavior but the majority of people do not have a PD. In your place I would tip John off if I could do so in a way that didn’t put me at risk, and leave it at that. Just tune out the psychobabble and get the work done – Sarah sounds like someone who will just get more and more outrageous the more attention she gets for it (Histrionic Personality Disorder, anyone?!) so don’t feed the fire.

    1. SweetFancyPancakes*

      My name is spelled in its most common form, and it’s interesting how many variations people will come up with. It takes a lot more imagination to spell it their way(s) than the correct way! A few years ago there was a bestselling author with the same name but spelled it with one letter difference, and I see that a lot now, too, where I don’t remember ever seeing it that way before.

  30. Delta Delta*

    #1 – Oof. Here’s my guess: Sarah has her own therapist. Sarah talks to the therapist and complains about work, including every tiny slight she perceives coming from John. Therapist makes a bland statement like, “there are clusters of personality disorders, including Narcissistic Personality Disorder.” Sarah translates to, “therapist says John is a narcissist.” Part two: is Sarah going to hold a grudge about her buddy getting fired long enough to write an actual dissertation? That’s not like a 20 minute journal entry, that’s like a multi-year project that requires lots of research, writing, and defense. Something tells me Sarah is the issue in all this.

    #3 – This company is ridiculous. Shifting costs to the employees and then making them wait seven months for reimbursement seems like a great way for the company to hope people forget to submit receipts and never actually pay them. If you go to the office, stock up on office supplies while you’re there so you don’t need to ask for reimbursement, because the company is signaling pretty hard they’re not really going to do it.

  31. STEMprof*

    Re #1 – I have a parent with possible/likely NPD (one of the defining characteristics of NPD is the inability to admit that you might have any flaws, so people with NPD rarely seek care or get a diagnosis). I’ve been treated by 3 psychologists, and they have all said something along the lines of, “that sounds like it could be NPD, but I can’t provide a diagnosis without talking to him” after I describe my childhood and relationship with with my dad. I wonder whether Sarah was told something similar and selectively/intentionally misheard?

    1. PrettyBirb*

      The issue could also be your coworker herself. My MIL actually has BD and was in therapy weekly. When my husband was 8, she told him, her therapist agreed with her, that he was the cause of all her stress. Now, we don’t know what was really said, but I have a hard time believing any therapist would blame a little boy for their clients issues. My MIL reinterprets many things people say to fit whatever mindset she is in.

  32. NearlyGrad*

    #4 The top move with my name is to add a letter and turn it into a different name with a different pronunciation! Over email I just continue signing my name correctly and making sure nothing goes onto paperwork incorrectly. Sometimes you’ve just got to let it roll off you.
    Realistically, if they think their spelling is correct, they won’t double check how you spelled it. You gotta point it out or ignore it.

  33. littledoctor*

    I really hope that there’s no one in this workplace–John or anyone else–who has NPD or any other personality disorder, who has to witness these discriminatory comments about and attitudes towards people living with NPD. I have a personality disorder and know how difficult I would find that.

  34. Rivka*

    That’s not how psychiatric diagnosis works.
    That’s not how dissertations in psychology work.
    That’s not how personality disorders work.
    That is really not how any of this works.

  35. JR*

    I regularly email a Theresa and a Teresa for work. There’s a 50/50 chance on whether or not I will have the H right in any given email to one of them.

    1. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

      Same! And they’re BOTH in my department, so that doesn’t even help. My only saving grace is that Teresa has a childhood nickname of Tree, so you’ll frequently find me mumbling “There’s no h in tree” figuring out which one I mean to email.

      1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

        And in my case its a muttered “there’s no “H” in “Tree” but there is an “H” in her first name”….

    2. JustaTech*

      I’m lucky that the Theresa and Teresa at my work are in very different departments and I only email them in very different contexts, so I’m less likely to get them mixed up. I’m also a terrible speller with a slightly unusual name, so I always double check the spelling of the person’s name against their email if it’s not someone I email daily.

      I figure if someone misspelling my name annoys me even a little then it’s my responsibility to not do that to other people.

  36. bopper*


    Another thing I do is when I respond to them via email, I correct the spelling in my name

    1. pleaset cheap rolls*

      “I correct the spelling in my name”

      Do you mean within the text they wrote? If so, I doubt they notice that.

