can I take a year off work, do I have to use nicknames, and more

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

1. I got a windfall — how much time off should I take?

I have been working in a cutthroat, fast-paced industry for over a decade (part-time during school, full-time ever since). I’ve been extremely dedicated to my work, and was able to rise through the ranks because of it. I am thankful for the opportunities I’ve had. I’m also terribly, horribly burnt out from working 12-14 hour days as standard.

I’ve recently come into some money, enough that I could live comfortably for about a year without working, and I desperately want to. My health has been bad lately — I’m dealing with a few physical issues that, while not debilitating, sap my energy and all the work stress hasn’t helped. My husband, who makes less than me (still a decent middle-class income, just less), says I ought to quit and focus on my health and look for work after a year.

My parents say that I should not take a year — a few weeks or a month is fine, more than that will be a red flag and I will have difficulty being able to find work again in my field. They want me to quit my current company and look for work that hopefully has slightly better work-life balance, to prevent resume gaps. I know a lot of people will have resume gaps from 2020, but mine won’t be from a layoff. I’m just tired and want time off working before I have a heart attack in my 30s!

Would you recommend taking a year sabbatical with the money I’ve come into? Would it be truly bad as a hiring manager to see a year gap on my resume if I explained I was dealing with my mental and physical health? I know in a perfect world it wouldn’t be an issue… but I also know I already have enough stacked against me as a relatively young woman of color in a predominantly male and white industry, and I’m worried I’m setting myself up for failure in the future.

This is a hard question to answer without knowing your finances. If you have comfortable savings (and would still have comfortable savings after the time off) it’s a different situation than if you don’t.

In any case, it’s unlikely that you will destroy your career by taking a year off. However much time you take, you’ll say “I was dealing with a health issue that has been resolved” to interviewers and it will likely be fine. Possibly somewhat harder than it would have been without the time off, but still likely fine.

That said, is there a middle ground, like six months instead of a year? Your parents are wrong that taking off more than a month will be a red flag, but it could be harder to get back into your field after a year, especially when we don’t know what things will look like a year from now. That depends on your field though — in some in-demand fields, it would be a complete non-issue, so it’s hard to answer without knowing what work you do.

Also, keep in mind that wouldn’t need to commit to an exact amount of time up-front. You could see how you’re feeling after a few months off and reassess then.

However, are you planning to go right back to your field after your time off? If that means returning to 12-14 hour days and work stress so severe that you’re worried about having a heart attack in your 30s, isn’t it likely that you’ll end up right back where you are now? (I realize you’re dealing with physical issues that are exacerbating things and maybe those will be resolved by then, but what you described would be unsustainable for a lot of people even with perfect health.) So in addition to taking time to rest and recuperate, can you set aside some of that time to think about whether you really want/need to go back to what you were doing, and what other paths could look like?

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Do I have to use coworkers’ nicknames?

I have several coworkers who sign their emails with nicknames, while their full names are in their signatures, professional documents, and emails. These nicknames are abbreviations of longer names, think Rach for Rachel or Mike for Michael.

I feel awkward using these nicknames, as I don’t feel personally close enough to my coworkers use nicknames, but I also want to respect the name they prefer to go by. For example, I know some of my coworkers have “real” names they never use, and for those people I use the name designated in their email signatures and the name they introduce themselves with.

However, when Rachel emails me and signs the email “Rach,” I feel a little weird responding with, “Hi Rachel.” But, it would feel even weirder to say, “Rach.”

What are your thoughts on this? Am I being a stick-in-the-mud, or is it okay to keep using my coworkers’ real names?

A lot of nicknames are real names! I mean, yes, if one person in the office calls someone “Tuna” and everyone else calls him “Jim,” Tuna is not his real name. But if someone prefers to be called Rach or Mike … that is indeed their name! It would be weird to insist on using Michael for Mike. I can see how Rach feels more familiar, especially if she’s not Rach all the time, but if she’s signing emails to you Rach, that’s a sign that she’s happy to be Rach with you! Embrace the familiarity!

In fact, if someone signs an email with Rach and you write back “Hi Rachel,” it’s going to sound a little chilly — like “I reject your warm familiarity!” (But if you really feel weird about it, you always have the option of not using a “hi Name” opening at all, especially in responses to an existing email chain.)

3. Was I ageist with this candidate?

I was on an interview loop fairly recently and voted “no hire” on the candidate. We have a list of qualities we’re looking for and ask each candidate for stories about their past work that provide examples of how they demonstrated those qualities. We also ask what they learned from each experience and what they’d have done differently if they had it to do over again. Every example this candidate gave was from the 1980s, as were the work product samples he gave us. His answer to what he learned from the experiences, or what he’d do differently — every single time! — was “nothing.” (I want to note: There were a lot of red flags to me, any one of which would have been a deal-breaker, so this wasn’t the deciding factor.)

In the debrief, a lot of my older male colleagues geeked out over having had the chance to talk to him because he created some important protocol in the 80s. I asked, “Okay, but what has he done that wasn’t almost half a century ago? We’re working in a field that didn’t exist back then, and he admitted up-front that he doesn’t know anything about it and didn’t even bother to read a Wikipedia article on it before the interview so he’d be familiar with the basics, and he couldn’t talk about anything significant he’s done since then. He also said he didn’t learn anything from those experiences, and 40 years later, wouldn’t do anything differently. That seems to show a real lack of curiosity, and curiosity is a major factor in succeeding at this job.”

One of the senior members of my team (who I think is in his 60s) claimed that I was being ageist. (Then he went on a rant about how we have too many young people on the team and need some actual experience. Most of the “young” people on the team are in their 30s and have postgraduate degrees.)

I didn’t think I was being ageist — I’d be asking the same questions if a 30-year-old didn’t have any relevant examples from the past 10 years — but it’s stuck with me and I’m sort of worried. Should I apologize?

No. It doesn’t sound like this was about him not having recent experience; it was about him showing no humility, self-reflection, or curiosity.

4. Our fully remote coworkers are suddenly getting extra money

Our office has been fully remote since last March. We are now on a “hybrid” model where the office has been reopened, but returning is optional, and folks who choose to return are still remote a few days a week. (All meetings are still on Zoom and there is barely anyone ever in the office.) Recently, our company announced that folks who choose to remain permanently remote will receive an extra stipend for chairs and other home office expenses.

As someone who has chosen to take the hybrid model, I find this frustrating (but I know I’m biased). I was required to be remote for a year and a half and had all kinds of expenses. I had to pay to have a second internet provider installed since the line I had couldn’t accommodate my workload, and needed to purchase a desk and office chair. I would’ve loved to have had those expenses reimbursed, especially since I had no choice but to pay them. It seems unfair that reimbursement is now being offered only when remote work is optional!

Additionally, since we are hybrid for the time being, I do still need to have a work-from-home set-up for the days when I am remote. It feels odd to me that I should have to pay those expenses out of pocket just because I use the set-up less often. What are your thoughts on policies like this?

Yeah, that’s not being handled well. Their thought process is probably that people who are fully remote are saving the company money (in office space, furniture, supplies, etc.), and people who are hybrid are not. But of course reimbursing people now that the arrangement is optional and not when it was required will rub people the wrong way, as it has you. Still, I’d try to reframe it in your head as, “2020 was a clusterfudge and no one knew what was happening, but now that we’re creating more permanent plans, they’re trying to set things up correctly going forward.”

But yes, they should go back and reimburse people for the businesses expenses they bore earlier in the pandemic too.

5. How much notice to give as a manager

I am in a job with possibly the most dysfunctional manager I’ve ever had. I am absolutely miserable. I dread every day.

I am working on leaving and I want to know how to approach giving notice since I am a manager. My company only requires two weeks notice, even for high level management, but “appreciates longer.” I absolutely do NOT want to be with them longer than the bare minimum, but I know most companies want managers to give more notice. I’m afraid that even though I am not interviewing for a manager role, the new potential company will not think highly of me for only giving two weeks even though that’s all that is required. Am I overthinking it too much? I’m afraid they’ll comment about how I should give longer given my role.