  37. chellieroo*

    LW #4: My oldest friend changed her name when she got married and it took me (literally) 15 years to notice that I was spelling it wrong. She had noticed, because I said the words “have I been spelling your name wrong for 15 years?”. It was only because I send actual things in the mail from time to time that I ever even noticed.

  38. Different take*

    Different take on #1. My dad did his doctoral dissertation “on his workplace” (meaning that he used his experience working there to help him organize his review of literature, not that it was an actual case study) and plenty of my academic friends over the years have explored workplace topics. I don’t think it’s a problem to ask provocative questions based on personal experience – for example, how might NPD manifest in the workplace? – and I especially have found this important in various efforts to reduce racism and sexism. My guess is that your coworker is stating things awkwardly or being flippant (not saying this is appropriate, just that I wouldn’t rush to conclusions about what her academic work is actually about). I would handle this by saying something like “I don’t have any insight but I’m not comfortable armchair diagnosing so let’s talk about something else, sorry, it’s a strict boundary for me” and moving on.

    1. Expelliarmus*

      John isn’t even confirmed to have NPD, though. So how would it be acceptable to use him as an example for NPD?

  39. The Other Victoria*

    Trained research methodologist in the social sciences with a PhD here:

    Sarah cannot study her boss or coworkers without explicit written consent about the terms of the study. Any doctoral* advisor who is even a little good at their job (or honestly, just not bad at their job) would require her to keep the study out of her workplace**, because even with written consent, it would be a very difficult line to walk and too much likely to risk something going wrong. Sarah CAN use any experience as a starting point for developing a research study, but that study must adhere to federal and institutional ethical oversight. So if she’s studying the topic but not conducting research activities in the workplace and not writing about John, that’s fine***. Her advisor might even be allowing her to do this topic with the hope that as she learns about it, she’ll realize what a bad idea armchair diagnosing her boss is.

    * In the US, dissertation implies doctoral degree, but in other countries it might be is a Master’s thesis or undergrad capstone. In those cases, my advise is largely the same, with the caveat that sometimes non-doctoral degree projects don’t have the level of supervision that a doctoral project does because it’s over a shorter time period and a lot less likely to be published. Still if the project involves interaction with people as part of the study, it should have ethical oversight.

    **There are some fields or contexts in which you could write about what you are doing at work for your degree, like a case study in some business programs or a study within the workplace context in some programs with a participatory focus. In these cases, the research question at hand would not related to any details about an individual, but the actual work that is being done.

    ***Fine from a research ethics perspective. It still might create problems in the workplace that would make it reasonable for her employer to instruct her not to discuss her project at work.

  40. nerf herder*

    I gave up on trying to get people to spell my name correctly. People I work with and talk to every day for the last 11 years still get it wrong. It’s especially weird if I send someone an email, and they reply with some weird spelling of my name. It was right there on the email! How can you get it wrong? But they do. It’s one of those annoying things that you just have to let go.

    1. pleaset cheap rolls*

      “People I work with and talk to every day for the last 11 years still get it wrong. ”

      This is not right and a sign of possible deep dysfunction in your organization.

  41. Esmeralda*

    OP 4: It’s a client. Unless you think they are doing it maliciously, or there’s some bigotry behind the mistake, get over it.

    My last name is one that commonly ends in “s”, but our family has spelled it without the “s” since my great-grands were assigned it 100+ years ago. People get it wrong all the time. Even people I’ve worked with for several years. I’ll correct if it’s somebody I will see more than that one time, or if it makes a difference in a substantial way (anything related to $ or the government, receiving email). Otherwise, it’s immaterial. I know who they’re talking/writing to (me), it’s a common error, and I’ve had 60 years to get used to it. Same with the mispronunciation of my first name (it has several common pronunciations).

    Life’s too short to get heated up about something like this.

  42. Cat Tree*

    #3 It would probably be easier and cheaper to just give every employee the $250. If everyone is submitting receipts, the company has to pay some employee’s time to review and process all those receipts. Sure, some percentage of people won’t qualify for the reimbursement, but I’d be very surprised if the money they save from that is enough to offset the cost of paying for the labor to process all those claims.