Nah, you should be fine. Loads and loads of people in management positions are only expected to give two weeks notice; it’s not a universal norm that managers are supposed to give more. If any hiring manager expresses surprise, you can just breezily say, “Yes, two weeks is typical here and it shouldn’t be a problem” and it’s very unlikely that it’ll be a thing.

{ 643 comments… read them below }

  1. Typing All The Time*

    1# – Have you about freelancing? It’s way to work on your schedule and stay current. But note, if you’re in the U.S., you’ll be responsible to pay federal and state taxes plus insurance.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      If someone’s burnt out to the point of illness, diving into developing a freelancing career is probably not a good way to get a break.

      I like the idea of splitting the difference and taking six months of complete recharging, with some time spent thinking over future options. Then they’ve got a six month buffer to carefully apply for new jobs. If it takes a long time to find a new job, they won’t have to worry as much about running out of money, and if it goes faster, they can be more selective about what job to take.

      1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

        A freelancer is responsible by themselves to decide how much work they want to do, and handle clients who want more and faster. If you need a break, it could be hard to explain to clients that this is the amount of work I’m willing to do, and you could easily end up doing too much because you want to please your clients. So I agree with you, this is not the best solution.

        In some cases, it could be possible to go to part-time work. Maybe just once a week, to avoid CV gaps and stay on top of things but still get enough rest. However it seems that OP’s industry probably isn’t one where you could easily do this, if full-time work at this company is what OP describes.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I’m all for freelancing, but here’s the thing that few people consider: It’s a lot of work. Not just the project itself, but landing and managing it.

          You have to market yourself to clients directly, or to third-party agencies, and definitely to your professional network. That’s a part-time job by itself, no matter how much your skills are in demand. You’re always looking for your next job – even part-time ones – and that becomes one long job search for some folks. If you need specific training or credentials, it’s on you to gain them, another investment of tie and effort.

          You may only want part-time work, but if your market needs/wants full-time, what then? You’ll need to (learn how to) negotiate rates, terms, length of project, etc., and to re-negotiate sometimes. You have to create and manage contracts, SOWs, invoices, and other materials. You’ll manage your own bookkeeping and taxes. You also have to actually do the work and, if the client doesn’t have the resources you need, then you invest in them yourself or find workarounds. You are your own advocate, marketing department, work planner, accountant, and operations person.

          I feel for the OP, I’ve also dealt with burnout and it’s awful. I hope she can take a much-needed break! But diving into freelancing might not be the best thing for her. Heck, I went back to consulting last year and even though this isn’t new for me, I still put in a lot of hours behind the scenes to stay on top of things.

          1. Willis*

            This. Also, if you have X number of clients you end up with X number of people you owe stuff to, which could potentially be more stressful than dealing with one or two bosses at work. And unlike a typical office where you may be able to say “I can do project XYZ but only if we move the deadline on deliverable ABC back,” you can’t really trade clients off for one another if you get too busy (which can happen if you’re pitching multiple jobs at once). So, I wouldn’t recommend freelancing to someone who’s looking for a real break!

            1. SheLooksFamiliar*

              You totally get it. Earlier this year I had 2 part-time projects for former clients planned at 25 hours a week each. I spent at least 60 hours a week for the actual work, documentation, planned and off-cycle calls and emails, etc. Neither client cared that I had other deliverables for another client. One was East Coast, one was nationwide, and I worked across all time zones for 6 months. It wasn’t the worst, and I did some things on the weekends, but I still had to pivot a lot. Very tiring.

          2. quill*

            Yeah, Freelancing is 3 jobs, 2 of which you may never have done before, so even if OP took 1/3 as much work, I would not assume this would be a fully restful change of pace.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          Ding ding ding, as a freelancer. Also what SheLooksFamiliar said.

          If working for more than one client, there’s the issue where my careful schedule based on their hypothetical dates gets destroyed by their delays and then I’m trying to do everything the same week.

          If you’re burnt out, time off is going to be way more recharging than trying to launch a new career.

    2. EPLawyer*

      Not all fields are good for feelancing.

      If the LW is burnt out, they need a complete break. One thing completely missing from the letter is do they even LIKE their field? Or are they in it because this is the way to “succeed?”

      I don’t think changing companies will help if the whole field is fast paced, long hours. It will be just going from the frying pan to the fire. LW, your parents don’t get to tell you how to run your life anymore. The ONLY person who factors into your decision making is your spouse — who supports your need for rest. For your parents point out to them there is something worse than a “resume gap” its called DEATH. If you die because you have a heart attack in your 30s, nobody is going to say “well at least she didn’t have a big gap in her resume.”

      You need a break. You need rest. Take it. Then figure out whether you even want to continue in this field or look for something else. It’s a lot easier to self-assess if you are not exhausted from working 12-14 hour days.

      1. The Original K.*

        I agree with “take a total break for a period of time and spend some of that time figuring out what she wants.” Taking time off and then going right back into a field that expects 14-hour days seems unwise; she’ll end up back in the same burnt-out place she’s in now. I don’t get a sense that the OP likes the work, but even if she does, she clearly doesn’t like what the work is doing to her, so a period of rest (true rest, with no work at all) and reflection will likely do her good.

        1. quill*

          14 hour days long term sounds like the whole industry is unsustainable. I think LW should start with 3 months off, a serious consultation with doctors about the profession’s lifestyle, and start thinking about a pivot to either a different, more sustainable sector, or figuring out how best to negotiate for jobs in the industry that won’t give you those horrible hours.

      2. Rachel in NYC*

        The only thing I’d consider looking into that isn’t just take a break, get healthy and change careers, is whether their current company would let them take a break of 3-6 months to get into better physical health and whether their company has any offices overseas that they could transfer into that may have better work-life balance (if they want to stay in this field).

      3. Smithy*

        Here’s another plug for finding a way to take some time completely off, but not the full year where you return back to an automatic 12-14 days.

        It may ultimately be that in addition to taking time off to recover and recharge, the OP identifies a desire to switch fields that either require some additional education/licensure or taking a more junior position to change fields. Either might make having those extra funds support a larger transition period.

      4. lilsheba*

        I agree. Your physical and mental health are way more important than a job. Or a resume gap. Frankly I feel it would be a bad idea to ever go back to 12-14 hour days, what kind of industry or employer think that’s a good idea, or sustainable for a healthy life?

        1. Amaranth*

          I just wonder if it would be better to negotiate a month off then part time work “to manage health issues” and see how that goes. A lot depends on OP’s value to the company but if part time is manageable and doesn’t see a lot of schedule creep, it might be a way to keep a toe in but get a much better work-life balance. And then maybe just never return to full time. That means the windfall will also last longer. (This is assuming the windfall won’t possibly be needed to supplement health care and OP will have other coverage)

  2. Observer*

    #3 – One of the senior members of my team (who I think is in his 60s) claimed that I was being ageist. (Then he went on a rant about how we have too many young people on the team and need some actual experience.

    I think that this tells you everything you need to know. Commenting on a candidate’s actual behavior and attitude is ageist, but complaining about “to many young” people isn’t? What can I say?

    This does give you some valuable information about this guy though. Because I can understand people being excited to talk to someone who developed something important. But going from there to refusing to see that that’s not enough is ridiculous. Anyone who knows anything about cybersecurity knows that John McAfee was a pioneer and earned his legendary status. But it’s also been a couple of decades where no one in their right mind would consider hiring him if he did decide he wants to take a job. (Not that he would have, but that’s not the point.)

    You can respect someone’s accomplishments while recognizing that they haven’t kept up.

    1. Needs Caffeine*

      Didn’t John Macfee die in a Spanish Prison? Or am I making that up? Honestly his whole story is a weird fever dream.

    2. Andy*

      > I think that this tells you everything you need to know. Commenting on a candidate’s actual behavior and attitude is ageist, but complaining about “to many young” people isn’t? What can I say?

      To be fair, tech has *serious* ageism problem. To the point that some people plan on it and expect to earn less after 40 or so. So to me, it sounds more like remarking there are too many white men around here – e.g. there are too many of the exact demographic that gets advantages.

    3. MeowMixers*

      Age discrimination in the US is for people age 40 and over. If most of the people in her office are in their 30’s, then yeah, it can be age discrimination. The candidate sounds like the wrong fit though, but I’m not sure base on this letter. However, it is acceptable to point out a lack of diversity and then look into hiring those who will bring more diversity.