    1. Spillz*

      That would be nice! We also didn’t get bonuses or any COL increase outside of restoring our pay to our pre-covid levels, and while I understand this has been an unusual year, from what I have heard, the firm is not struggling financially and is possibly even thriving, though seemingly at the cost of employees. Doesn’t help that I’m currently helping plan a potential retreat for the partners over the summer with a budget of well over $100K, but they won’t reimburse us for supplies needed for our jobs :(

  43. Humble Schoolmarm*

    I feel your pain LW 4. I’m also a member of the “Why Do People Feel They Must Add an H to My Conventionally Spelled Name?” club. To add insult to injury, people also misspell my last name by adding a letter (one that, unlike the h, does change the pronunciation). Oddly, almost no one misspells both my first and last name at the same time. Like you, I can’t help but notice, especially because it’s spelled right in my signature etc. but it’s not worth the fuss of correcting people for me. I’ve never found away to answer “Dear Humbleh, Jane will be arriving late tomorrow.” with “Dear parent-of-Jane, actually it’s Humble, thank you for letting me know about Jane’s late arrival.” and not sound unnecessarily antagonistic.

  44. Lizy*

    OP1 – yeah you can’t diagnose someone without … ya know… seeing them as a patient?

    For whatever it’s worth, my therapist once said “yeah, he sounds like a narcissist” and in regards to this particular person, my therapist is probably right. But I wouldn’t call that a diagnosis…

  45. learnedthehardway*

    OP#1 – Sarah sounds like a potential problem/drama llama. I would speak with HR – they’re going to be aware of the potential harm to John and to the company, if she’s really doing a dissertation on her manager. Also, they can deal with the issue that Sarah is telling everyone at the company about her plans, which is really very unprofessional and unfair to John. Also, this can give you an opportunity to set the record straight that John seems to be a good, supportive manager and, from your perspective, doesn’t deserve to be slagged all over the company. HR may or may not be able to do anything about the dissertation itself, but they can do something about Sarah.

    1. RagingADHD*

      How on earth could Jane’s dissertation harm John?

      She sounds extremely undisciplined and erratic. If this is the way she conducts her life, she’s unlikely to finish a dissertation about anything.

      No advisor is going to let her use his name.

      And no halfway decent advisor is going to accept ranting about one’s personal beef with a boss, as if it were actual research.

      And nobody is interested enough in Jane or her dissertation to try to figure out who her boss is.

    2. earl grey aficionado*

      I think it’s probably better for OP to try to have less involvement in this situation, not more. Given that Sarah has been moved, it sounds like the company is already aware of the drama, and while Sarah’s behavior is inappropriate, I doubt it’s a serious threat to John. We already have tons of comments here from people in psychology and related fields reiterating that this is not how a dissertation works and that it’s likely Sarah is distorting the situation. If Sarah escalates somehow, or tries to involve OP more aggressively, then sure, go talk to someone (maybe John first rather than HR? I can’t speak to what would be best). But in the meantime I think it’s best to assume that this situation will burn itself out. I also think it’s a bad idea to make this a battle over whether John is a good boss or not. Sarah does indeed sound exhausting but it’s not OP’s place to decide whether her feelings are right or wrong.

  46. learnedthehardway*

    OP#5 – Let it go!!! (Okay, now I have an earworm.)

    Anyway, lots of companies repost jobs, and some posting sites have job refreshes occur automatically, or will prioritize job postings based on how much the company pays for them.

    It really has very little to do with whether or now you are a good candidate. For one thing, the hiring manager will want to see a few good candidates, and perhaps you’re the only one who has applied.

  47. Bookworm*

    LW5: Agree, there’s no way to know. I was in a similar position (although I had gone through the interview, specifically told they weren’t hiring and then the job was reposted).

    It could be that they had a pool of candidates but they’ve pulled out/cancelled because they got other jobs or decided not to go through with the process, etc. and right now they have too few candidates. Or, because it’s an entry level position, they have multiple openings (or perhaps expect turnover).

    Trust me, I get the anxiety (job I referred to in my first line never contacted me again and another experience with them led me to think they are weird and not a good fit but that’s another story). Nothing you can do about those job posts, all you can do is focus on your interview. Congrats and GOOD LUCK! :)

  48. Phony Genius*

    On #4, one problem with spelling people’s names incorrectly is that if your e-mail is based on your name, they may get the e-mail address wrong. I had a situation where somebody had become very upset that I had not responded to several very important e-mails, and reported me to my boss. My boss come to me more than once about it, skeptical about my excuse that I had not received the e-mails. He then checked his copy of one of the e-mails and saw my e-mail address was misspelled. Further investigation showed that the delivery failure notification e-mails wound up in the sender’s spam folder, so they never saw that I didn’t receive them.