      1. Brooklyn*

        Legally, age discrimination is only for over 40. However, given that upper management tends to be quite old, in general, it would be hard to argue that there isn’t power and discrimination going the other way as well, and I don’t know many of my peers who weren’t at some point written off as too young to handle something. Tech is notoriously bad for older people, so the dynamics are different, but there are also a lot of old school engineers who refuse to use modern tools, languages, or any of the other advances we’ve made in forty years, and who are very proud to be toxic towards younger engineers with a different background.

        I’ve been told by engineers that they won’t parenthesize their logical operations because it makes the line longer and this is the way they did it in the 80s. I don’t have much respect for them left and left that job because that was a symptom of a deeper disease.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I’ve been told by engineers that they won’t parenthesize their logical operations because it makes the line longer and this is the way they did it in the 80s. I don’t have much respect for them left and left that job because that was a symptom of a deeper disease.

          When they prioritize fast over right… I’d be interviewing out as well.

        2. Andy*

          > I’ve been told by engineers that they won’t parenthesize their logical operations because it makes the line longer and this is the way they did it in the 80s. I don’t have much respect for them left and left that job because that was a symptom of a deeper disease.

          That is the way that is pushed for young people now, especially in JavaScript world. They favor brevity a lot. Some modern tools even give you warning on unnecessary parenthesis as in “fix that”.

          It has nothing to do with age, these things come and go like fashions.

        3. kitryan*

          Federally, it’s over 40 but a number of states have expanded this. Oregon is any age, as is New York. Those are the last 2 states I’ve worked in, and for which I’ve received anti bias and discrimination training, so not sure how many other states have greater/broader protections as well.

    4. pleaset cheap rolls*

      The second half of the second paragraph in #3 shows the applicant is not right for the job. Saying stuff like that is appalling.

    5. JM60*

      My father did some interesting work as a programmer in the 80s and 90s. But he also did some interesting work his free Iphone app in the last several years, well after his retirement. The fact that this candidate apparently hasn’t learned anything since the 80s and wouldn’t do anything differently means that he isn’t right for the job unless that job is to do exactly what he did in the 80s the way he did it in the 80s. Even then, he sounds arrogant and unwilling to even consider change.

      1. Washi*

        Yeah, Alison’s answer seemed to imply that the lack of experience since the 80s has nothing to do with the decision, but I would think that even if he were a little less arrogant, that would still be a red flag (though a more thoughtful candidate might have addressed the gap better rather than doubling down.)

        Heck, I’m a social worker, which is a field that moves nowhere near as fast as tech, but if someone had no relevant experience since the 80s, seemed to have made no effort to keep informed about developments in the field in the last 40 years and didn’t think it was even necessary….that would be an issue.

        1. Andy*

          To be fair, I don’t think LW says he was learned nothing and was doing nothing last 40 years. He gave samples that were old and everything else is related to those samples. “I learned nothing new last 40 years” and “these particular samples I gave you are still the best” are massively different statements. Likewise, not knowing technologies *they* use does not imply “not learning anything new in the meantime”.

          I am not saying LW should hire him or something. Just that people are making too wild unsupported guesses here.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            I learned nothing new last 40 years” and “these particular samples I gave you are still the best” are massively different statements.

            Agreed. I have some huge accomplishments from ~10 years ago that I still recount in interviews; it’s not because I have done nothing in the past 10 years, but rather that opportunities only arise when they do. The example I’d use is that I installed additional smoke detectors in our home 10 years ago and brought it up to current building code; that I haven’t installed more detectors every year after does not mean I have stopped taking fire safety seriously.

            I’m more concerned that there’s nothing he’d revise with the benefit of hindsight. I can definitely look back upon my big accomplishments and identify things I’d do differently now, even if there are no things I can point to that could be strictly, unambiguously better.

            1. Observer*

              I’m more concerned that there’s nothing he’d revise with the benefit of hindsight. I can definitely look back upon my big accomplishments and identify things I’d do differently now,

              Exactly. Or even “If I were doing this today, I’d do it this way to take advantage of development X” or “I would do it Y way because I would want to also deal with Problem Z that has developed in the last 5 years.” Or “I’ve considered upgrading some of the detectors with smart ones. I did / not do so because blah, blah, blah.”

              But also are ALL of your accomplishments that you recount at least 10 years old? Because that’s the other thing that jumps out. Not that he gave SOME examples from 50 years ago (If you’re Bob Metcalfe and you developed Ethernet, I would CERTAINLY expect you to bring it up. But that doesn’t do much good to a current employer, if you haven’t done anything since. But the truth is that he’s not a “one shot wonder”, and he’d have example from through out the decades.

              1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                But also are ALL of your accomplishments that you recount at least 10 years old?

                No, not all of them, and I don’t exclude newer ones. I have accomplishments as recent as last month, but all more effort for less results; as a former supervisor who was a baseball fan would say, “there’s nothing wrong with a double; you can only hit a grand slam if the bases are already loaded for you.”

                The story told doesn’t paint the candidate in the best light to me, either. I might have been geeking out with the elders during the process, but the story as posted leaves me little reason to vote for hiring him at the end of said process.

                1. Observer*

                  No, not all of them, and I don’t exclude newer ones.

                  That’s exactly my point. It’s one thing to include old examples. It’s another to have ONLY old ones.

                2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                  I think we’re more in agreement than disagreeing. The technical triumph from the ’80’s is not irrelevant, but it does need reflection and more recent (if lesser) accomplishments to accompanying it to be persuasive, right?

            2. Librarian of SHIELD*

              And even for the things I wouldn’t do differently now, I still wouldn’t say I learned nothing from them. There are a lot of situations where I still feel like the choice I made was the right one, but the interactions surrounding that choice taught me a lot about making future choices. It’s a bold move to say out loud in an interview that your experiences have taught you nothing, and I can see why OP3 was unsettled by it.

          2. Observer*

            Well, it’s pretty clear that THE CANDIDATE doesn’t think he has learned anything. He says that he learned nothing from these examples, and not only did he handle them perfectly the first time round he would not change anything. There is NOT field where that is possible if you have been paying the least bit of attention!

            No one person invented the WWW, but Sir Tim Berners Lee is as close as you get – and he also developed some of the underlying protocols. He’d be the first to tell you that he got some things wrong. And that a lot of things have changed, so the right response today would be different than it was 40 years ago. I’d be willing to bet that if someone did a (mock) interview with him asking these type of questions, there would never be a sequence of “this example for 40 years ago is the best and I would change nothing, because it was so perfect that even all of the changes of the last decades cannot change it.”

          3. PT*

            At my work, when I worked with children, we were warned that someone presenting with a resume like this (old work history, old references, old examples) was likely to be someone who’d engaged in abusive behavior with children at more recent jobs and been fired as a result. So they were automatically tossed out, unless they had an good explanation for why all their examples were old. I worked there during the recession, so someone saying “My current field got decimated in the recession but I worked with kids when I was in high school and college and I’d like to come back to that,” would be fine. But if they didn’t explain what they were doing in the interim it was a no-go.

      2. Anonny*

        Also like

        That’s… forty years. I would consider ‘not recent experience’ to be like, five years ago (and if they’re a good fit and are willing to play catch-up, great!). In most fields, forty years is ‘historical interest’ and/or ‘out of practice’.

      3. Observer*

        The fact that this candidate apparently hasn’t learned anything since the 80s and wouldn’t do anything differently means that he isn’t right for the job unless that job is to do exactly what he did in the 80s the way he did it in the 80s.

        Exactly. Your father sounds like “40 years of experience”. This guy sounds like “2 years of experience 20 times”. The former is worth gold. The latter? Toxic.

    6. Workerbee*

      Kinda makes me think those senior, also-male colleagues were feeling threatened by all the “young” talent as the seniors have been coasting by on past accomplishments themselves.

  3. MissM*

    I really don’t think it’s “chilly” to call someone by their full name even if they’ve signed off as Rach on an email. It’s still their name! If it’s a situation where their first name is what’s in the system but they go by their middle name, yes that would come across as telemarketer-uninformed levels, but using Michael when it’s in their email signature (and not only be er Mike 100% of the time/places), i think you’re fine. Once you actually know the person and feel comfortable, sure call them Tuna if that’s what they go by.

    1. A Teacher*

      I think it depends. Some people prefer their shorter name-hence why they sign stuff that way. I guess I’m coming from a teaching perspective, I always ask students what they prefer to be called in the classroom because some of them do not like they’re giving names. I also asked them why I should call them if I have to talk to their parents. I try to respect people ask to be called.

      1. Krabby*

        I think it also depends on how your company handles email setup. Mine you fill out a form asking what you want your name to be in our directory. Sooo many ppl say Robert or Richard, but then sign off their emails as Bob or Dick. I refuse to call them that though, because searching for Bob and Dick in the directory turns up nothing. If I remember them as Bob, I essentially make communicating with them over email a nightmare. It annoys me to no end.

        If you get to choose what your name is, choose what you actually want to go by. That said, I’d love to hear it if there’s some aspect I’m not considering.

        1. Not Bob/Robert*

          I do this Bob/Robert thing, and I know it potentially causes this problem. For me it’s because my surname is already hard to spell (and has a common spelling that people use as default and so get it wrong), and my ‘Bob’ name has many spelling options (plus people mishear it) whereas ‘Robert’ has only two. I decided at the start of my career that if I could say ‘Robert with an R’ and then spell my surname when giving out my email address/name over the phone, I’d save a lot of time and errors. But no-one calls me Robert in real life!

          It became a habit that I’m now thinking I should maybe break, because phone comms are so much rarer now with online forms etc, but here we are.

          1. MeTwoToo*

            I have a twitch not whenever I meet someone named Bob because I met two people at a conference once where you are assigned a group table and each person introduces the person next to them. I spent 6 hours calling one of them Bub before someone corrected me at the coffee maker. Turns out half my assigned table thought I was just being rude to this guy and the other half thought I was mocking his friends accent.

            1. Lauren*

              Oh no, this reminds me of a similar story from my experience.

              I’d just begun working at an office where the Spanish spoken by my colleagues was of a different dialect than the Spanish spoken by my university friends. I had to make mental notes that their names may have been spelled the same way my friends spelled their names, but the pronunciation could be significantly different. This went fine.

              Applying my “repeat the name/word phonetically” tactic did not go fine when I went to a party, a woman introduced me to her fiancé “Bread”, and I said “nice to meet you, Bread” before he gave me an incredibly annoyed look and said, “it’s BRAD.”

            2. Sometimes supervisor*

              Eugh. Cringe flashback from a training course when we’re given an exercise to help with listening skills. Basically, turn to the person next to you, talk to them for 10 minutes and then deliver a speech on three things you’ve learned about them. So, I turn to the person next to me and they say ‘Hi! I’m Bub!’. ‘Hi Bub! Nice to meet you,’ I say back.

              Well, Bub and I hit it off. We’re by far the most animated pair in the room, agreeing with each other, laughing like old friends. We’re the first pair to present. I deliver a lively, entertaining introduction to Bub. I can tell the group are impressed that we’re picked up so much about each other so quickly. A grinning trainer goes to say something when Bub cuts in:

              ‘Yes, that’s me – except my name’s Bob’

              (It was a really loud room. That’s my excuse. It’s more than a decade later but I’m still sticking to that!)

            3. Voice of NeverNeverLand*

              I have kind of the wholesome opposite to this – my name is pronounced differently in other languages like German/Spanish than it is in English. My husband’s uncle has lived in Spain for something like 25 years, and he always uses the Spanish pronunciation. Then he catches himself halfway through whatever he’s saying and apologises and switches back to English. However – I really love the Spanish pronunciation! I think it’s prettier, and my own name has a set of vowels/consonants that I sometimes struggle to say clearly (ugh), whereas the Spanish pronunciation does not. It sounds much prettier and is clearer when spoken. So, I’ve spent most of the past four years when visiting my husband’s uncle reassuring him that he can use the Spanish pronunciation, because I prefer it, anyway!

          2. Also Not Bob/Robert*

            I also have this dynamic and I have no problem with people I don’t work with often calling me “Robert.” It’s on my email signature, and it makes sense that this is how they would reach out at first. But everyone in the department knows I’m “Bob,” I introduce myself as “Bob,” and when people introduce me as “Robert,” I say “Please call me Bob!” I’ve never understood why some people STILL insist on calling me Robert, but I’ve basically stopped arguing with them. The idea that this isn’t my real name is mind blowing! Of COURSE it’s my name! This letter has inspired me to re-up my “Please call me Bob” campaign.

            1. Also Not Bob/Robert*

              Also, I was working with someone once and addressed them as “Bob,” and I got an immediate “Please feel free to call me Robert” reply. I haven’t forgotten that correction. Robert it is.

              1. Allypopx*

                Company policy, professional default, screen of people you’ve never had a conversation with before – it doesn’t really matter why.

                1. MechE*

                  I mean…I ask because I am curious. I am a Robert who prefers to go by Rob. I made my signature Rob not Robert because why give a name that I don’t want to be called. I was curious of another person’s experience, which is why I asked the question.

              2. Also Not Bob/Robert*

                Professional default to use my full name, which I don’t dislike! I just prefer Bob. Particularly when you’re speaking to me in person.

                Also, there are a LOT of folks on my team with some variation of my name (Bob, Robert, Roberta, Robinson, Robby…) and it actually does make things easier to use my full name (there are at least 3 Bobs who work together).

                Also also, I can’t have another darn thing on my signature. It’s already:
                Firstname Lastname, Professional Degrees (pronouns)

                I don’t expect people to “just know,” but when I invite you to call me Bob, ffs, call me Bob!

                1. MechE*

                  I completely get it. I am a Robert who goes by Rob (I am also a never-Bob). I realized that I kept telling everyone to call me Rob even though my signature said Robert. I think I just confused them. I made the decision to change my signature and business cards to Rob Lastname. I have no idea if that is okay with corporate policy, but I also don’t care. I understand that not everyone has that level of freedom though.

            2. sushi_kat*

              Yes, I go by Alex, not Alexandra. I sign my emails Alex, my signature is Alex, I introduce myself as Alex, please call me Alex! And yet colleagues still call me Alexandra. People really don’t get it, as clearly seen in the comments too. Alex is my name, calling me Alexandra is weird to me and I don’t enjoy it. Sometimes people ask to make sure it’s ok to call me Alex, totally a fine question to ask! If you’re not sure, just double check with the person. The same way I always make sure I am pronouncing someone’s name correctly. It can feel embarrassing to ask them but I do because it’s important and I don’t want to get it wrong. One of my best friends growing up was Indian American. He didn’t tell me until HS that no one pronounced his name correctly!

        2. Anononon*

          It makes me super uncomfortable that you actively refuse to call someone by their preferred name because they didn’t choose their email properly, according to you.

          I have a common first name with a common nickname that goes along with it. I’m probably a bit unusual in that, in this stage of my life, I honestly don’t care which one I’m called, though I generally introduce myself to my coworkers as Nickname and to non-coworkers in my field as FullName. However, the idea of a coworker explicitly refusing to use my nickname gives me awful flashbacks to my seventh grade history teacher who would only call me FullName.

          1. LKW*

            Yeah – it’s one thing to prefer your own full name be used but if someone prefers Robbie over Robert – why are you demanding differently? If the reverse were true, someone preferred Thomas over Tommy – would you refuse to call them Thomas?

            1. ThatGirl*

              Yeah, my husband has the opposite problem, where everyone calls him the short version of his very common name (“Tom”) and he much prefers the full version.

              1. Anononon*

                We have a close family friend who goes by Thomas, not Tom, and because of that, unless I’m told otherwise (or I can see it in a sign off line), I’ll always default to Thomas, Michael, etc. If it’s going to be someone I’m going to work with closely, I’ll also ask to confirm.

                1. Tupac Coachella*

                  I’m like your friend-I really hate the very common diminutive of my name, and literally get confused if someone calls me by it (there’s a less common nickname that I don’t mind, but very few people use it for me and I introduce myself by my whole name). My name gives me a really easy in to just ask when I encounter a name that people commonly prefer to shorten. “Are you a Joshua or Josh? I’m a Madison-not-Maddie, so I try not to assume.” It’s a twofer, I know what they want to be called from the start, and I clarify that I am not, never have been, and never will be Maddie.