    (Of course, this was all eventually spun into the idea that I should have realized that I wasn’t receiving these e-mails, and I should have contacted the sender to find out why I wasn’t receiving them. Because 21st Century accountability culture.)

  49. kib*

    LW 4: I have an uncommon name where typo-ing it gives a more common name, on top of my last name also being a first name for men. I also funnily enough have trouble enunciating, so it’s worse over the phone.

    I’ve honestly learned to shrug it off as long as they’re somewhat close. Sometimes I’ll get a “oh sorry for messing up your name” and I usually reply “it’s fine, it’s uncommon so I’m used to it, so how about those teapots”

  50. I'm just here for the cats*

    #3 this might not be exactly ethical and I don’t know if this could work, but if you have something like a printer that you bought out of pocket, Could you purchase another one for the same price, make a copy of the receipt and then return it to the store? Then you would have a receipt with a more current purchase date to get reimbursed.

    All kidding aside, I think you, and maybe a group of coworkers, should push back on this policy. Its been a year since the pandemic began. What do they think people have been doing? They should really retro the reimbursement to March 2020, or whenever you all went remote.

    Good luck!

    1. Spillz*

      Thank you! I bought my printer off of FB marketplace in an attempt to be thrifty, but I am definitely mulling over purchasing one new from Staples closer to November (if I’m still here) or at least stocking up quite a bit on supplies!

    2. Speaks to Dragonflies*

      I suggested about the same idea in an earlier response and was informed that this could be considered fraud, so maybe not a good idea. Like a lot of things, what is considered morally right and just may not be legally right and just. I know it doesn’t do you any good, but Im angry on your behalf and sympathize with your situation. I hope you and your coworkers can push back and push back HARD on this. Have you tried looking into any state or local laws on the legality of buisness costs paid by employees having to be reimbursed by the employer? I know that California have laws that protect employees from this craptastic practice.

  51. RagingADHD*

    Honestly, questions 1 & 2 have the same answer:

    Not your circus, not your monkeys.

    If a subordinate wants to go around the office badmouthing the boss and sharing a bunch of TMI about her own mental health and discussions with her therapist, or going to HR about ridiculous things?

    It doesn’t reflect badly on the boss. It reflects badly on herself.

    And if someone you barely know is wasting their time and looking foolish on social media? Who cares?

    Neither of these situations are LWs problem to solve, or impact them in any way.

    Neither Jane nor the social media acquaintance care what LW has to say about their foolishness.

    Why do people feel compelled to take responsibility for everyone else’s dumb behavior? There is waaaaay too much stupidity in the world. Even if you could correct it, it would be a full-time, neverending job.

    Spend your energy on not being dumb yourself, and maybe having a quiet word with close friends or family who might actually listen.

    1. Sparkles McFadden*

      Yup. The world would be a far less dramatic place if more people just handled their own business and stayed out of everyone else’s.

      Just speak up in the moment and say “I think John’s a pretty good boss.” Ignore the guy asking for social media likes. Your work is done.

  52. PeanutButter*

    For OP#4, especially with a client, it’s definitely best to let it go. As long as folks know who they’re referring to, it’s not going to matter. For awhile I was the only woman in a fire department where I worked, and my preceptor (the senior crew member who watched me on my calls and checked off my competencies before I was a full-fledged member of the department) got my name mixed up and called me the wrong-but-similar name for like 6 months. Think calling me “Amanda” when my name was really “Anna”. I probably should have corrected him but I really didn’t care, since I knew who he was calling for/talking about/etc.

  53. LadyByTheLake*

    For all those saying that people should notice the spelling in an email signature line and not doing so is rude — people aren’t studying your email signature, and even if they are, they might misread it. I misspelled two different client’s names wrong for a year each using a common spelling. I was horrified when after two years (in the first instance) and a year (in the second) they said, “by the way, it’s Teresa, no “h”” (and the other one was also a name I was putting an “h” into). Honestly, when I went and looked at their signatures, my brain still read the “h” as being there because that was how my brain had learned those names and I don’t read by looking at each letter — I read by seeing a word combination and my brain skips to “Theresa” automatically. The moment they pointed it out though, I never misspelled their name wrong again.

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        Yes, I think that the LW needs to just let it go. It’s going to happen. I’ve got a very normal name and I’ve had people spell it wrong. Now if this was someone who was in person and mispronouncing it on purpose that would be different. But with written communication, it is so easy to just miss a letter or add an extra letter.