              2. sunny-dee*

                My brother is the same. My grandfather went by Tom, my uncle goes by Tommy, so my brother has always been Thomas. Yet in the broad world, people simply don’t get that he goes by Thomas instead of Tom.

            2. MassMatt*

              I agree with you, but some people dislike nicknames/shortening of names because of the level of intimacy it implies, and they want to be more formal. Similar to people that prefer to use “Mr. Johnson” instead of going to a first name basis immediately. I think this is different than the grade school teacher that decides “I’m only going to say ‘Gertrude’, not ‘Trudie’ because that’s what’s written here”.

              1. Anononon*

                It’s not different at all. There are a ton of people in this comment thread who have explicitly said that their nicknames ARE their names. People don’t get to ignore that because of discomfort that they’ve internally created. It’s the exact thought process that teachers go through – that there’s an underlying belief with some people and some teachers that chosen names are inherently less formal than the name that appears on one’s birth certificate.

                1. sunny-dee*

                  And, ironically enough, people can stubbornly refuse to believe that your name is actually your name. My uncle went by Bill, but his actual, honest-to-God name was Billy – yet people insisted on calling him William or putting William down as his legal name, even though his birth certificate said Billy.

                2. The Librarian's Cat*

                  My uncle was the same – his birth certificate said Ricky. He had a teacher that was hell-bent on calling him “Richard.” It’s interesting the things people push back on!

                3. Nella 9*

                  My sister is named Jessie. It is not short for Jessica. She had a teacher who outright told the kids in her class that they didn’t “use nicknames” and insisted on calling my sister Jessica even after repeatedly being told it wasn’t her real name.

            3. Old Cynic*

              Yeah, I go by my full name not a nickname. But in one work situation a colleague used only the nickname and unfortunately it caught on with others so that about half the company was using it. I would correct, but then in my next performance review my boss told me to stop correcting. That was considered dissing people. WTF?!?

          2. Allypopx*

            Agreed. There’s a whole lot of icky implications around race and gender that can come up if you refuse to use people’s preferred names as well. Maybe they want to be one way in the directory and another way in casual discourse (like email exchanges with colleagues). That’s really not yours to police or make decisions to ignore.

          3. Each Person Gets to Choose Their Preferred Name*

            My full name is, say, Matthew. I have gone by Matt since the 6th grade. I introduce myself as Matt. My emails are signed Matt. My bio on the company website says my name is Matt. It is not a sign of how close we are to call me Matt. You are using my name.

            OP, If you call me Matthew after I’ve introduced myself (even via email), I would not be pleased. It certainly would not make me think you listen well. If you want to respect someone or show you are a good teammate, use the name that person wants you to use.

            1. Sparkles McFadden*

              The name thing is pretty easy. Just address people in the way they introduce themselves/sign their emails. That means no shortening Suzanne to Suzie and no lengthening Luke to Lucas.

              I once worked with a guy who introduced himself as Robert. So, I called him Robert. Everyone else called him Robbie. His email address was robbie_smith@ I asked him what that was about and if I should stop calling him Robert. He said he had a manager who called him Robbie no matter how many times he asked to be called Robert. Then, everyone else started calling him Robbie. The IT guy made his email address as robbie because “That’s what everyone calls you.” Ridiculous. Also crappy.

            2. GMan*

              I know two people whose legal names are “Ben” and “Bill”
              Literally – their legal names are not Benjamin or William.
              I also know a Samarjit that goes by Sam and people think his full name is Samuel all the time.

              They’ve had to ask their email signatures be changed multiple times throughout their professional careers. Just call people by what they call themselves.

            3. R-E-S-P-E-C-T*

              As someone in a similar situation, I completely agree. At my first job out of college, no matter how many times I corrected people that I went by Mikey (and always had) they called me either Mike or Michael. It frustrating, weird, and disrespectful. Call people by the name they prefer. It is about basic respect.

              I also want to add that for many of us in this situation we grew up only being called our full name (Michael in my case) by our parents when we were in trouble so it definitely feels pretty jarring and chilly to have someone call us that, especially if they are senior.

            4. too young to die, too old to eat off the kids' menu*

              You just reminded me, I used to work with a Matt who looked almost EXACTLY like a friend of mine who prefers to go by Matthew.

              Something about the same name and crazy resemblance made it so hard for me to get Matt’s name right if I didn’t think about it first. After a bunch of slips where I caught myself mid-name, he told me to just call him Math

          4. Jen with one n*

            Absolutely this. I will use Jennifer in some circumstances because that’s my legal name – and because I thought that’s what I had to do for formal things like my work email. But then getting people to call me Jen – despite never introducing myself as Jennifer – was impossible.

            When I moved to my current workplace, I had my email created as Jen, and that’s how I’m known here. I’ve had a few coworkers call me Jennifer (including one who did it because she said she liked that name better), and it makes me really frustrated and annoyed.

            Use the name people ask you to use, it’s not hard. If that’s a nickname, use it. If that’s the longer version of their name, use that. It’s basic respect.

          5. Krabby*

            Sorry, when I said “refuse” I more meant that I wouldn’t call them that unless they explicitly asked (LW was talking about it just showing up in their email sign off). If they requested it of me directly, I would 100% comply, but if you get to choose what you go by in our email systems (and there is a clear process for requesting a change) I find it really frustrating to deal with.

            This also may be exacerbated by the fact that I work in HR, so I’m dealing with most of these people 3-4x a year over email. I forget about these things and then spend 10-15 minutes trying to find them in our system before remembering I need to search “Steph…” instead of “Steve…”

        3. D*

          Ugh I tried so hard to let my company set mine up with the name I go by, but nope – they only allow the full first name on your drivers license. It causes some confusion since the names are very different. With outside vendors I go with the full name but not with people I work with since that would feel really odd to me (never in my life even as a baby have I been called that name so it doesn’t feel like my name at all)

        4. MCMonkeyBean*

          Wow this is the opposite of where I thought you were going.

          Not calling someone by the name they want because you might have to spend slightly more time finding their email is… a really bad take.

        5. Lynn*

          At my company, and I assume many others, you don’t get to pick your name for your email. If you get to pick, it would be better to pick a name that matches your actual name if possible. But that isn’t always an option.

          With my company, just as an example: I don’t use my first name. Never have. My email might say “Alistair.Lethbridge-Stewart@UNIT” but I actually use “Gordon.” If you were to decide to call me Alistair, even though I have pretty clearly indicated that I use/prefer Gordon, I would find it off-putting. And nicknames aren’t that much different. If my email says “Dorothy@TARDIS” but I have indicated a clear preference for Ace then you should just call me Ace. Just because it might be easier to remember isn’t really a good reason, IMO, to refuse to use someone’s preferred name.

          In real life, this happened when I started at my company-my email was set up using my legal first name. I was willing to answer to my first name, but would correct folks. When folks refused to adapt, it was a mild annoyance.

          I will admit that I am not all that picky about my name in general-if someone gets close, I will answer-it is just the hazard of not using my first name and having a complicated last name (the number of systems that cannot handle a last name with a space in it is amazing).

          They closed my original email when I was laid off for a short period several years ago. When I returned, they didn’t reinstate the old email. My current uses my middle name, so I don’t run into it anymore.

          1. Mockingdragon*

            Just commenting for the example names =D

            I’m a Samantha, and I introduce myself as Samantha, and I don’t understand why so many people default to Sam. I’ve never gone by Sam. I don’t mind especially much but it just confuses me. Why wouldn’t I use the name someone gave me when they introduced themselves? Why is this so hard!

            1. kittykitty*

              LOL I am a Samantha and prefer Sam, and people always default to the longer name. Drives me wild. You can’t win apparently.

          2. Krabby*

            I would 100% agree in a situation where you cannot choose your name in the system. I’m happy to make the effort, the same as I would respect ppl’s name changes or pronouns.

            I help set up ppl’s emails at my company though, and I ask, “are you sure you want Robert, because you went by Bob through the whole interview process?” and they say, “nope, I’d like Robert for my email, in the directory, etc.” Then they put Bob in their email sign offs. That’s where my frustration comes in.

            If they explicitly ask, I’ll use Bob, but otherwise I’m going to keep calling them Robert.

            1. Also Not Bob/Robert*

              Ok, guilty here. But it’s because I want folks to see ‘Robert’ since it’s more professional. For people I work with every day, it’s weird if they don’t call me Bob.

        6. Hiphopanonymous*

          I use a common shortened version of a common name, and our email system has my full name listed. I find it impersonal and slightly rude when people use my full name. It generally (not always) tracks with people who are chilly and slightly rude. “Nicknames” are names.

          Rarely do I get to choose my email name, it’s decided before my first day.

          1. banoffee pie*

            Yeah I introduce myself by my shortened name and some people still call me the full name. I think they’re trying to be ultra polite but that name just doesn’t feel like me, it’s just what it says o n my passport! And it can feel chilly to me because the only people who call me that are customs people, receptionists in the doctor’s, etc

        7. quill*

          Honestly though, show of hands, who actually knows anyone who still goes by Dick?

          I’ve seen Richards go by Rich though…

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            Honestly though, show of hands, who actually knows anyone who still goes by Dick?

            I know of or work with a few, but they’re all 55+.

            1. quill*

              I would have thought even older, because my parents are 55 and it was definitely slang, and definitely something to snicker about, when they were young.

              … I guess my mental calibration of “you need to have been part of the workforce in the 60’s for anyone to call you Dick with a straight face” might be off.

              1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                It’s definitely a situation where I question how in touch the gentleman is with modern times.

              2. alienor*

                Yeah, I’m turning 50 this year and “Dick” would make me and everyone else my age do a juvenile (mental) snicker. My mother is 71 and I think it’s more a her generation thing.

          2. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

            “I’ve seen Richards go by Rich though…”

            Or Rick. I’ve seen that a lot.

        8. quill*

          Many, many people go by a name that is not on their birth certificate or driver’s license. Often companies will only call you by your ID card / billing info name in their emails, so I would strongly advise you to reconsider your stance on only calling people by what the automatically generated email directory calls them.

          1. Krabby*

            I did specifically clarify that I was talking about my company, where I know for a fact that employees get to pick how their email and directory names are set (I help them set it up!). I 100% would respect what people put in their signatures if I didn’t know that were the case. And I will always switch over if they ask. I just won’t do it based on them using different signatures.

            That said, I appreciate all of the responses. I’m going to re-examine how I approach this going forward and will likely change my stance.

            1. Simply the best*

              Okay, but even with your clarifications, you’re still saying that because somebody has not done what you want them to do with their email, you’re not going to call them by the name they call themselves.

              Be annoyed by it, sure. But saying you’re not going to call them by their name until you’ve annoyed them enough that they have to pointedly ask you to is not a good look in my opinion.

              1. Lynn*

                I agree. What I would have found a tad off putting from a client or a new contact would seem much more egregious coming from someone in HR-especially when that HR person already made clear that they know my preferred name when they asked about it during my set up conversation.

      2. Flower necklace*

        Yes, this is such an important part of teaching. Names matter. It’s important to figure out what they want to be called (even when they’re too shy to outright tell you, which I’ve had happen) and how to pronounce their name correctly.

        And teachers have their own name preferences, too! I have a ridiculously long last name. In the classroom, I go by the first letter (so not “Ms. Longlastname,” just “Ms. L.”). I wince every time I hear someone call me by my full name because they inevitably mispronounce it. I don’t blame them for doing that – I know it’s hard to pronounce, which is exactly why I prefer the shortened version.

        1. Humble Schoolmarm*

          I went through an entire year calling a grade 7 Bacon, at her request. (Her little sister couldn’t pronounce her actual name). It felt a little silly, but it made her happy and it wasn’t any trouble.

          1. Dr B Crusher*

            That reminds me of when the kindergarten teacher in one of the Superfudge books refused to call Fudge by his chosen name and insisted on Farley. Of course you are the opposite of that teacher, thankfully for Bacon.

            I just don’t understand why one wouldn’t call a person the thing they want to be called, no matter their age.

            1. Kal*

              I agree with all of this. It sounds like OP feels like its being overly familiar to call someone by the shortened name, but I would argue that deciding someone’s name for them instead of going by what they’ve indicated you should call them is a much more familiar action. Choosing names for someone is something parents do for their children, not something you do to your colleagues (or students, or anyone else).

    2. Aggretsuko*

      Just ask what they want to go by. Some people may answer to more than one thing and can be Rachel and Rach!

      I answer to all kinds of different versions of my name, I’m not picky. Ag, Retsuko, Retsy, whatever.

      1. Batty Twerp*

        Hi Aggretsuko,
        There are also some people who can be funny about the spelling of names and nicknames, and some who don’t make the connection between the orally delivered name and the written one (we’ve already had a refresh on the legend of Wakeen this week!).
        I work with two specific people, one who doesn’t put *anyone’s* name at the start of an email, using only “Hi,” every single time. And the other who *only* uses the person’s name at the start of an email, foregoing any kind of “Hi” at all (or addressing to “All” in the case of multiple recipients).
        Some people have learned certain etiquette and they will stick to it! I get that OP in this case is trying to learn the etiquette, and… I’m not sure there is one.
        My email signature actually has both Batty and Batilda, and I will answer to both. (Auto-generated company signature shows Batilda, where I sign off with “Thanks, Batty”. Generally, though, I do prefer to be at least moderately friendly before they call me Bats (next level shortening of the name). That’s probably the only real rule – don’t give someone a nickname they haven’t already used themselves.

        Batilda Twerp

      2. Presea*

        Yup, it’s good to ask. Some of us aren’t picky like Retsy up here, and some of us are! I have strong feelings about what nickname I use. (For the sake of privacy, I’m going to pretend my name is Penelope).

        Nel – Strongly preferred due to private gender reasons. I basically only ever go by Nel
        Penelope – It’s fine if we’re strangers, but the name feels unfamiliar. If we’re coworkers, I’d prefer you call me Nel!
        Penny or Nelly – I immediately, irrationally hate you if you call me these even though I completely get it. Please just stick with Nel!

        Penelope, but pronounced to rhyme with Antelope – doesn’t actually work with my real name, but I like you.

        1. Voodoo Priestess*

          This is perfect. My name is very feminine in the long form but gender neutral short. Like Alexandra/Alex. I have the long form in my email since I work in a male-dominated field and get misgendered in written communication with the short name. But my email signature is the short version and I only go by and introduce myself with the short name. I HATE the long form of my name and it seriously irks me when people (typically older, white cis het men) refuse to use the short name, even after I tell them “I only go by Alex.” I can’t tell you how many old men will “correct” me on my own name when I introduce myself. “Alex? You mean Alexandra.” And I feel the same when people shorten it other ways, like Lexi or Xandra. That is a level of familiarity strangers are not entitled to.

          Use the name people prefer. Full stop.

        2. Also Not Bob/Robert*

          I feel exactly the same way! It’s Bob, preferably; Robert if we’re strangers. I prefer Bob but will let Robert go, even among people I’ve worked with for years (it’s weird, but fine). I have even stopped correcting people who call me Roberto. Close enough. But it is NOT Rob, Bobby, or Robby.

    3. Esmeralda*

      1. They sign their name Mike, not Michael = that’s the name they call themselves. At work. In a work communication. If they wanted to be addressed as Michael, that’s how they’d sign it. Call people what they prefer.

      2. The email signature w full name may be required. I work at a public university where I do not have a choice about what it looks like.

    4. Jackalope*

      I personally get pretty annoyed with people I work with calling me my full name instead of my nickname. It’s one thing if they don’t know me and are emailing me from another office for something, but if we email more than once or twice and they’re not catching on that I’m using my nickname, I get kind of salty. I had a coworker once who refused to call me my nickname and it definitely impacted our relationship. I was still totally professional but not happy.

      1. Not Allison*

        I totally agree. I’ve made it clear enough that I go by “Ali” that when people go out of their way to call me “Allison,” it DOES feel chilly, regardless of the fact that it’s the name on my ID badge.