        One thing to note is that maybe the person has the autocorrect on their computer to change the spelling. Or maybe they work with someone who has the same name but spells it differently and they’ve just got it in their head that that’s how the name is spelled. Or maybe even the person is dyslexic and they don’t notice.

        1. LadyByTheLake*

          It is still nice (and fine) no matter how long it has been to say “it’s Sarah with an “h” actually.” I felt so much better spelling it correctly and all it took was for someone to point it out. At that point I always remembered because honestly, it had never once occurred to me that I was spelling it wrong. Once I knew, I fixed it. Done!

  54. PrettyBirb*

    For #5. The current company work for was like this when I interviewed. At first I was wondering the same thing, was it something about me? I kept seeing the same position I was interviewing for get reposted and then out of nowhere, I got a call to set up for an interview again for the next day. Did that interview and was offered a position the next day. Once I started working there, I learned what was happening.
    At my company, just about anything can get a job req immediately canceled, then the department has to reintroduce the same req back into the company. To be honest, I think it’s completely inefficient to do it this way, but I don’t make the rules. I also work at one of the largest corporations in the US, which means red tape galore. I was hired the day after my interview because this was the 4th time they tried to fill the position and inevitability during the process, the req would get canceled. So my the future manager really liked me and instead of waiting a week or two to finish all other interviews, he went ahead and made an offer before it could be canceled again.
    Bottom line, many companies have hinky ways of going about their hiring process. Don’t stress over this, there are plenty of other reasons why the job gets reposted.

  55. I'm just here for the cats*

    LW #1 Maybe I’m missing something here, but I think I would like to give Sarah a little bit of slack when it comes to the dissertation.
    First, the LW says “Sarah is getting a psychology degree and decided to do her dissertation on narcissists in the workplace.” I think that the LW means thesis because she doesn’t mention that Sarah is getting a PhD. I know someone earlier said that in the UK they call the BS thesis a dissertation. I really think that Sarah is getting her Bachelors’s degree in psychology and she has chosen what her senior thesis (or capstone as some school’s programs call it) will be.

    Second, I don’t see where Sarah has said that she is specifically going to mention John in her dissertation. LW states Sarah is “very excited about it and goes around telling everyone about it, also saying she got the idea after months of hardship. Everyone is aware she doesn’t get along with John, and it isn’t that difficult to figure out she might be referring to him.”

    I don’t think she is going to be doing a thesis on this one particular person. From my experience in my undergrad (not psych) you wouldn’t write your thesis on just one specific scenario. If she truly believes John to be a narcisit she may use that as her inspiration. But she could legit do research project on narcism in the workplace.

    Now that being said I think Sarah is a big jerk and I’m glad that she is being moved to another team. I sure hope that whatever she is doing is not damaging johns reputation. He probably already knows that Sarah is a jerk and they don’t get along so I don’t think anything needs to be said to John. I would be cautious going to HR, but if the LW is worried about Sarah’s complaints I would talk with someone, or maybe John’s boss, stating that their experience is different. But don’t go if it’s going to sound like tattling on Sarah, and don’t mention the disertation. there is nothing that they could do.

    I think LW should Call out Sarah in the moment, especially when there are others in the area hearing this.

  56. Elvis-Jane*

    I have a hyphenated first name that appears in my user profile and internal email but I typically only go by the first half. Think Elvis-Jane but I go by Elvis. Also Jane MyUncommonLastName is a well known local broadcaster. So I’ve kind of thrown hands and respond to Elvis, Elvis-Jane, Jane, Janie, and anything that sounds vaguely like Elvis. It’s annoying and I correct people once, but I’ve tried to develop a sense of humor about it. So solidarity…

  57. CupcakeCounter*

    Something I learned since both my and my husband’s names are often misspelled – this is usually done because the person has a very close personal connection with someone with the other spelling of the name (and I mean very close…like a sibling, spouse, or child) and they are so used to using that spelling that it is the default. When we got married, we received checks written to us using the wrong spelling of my husband’s name even though his name was spelled correctly on the invite, RSVP, etc… My husband happens to have the same name as a 2nd cousin of mine and the cousin uses an E and my husband doesn’t so nearly all my relatives with a connection to that cousin spelled his name wrong.
    It’s usually a learned thing as opposed to a deliberate slight or an indication of lack of respect/caring. An old coworker said her husband struggled with her name because it was the alternate spelling of a very common name and he had several friends/relatives with the same name but with the more common spelling. Well now he spells her name right and everyone else’s wrong even though he has known them longer.