        1. Just Steph*

          I completely agree. I go by Steph always, my work email is Steph and I really dislike being called Stephanie. I don’t mind my full name, I just think it sounds formal and have preferred Steph since I was a child. I have a colleague who insists on calling me Stephanie and – despite the fact that she is mostly-nice and I am pretty laidback – it makes me pre-disposed to be a little annoyed by her.

          1. AnonInCanada*

            For me it would be tantamount to when your mother recited your full given name when she was about to scold you when you were a child. You learned to resent your full given name, and it’s haunted me ever since.

          2. Gumby*

            The only person who can get away with this is Ducky. (By which I mean Dr. Mallard. I always found it amusing that he uses everyone’s full name while going almost exclusively by a nickname. Somehow I don’t begrudge him that. But it takes a certain personality.)

      2. Hollywood Handshake*

        I feel the same. When people call me by my full name, it immediately signals to me that they don’t know me very well. If we have only worked together for a short time, that’s fine, but after a while of me signing my emails with my nickname and others on the email chain referring to me by my nickname, it feels weird and disconnected for someone to still refer to me by my full name.

      3. Brooklyn*

        Agreed. I also prefer my nickname and in fact went through a bit of self discovery to accept it,, since it sounds a bit childish. I do not use my full name except officially, nor do I use the “normal” nickname, which I went by at a different part of my life.

        You don’t know people’s journey. At work, you don’t ask. Just call them by the nickname. If it helps, think of it as a sign of respect rather than familiarity.

        1. Threeve*

          IME the more unusual variations on a name are often the most significant.

          If someone whose full name is Rebecca uses Beck rather than Becky, it can mean they deliberately chose something genderless and it’s very important to respect that.

      4. Delta Delta*

        I have a long name that can be shortened and it bothers me when someone uses a short form before we are friendly enough for that.

        1. EPLawyer*

          I have a long name that can be shortened. I prefer the long name at all times, except don’t mind being called by my initials. I HATE when I introduce myself by my long name and immediately get “Oh hey, (common nickname of my name).” Look, I just TOLD you my preferred name. If I went by the nickname I would use it. Don’t presume.

          My husband is the opposite. He is … rigid in this thinking. So if someone introduces themselves with a nickname he will call them by their full name. His justification is that’s their name. I keep telling him he doesn’t get to decide what someone wants to be called.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            He *assumes* it’s their name. I’ve known people who were legitimately named Billy, Sandy, etc. – it’s the name on their birth certificate. What would he do if someone said “Don’t call me William, my legal name is Billy?”

            1. The Original K.*

              Yeah, I can think of three people I know personally whose full, government, on-the-birth-certificate names are nicknames. They’ll introduce themselves and people say “Short for …?” and they’re like “Nope! It’s just Sandy.”

              1. Tupac Coachella*

                I know a Jerry who’s just Jerry, and he told me once that it’s almost comical how people’s heads explode when they ask his “real” name. They literally can’t process that it’s not short for anything and think he must be messing with them.

            2. Extroverted Bean Counter*

              Yep! I know a fair few people just like this. Luke (not Lucas), Kate (not Kathryn), Alex (not Alexander), Nate (not Nathan/iel), and Beth (not Elizabeth or Bethany – which would Mr. EPLawyer call them?).

              To call people by names other than what they give you is a folly. It’s both the most appropriate and easiest to just use what they tell you!

              1. Kit*

                Both a Danny and a Mike have married into my family, and they are very generous about folks using the wrong name. I’d quite like to see Mr. EPLawyer attempt this at our family get-togethers, where not only do we have those whose “nicknames” are their legal names, we have confusing nicknames too – Kate for Kathleen, and Katie for Katherine. (And we have both a Dan-for-Daniel and Danny, so really, we’re a minefield for would-be renamers.)

            3. Le Sigh*

              And making these assumptions can quickly veer into issues around gender identity, race, etc. Most of us don’t know how someone came to a name — sometimes those decisions are incredibly personal and intense. Which is why it’s important to just respect a person’s name preference.

            4. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

              He’s also assuming the nickname is for the most common/obvious longer version, e.g. that “Mike” is necessarily short for “Michael” and not “Mikhail.” Or it might be someone like my friend Mike, whose formal first name wasn’t Michael, it was John, and the M in his middle name didn’t stand for Michael.

              1. Cascadia*

                Yup to this! I have a buddy who goes by Dan, but his full name is Dhananjaya. If you assumed Daniel, you would be WAY off.

              2. Minerva*

                My Dan is a Dmitri. While I don’t think anyone should be required to “localize” their name, I know many who choose to for their own reasons.

              3. EchoGirl*

                I actually mentioned this in a recent thread, but I had a friend who went by a nickname that is usually associated with a different name (think someone named Jonathan going by Jake). If someone tried to call him by his “full” name that they extrapolated from the nickname (“Jacob”), they’d be calling him the wrong name entirely.

            5. Birdie*

              Yep! My mom has Strong Feelings about legally naming kids the name you intend to call them, so my brother has a name like “Dave.” Not David, not Davidson. Just Dave. And people who call him David despite having been introduced to him as Dave do get corrected. It’s just rude and presumptuous.

            6. Miss Bee*

              This happened to my mother growing up, her legal name is a possible short form of a longer name, and she had teachers who would incorrectly call her that longer name because it was more “proper”

          2. Le Sigh*

            I know you know this, but oooof, he’s gotta stop doing that. It’s so rude. Names are imbued with all kinds of meaning and history and to just assume you know better than the actual person who goes by that name is … rather dismissive. And sometimes not even accurate — my SIL’s name is Ally. That’s her full, legal name — not Allison or anything else, so calling her that would also be incorrect.

          3. Aquawoman*

            Your husband’s way has shades of the woman who was misgendering her co-worker on the argument that she was respecting his mother for having chosen that name.

            1. EPLawyer*

              Not that bad. He is not coming up with an excuse to express his views on transgender or anything like that. He is just a “this is the way things are done” kind of person. I mean about EVERYTHING. Not just names. He has refused to eat because the salad came out WITH the entree at a restaurant instead of before. Things like that. So the name thing is not from a bad place, its just very … rigid … thinking.

              I honestly think he is neuro divergent and it affects his ability to interact with others. Nobody ever bothered to teach him how to be human. So I am working on it. He’s a work in progress. but worht it. He is a good person who doesn’t hurt people. If he knew using a name was hurtful to someone he would BE MORTIFIED. but he doesn’t KNOW that instinctively because no one taught him.

              1. Le Sigh*

                I get all of that and appreciate what you’re saying. But even if he’s not trying to express views on trans people or on race, intent = impact — even if his intent is what you outlined, even if he he is a good person, people might feel that impact much differently. Refusing to respect someone’s name is also tied up issues around race and gender identity — so by refusing to use someone’s chosen name, the impact on the other person could be anything from not caring to mild irritation to feeling deadnamed or dehumanized. If he doesn’t want to hurt someone by using the wrong name, the assumption should be that it applies to everyone he encounters.

              2. Observer*

                I think that you’ve gotten enough information to help understand that this is actually likely to hurt people. Sometimes significantly.

                From what you say, I would focus on a couple things here. Firstly, there is simply no such thing as a lists of “real names”. Almost any set of sounds can be a name. And a lot of names are similar to / sound like a shortening of other names. That does not make them “not a name”. Secondly that people are the ones who know what their name actually is. And that insisting that you know someone’s name better than they do is rude. And that it really does actually hurt people.

                I know that YOU know this. But it sounds like he needs to have this explicitly explained to him.

          4. Not A Manager*

            @EPLawyer – There’s an area of philosophy that deals with proper names and how they are similar or different to common nouns. If your husband is a rigid thinker who tends toward logical analysis, he might enjoy a book called Naming And Necessity by Saul Kripke. And it might change his mind about the “that’s their name” argument. Or at least give him something to think about.

          5. Observer*

            So if someone introduces themselves with a nickname he will call them by their full name.