    1. 1234*

      Oh wow! I can’t stop laughing about the husband who now spells everyone else’s name wrong. In emails, I tend to copy and paste the person’s name if it’s one that I know I will mess up.

  58. Kate*

    On #3, I certainly agree with your advice, Alison, but I wonder about the statement, “Your employer is saving a lot of money by not having employees on-site.” Are they? Years ago when WFH was a new idea, one of my telecom engineer coworkers told us that their site’s early forays into WFH hadn’t resulted in the savings that people had expected. The WFH employees still had cubicles in the office and the building was just as big as it had always been, so the cost of office space wasn’t reduced after all. In the 100% WFH office that the OP described, the employer could halt janitorial service and turn down the thermostat, but most of the office building costs would still be there until they committed to permanent WFH and sold the building, wouldn’t they? While I agree that employers should absorb the cost of WFH peripherals and chairs and so on as an unfortunate cost of business during the pandemic, it means they must buy a second set of all the equipment that they already bought once for the office. It’s doesn’t seem surprising that they might balk at the idea.

    1. Tired of Covid-and People*

      I had to give up my cubicle when I started working from home full-time.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I’ve never had a cubicle/office/dedicated space.

        I’ve also never bought heavily into the “work from home saves employers money” deal, because of the staunch opposition to it.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          Eh, some of that could be inertia, fear of change, dysfunctionality, etc., and not an actual dollars-and-cents analysis of it.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            Eh, some of that could be inertia, fear of change, dysfunctionality, etc., and not an actual dollars-and-cents analysis of it.

            Much of the time, but one specifically threw nickels around like manhole covers. If there were a way to save $0.02 per employee annually, they’d have embraced it immediately.

  59. Laura H.*

    I’m not savvy and admit ignorance, but wouldn’t that dissertation possibly run afoul of being libelous/ slanderous to John, in addition to etiquette (or in some cases, ethical) violations if the coworker “participants” aren’t notified and given the chance to provide or withhold consent?

  60. Patrick (Not Pat....Never, Ever Pat)*

    Serious empathy for LW#4. Alison’s advice makes sense but….I get that it’s just so, so irritating.

    I get hit with a somewhat tangentially related issue, which happens more face to face – when you’ve been introduced to someone by your full name, multiple times – yet they decide to use a common nickname or shortening of your name in an effort to be a “buddy.” (And it’s almost always a very specific kind of *guy* that does it.) I mean, if you’re going to give me a nickname, get to know me and make it fun and original!

  61. Nanani*

    #2 – I’m having trouble understanding how this is supposed to even work.
    If it does, isn’t it at least an orange flag about the people making hiring decisions?
    This is like applying little kid game logic to grown up jobs. The person with the most friends gets to be team captain in a group of 10 year olds playing volleyball, but that doesn’t translate to how adults get jobs in the real word.

    Make popcorn and watch but don’t bother engaging?

  62. 1234*

    OP #4 – I once checked in trade show exhibitors and printed out their badges. While I checked in one guy who had a very common American male name, I noticed the spelling was different than I had ever seen. I commented on the unique spelling and he gave a confused look like “What?” and then realized, his assistant of 10 years filled out the trade show paperwork…and spelled his name the British way. He started apologizing, said his name is spelled the familiar way I’ve seen the name and said something like “I keep telling her…”

    It amazed me that his assistant of 10 years didn’t know how to spell his name correctly.

  63. char*

    For #5, since this is an entry-level job, it could even be that they keep reposting it because they always need more people in that role. For example, my company (which specializes in, say, Teapot Analysis) is growing, so we’re pretty much always accepting applications for Junior Teapot Analysts.

  64. MissM*

    The name thing: it’s clients versus co-workers so let it go. It’s annoying but I also chalk it up to they probably have someone in their life who spells that way, so no matter how many times I type my name, their brain won’t see it. I did have a team member who kept misspelling my direct report’s name and I dropped an email to him, asking him to consider the message he was sending by not bothering to learn X’s name and that he might not have viewed it like that since I thought he was a respectful guy in general. And suggested adding it to autocorrect, since no one else in the company had the name he kept typing. Problem solved.

  65. Richard*

    #1 There’s a weird discourse out there about narcissism these days. There are whole communities of people calling anyone they don’t get along with a narcissist and others rallying to their support, and it sounds like your coworker might be operating in that world. It sounds like an exhausting and infuriating worldview and I hope she finds some peace.

    1. Tomalak*

      Yeah, on the internet you find some people obsessed with avoiding narcissists, as if it’s a constant problem to be ever on ones guard against. As Cat said above, people who detect psychological disorders under every stone usually have problems themselves.

  66. Acey*

    Regarding #1, Sarah may easily be misinterpreting what her psych says, think “what you are describing sounds similar to narcissism to me” as opposed to “he’s definitely a narcissist”.

    Also, is Sarah writing her dissertation on narcissists in general, or on John specifically? If it’s about John specifically, she needs to go through her school’s Institutional Review Board (IRB, aka ethics board), and get approval, and John also needs to give informed consent. If it’s on John specifically and Sarah is not doing this, OP could report it to the IRB.

  67. Incorrect Names*

    I once had a client where she would incorrectly address a different team member on her account than the one who originally emailed her. All emails to clients copied the entire team on the client account.

    For example, if Mary emailed the client about the llamas, she sometimes will reply all and address her email to Lucy and say “Hi Lucy, We will bring the llamas to you on Friday.” We chalked it up to the client being very busy or her thinking that Lucy managed llama receiving etc.

    OP 4 – I don’t think your client is being intentional with the name thing. I would just let it go. I have a very common first name and a handful of times been referred to as a different very common first name with the same letter. Including by my own colleagues when I first started. (Similar to the Amy/Amanda situation someone else named already)

  68. Tomalak*

    The dissertation is bizarre, but no one ever reads undergraduate dissertations so it’s basically harmless, like putting a curse on someone. Not defending the author, just offering some words of comfort.

  69. Anhaga*

    OP 4, I have an idea of what you’re dealing with! My last name is German, but is a homonym with an English word, so everyone always spells it like the English word (like, for instance, “Speckel” being confused with the English word “speckle”). When I was still in academia, teaching entirely online, my students (who only interacted with me in text) would misspell my name *all the time* even though I always signed myself as “Professor Speckel.” It was never worth correcting anyone, in no small part because the problem was all them and in no way reflected on me. I just made sure to sign every single communication with the actual spelling. So that’s my recommendation: just keep signing your name correctly, and everyone who sees the person continually misspell your name will just think they’re either a flake or a jerk. It’s probably not personal anyway, so be gentler on yourself by refusing to take it that way.

  70. Ms. K*

    LW #4 I don’t really have any advice, just commiseration. I have a common spelling of very common first and last names, but one or both are spelled wrong on most of my documents. My high school screwed up both on my diploma. Last name is wrong on my college diploma, and they added a letter which changes my name altogether on my health insurance card.

  71. Heffalump*

    Regarding spelling of names, I have an interesting situation. I have a moderately common one-syllable surname which also happens to be a noun and a verb, but it ends in -c where you’d expect -ck. Think “Stac” rather than “Stack,” although that isn’t actually it. I have many memories of my father giving the name when checking the family into hotels and the like, “Stac, S-T-A-C,” and I’ve followed suit as an adult.

    I used to encounter situations where I’d spell out the name and later find that whoever had taken it down as “Stack.” I found this annoying, and sometimes I’d say, “I’m aware that it’s an unusual name, that’s why I spelled it.”

    One day after the first Gulf war I was listening to an NPR story about how an American helicopter enforcing the no-fly zone over Iraq had been shot down by friendly fire. An expert being interviewed was asked how this could have happened when the helicopter didn’t look anything like the Soviet-built “Hind” helicopters flown by Saddam Hussein’s air force. His answer was that the gunner saw a Hind because he expected to.

    There was my answer–people were hearing “S-T-A-C-K” because they expected to. Since then I’ve said, “S-T-A-C–everyone wants to put a K on it, but it doesn’t get one.” The listeners usually laugh and say, “OK, I won’t put a K on it.” Problem solved.

  72. be not*

    I am curious about the comment that ‘the company is saving a ton of money with remote workers’. My company isn’t saving anything? We still have some essential workers so our office is completely powered, heated and will be cooled even if many are remote. People come in and get supplies that they need, including printing to our printers and picking up. Our remote workers still need their phones (forwarded) and their computers (they remote in so still have access to their complete office setup) and if they needed to, took home one of their monitors and I assume chairs and supplies from their desks.

    Are there companies that moved out of office buildings, sold the furniture and no longer have those expenses?


  73. Faith the twilight slayer*

    #3 honestly what I would do from this point forward is just ask the office for petty cash for any and all purchases. If that’s not an option suggest they get a corporate account and see if you can just order through that. If they aren’t willing to help out I would just tell them “I don’t have the money for xxx item right now so if you need me to have it it’s going to have to be purchased for me” and leave the issue at their doorstep. This is petty nonsense that just shows they’re willing to spend your money to pack their bottom line, and I don’t know about anyone else but I have absolutely zero respect or time for that.

  74. Carol*

    OP1 – I would be careful with John on the outside chance Sarah has a legitimate point, as people who are narcissists can treat some people wonderfully and others terribly.

    But she’s not behaving very much like someone who has encountered a true narcissist. In my experience, when you encounter behavior that could plausibly qualify with that label, you get really really careful and quiet about it, because you don’t want to become a target or unintentionally trigger covert or overt hostility. Regardless of her experiences with John, she is acting in a way that continues the conflict, pretty openly, and in a way that seems to invite further conflict with John, in spite of the fact that she successfully moved out from under him.

    But because of the accusation, I truly wouldn’t get involved or necessarily tip off HR, nor would I contradict Sarah to her face. With others, I would definitely mention good experiences with John if it comes up, very casually. But I wouldn’t feed what seems to be Sarah’s conflict by feeling compelled to go out of your way to defend John, unless HR contacts you to confirm. It sounds like you don’t know John all that well yet, anyway.

    FWIW, when I hear a coworker talking repeatedly like Sarah does, I question their professionalism and judgment unless it happens in a very specific, limited or serious context. People who very…confidently…identify disorders in other people, or who endlessly trash talk specific people with seemingly no discretion, are either very self-absorbed/judgmental/obstinate people with their own issues, or they are caught in a conflict until they’ve lost all perspective to the point they are being actively destructive. Either way it makes me hesitant to trust them as a coworker, and it makes me take most of what they say with a big grain of salt. I’ve been pulled into a few gossip vortexes in bad workplaces and there’s just been no scenario where that particular thing has ended well with people more productive, happier, etc.

  75. Allura Vysoren*

    OP 4 – I have the less common spelling of a name with a couple different spellings. People fail to spell it correctly all the time, even though I’ve been working with them for years and it’s *right there* in both my email address and my signature. This included our department head, who spelled my name incorrectly in almost every email and sometimes in different ways despite working closely with me for three years, and got a free pass from me because he was dyslexic.

  76. Former Employee*

    I think that the only exception to the rule about not diagnosing someone who isn’t a patient is if some is a public figure.

    Based on someone’s public behavior, they may make it easy for a trained professional, especially one with years of experience, to diagnose them.

  77. Tiger Snake*

    Would it be remiss or tongue in cheek for any of us to acknowledge that several parts of Sarah’s behaviours are themselves often displayed by narcissists?

  78. LondonLady*

    #1 To be fair, we only have Sarah’s word for it that her psychiatrist said that: more likely, she has said her boss is a narcissist and her psychiatrist is more focused on trying to help her than arguing the point.

    #4 I share your pain. My name has several possible spellings and I keep finding new ones in emails sent to me – despite the version I use being there in the email address & signature. A former colleague suggested people are either in a hurry or even neurodivergent and that I shouldn’t take it personally.

  79. Shane's Blue Chickens*

    #2- I’m not US-based so I might be missing something, but I’ve worked in government for a few years and every civil service job I’ve ever applied for has had explicit anti-canvassing rules during the application process; at best this guy’s plan will do nothing and at worst it’ll automatically disqualify him, depending on how strict this agency is about that sort of thing. Either way don’t get involved, it’ll be an important learning experience for him :)

    1. boop the first*

      Once someone says something so obviously shady like “my psychiatrist said a stranger they never met is _____”, I assume it’s all just lies, all the way down. There’s no psychiatrist.

  80. Dan*

    At one shop I worked at, one of the computers was named Bob. I happened to be working on it when a customer came in to have something printed. A coworker said, “I’ll take it to Bob and print it,” then took it to me to print. From then on, the customer called me Bob. After 6 months, I mentioned in passing to him that my name is Dan, that the computer is named Bob. He was hurt that I took so long to correct him.

  81. commonsensesometimesmakessense*


    I apologize for all the times I have spelled your name as Allison instead of Alison. I will try to be more careful going forward.

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