            If someone introduces themselves with a “nickname” how does he know what the actual fill name is? As many people have point out, “Dick” may have started out as Richard, “Bill” as William, “Sandy” as Sandra, etc. but there are actually people who ARE “Dick”, “Bill” and “Sandy” etc. as in THAT IS WHAT IS ON THEIR BIRTH CERTIFICATE AND OTHER LEGAL DOCUMENTS.

            Telling people you have just met what their ACTUAL name is, is not just “rigid” it’s rude.

        2. Loredena Frisealach*

          Yes, it’s confusing too! I had a coworker shorten my name – and he chose a nickname that literally only my siblings use, and then only when being really affectionate or nostalgic (as a toddler my sister couldn’t say my full name so used this diminutive). He called me on the phone once and I seriously thought it was my brother calling at first I was so confused.

          1. Humble Schoolmarm*

            I had a coworker whose teacher nickname (Ms+abbreviated form of last name) was the same as my childhood pet name. It threw me for a second every single time she was paged.

        3. DataSci*

          But do you then sign emails to those people with the short form?

          Inappropriate shortening is every bit as bad as refusal to use the short form. You use the name people want used. It’s really not hard.

          (And I’m especially touchy because this is directly adjacent to deadnaming trans people. Names matter.)

          1. nonbinary writer*

            Yup. Any time a person insists on calling others what THEY think the other person should be called, I’m immediately suspicious of their ability to respect trans people or really just their ability respect other people’s identities in general.

      5. SaeniaKite*

        I have to be on a register for my profession which takes the name from my official documents but I generally go by a shorter name. There is one woman who *insists* on using my full name (even going so far as to mock my shortened version, Kat, by meowing at me down the phone once). Needless to say she is not on my Christmas card list

          1. SaeniaKite*

            The first time I spoke to her she said ‘That can’t be your real name, what it is short for’. Honestly if she was a colleague we would have had a little chat by now but she is a patient so I have to be less direct. She also once told me to get my acne checked out because I’d struggle getting a husband. Woman has no boundaries

            1. quill*

              I’m yeeting her into a garbage can with the substitute teacher who insisted that my name could not be my “real” name.

        1. Arabella Flynn*

          I have a friend who happens to go by the nickname Cat. She studied in Japan for a semester when she was in college, where she discovered that was of the few English words EVERYONE knew. A lot of people checked whether they’d heard her introduction correctly by making a clawing gesture and asking, “Nyao?”

      6. quill*

        I have the opposite problem: a lot of names sound like my (very rare) first name so I spent most of my youth with people inventing “full” first names for me out of whole cloth.

        Let’s say my name was Mina: everyone would insist on calling me Williamina, Minnie, Minerva… Along with misspellings like Meena, Mynah, Mimi… It’s left me with strong feelings that I don’t care how “proper” you want to be about names, if it does not mean something offensive or peurile in your language you address people EXACTLY as they have introduced themselves.

        1. SaeniaKite*

          Yep I’ve had people insist that my nickname must be short for something and then start guessing. The fact that is is short for something is beside the point, use the name I gave you!

    5. lyonite*

      I think if your only interaction is over email, there’s more leeway here. If it’s someone you see every day and you’re calling them Demetrius when they go by Dem, that’s weird, but Michael/Mike in correspondence isn’t likely to upset anyone, it just makes it seem like you don’t know them well (which may be true).

      1. pleaset cheap rolls*

        Certainly there is leeway, but if you notice Allison signs here name Ali why would you use Ali. And BTW – you should notice unless you are super busy and don’t notice.

        It gets more complicated with titles and honorifics, but if just given names and nicknames are in use, pay attention and do it.

        1. londonedit*

          I agree. This has come up recently in my work – I’ve been emailing someone I’ve never had occasion to email before. Their email address is, say, elizabeth@, so I addressed my first email to ‘Elizabeth’, but when they replied they signed off as ‘Liz’. So I switched to ‘Liz’ for my subsequent replies, because that’s clearly the name they’ve chosen to use in their interactions with me. It doesn’t take much and it’s just a little mark of respect; it shows you’ve paid attention and you’re addressing them in the way they’d like to be addressed.

          1. Anononon*

            Yup! I have a client who’s email has one name, that I used for a bit. I was completely embarrassed when I realized that his email signature had a completely different name! From LinkedIn, I was able to infer that his signature was his middle name. It felt a bit weird to be calling someone something totally different from his email address at the top, but that was my weird hang up to get over.

    6. albe*

      Nah. you go by what they’ve signed their name as. I have a short name that sounds like other people’s nicknames. It is my legal name. If I sign off as ‘Al’, you can’t go and ad in every name you think it might be short for until you find the right one. I’m not bloody Rumpelstiltskin.

      They’ve made it clear how they wish to be addressed in work contexts and up to you to respect that.

      1. Couldn't Afford the Extra Letters*

        Was coming here to say the same thing – my legal, birth certificate name is a common shortening of a longer name, (Think Tim/Timothy) – to the extent I’ve had long term friends and acquaintances ask if the longer name is my actual name and I just go by the nickname. (Have had to get my drivers license out on more than one occasion to prove it!)

        I would be fuming if someone assumed I was using a nickname, disregarded my wishes and called me what they wanted.

        1. roisin54*

          I’ve got the same issue, I had a teacher in high school who insisted on calling me the long version of the name despite it not actually being my name. Fortunately this seems to be a more common thing these days so I rarely ever have anyone call me the long name. The unusual spelling of my name on the other hand, that’s still hit or miss.

      2. Chauncy Gardener*

        “I’m not bloody Rumpelstiltskin”
        Oh, that was SO awesome!! Thank you for that first thing in the morning!!!

      3. Jennifer Strange*

        My FIL is the same! His legal name sounds like it’s short for a longer name, but it’s not. He’s just “Sam”, not “Samuel”.

    7. Miri B*

      It strictly depends on the person and their situation, which is why it’s always safest to defer to what the person tells you.

      My office transitioned email systems and suddenly my full legal name was in my email, and I suddenly DIDN’T RECOGNIZE IT ANYMORE. Even though it’s only two letters different, it’s two letters I DELIBERATELY dropped to signal a change from a much worse time in my life, when I was a person I like a lot less, so seeing it is always a shock, and unpleasant. And that’s without there being something even more sensitive, like a gender identity transition, in the mix.

      Insisting on calling someone something they didn’t tell you is at best neutral and at worst disrespectful or even traumatic, so it doesn’t seem like it would be worth the risk.

      1. wmxp*

        Yes! I also go by a shortened version of my name (because it’s one with gendered endings) and I’ve been doing it so long that when people use the full name I’m like “who?”. I haven’t changed it legally, and don’t plan to, because I’m okay encountering it in those contexts. I don’t think work is one of those contexts I should have to get a legal name change for.

      2. Allypopx*

        My new job put my full first name on my email/Teams/everything and for some reason it’s taking WEEKS of working with IT to get it changed (they changed it! It’s just still showing up wrong). I hate it and I’m actively implementing measures to make sure we get preferred names from employees moving forward. People I haven’t spent a lot of time with are referring to me by FullName because that’s what they see in writing – and that’s not their fault, they’re still getting to know me, and if they tag me in Teams or whatever that’s what shows up. Full drama intended, it’s ruining my life and I hate it.

    8. PollyQ*

      I don’t think there’s any functional difference between signing your name “Rach” in an email and saying “Please call me Rach” in a discussion, so I believe that overriding that strong signal by using their full name isn’t just chilly, it’s rude. I’ll never understand why it’s so hard to just call people what they want to be called.

      1. Miri B*

        Honestly, this. I was trying to be really fair in my comment, but what I’m really thinking is “what makes you the arbiter of what someone else’s ‘real’ name is?”

      2. Allonge*

        Yes, if there is a difference it’s quite small (like on a scale of 1-10, tellling you in person is a 10 and signing an email may be a 9 signal strength). The only difference I see is if someone feels strongly about what they want to be called, they do need to say something at least once if the signature does not work (people miss things a lot). After that though, it’s really rude to override their wishes.

      3. EventPlannerGal*

        Yes, I agree. Props to the OP for asking, but just… call people by the name they are indicating they want to be called. Common sense will tell you that they might be more formal than they actually prefer on things like documents and emails to clients; the name they’re using in conversations with you is the most relevant. Don’t be like “oh but that’s not their REAL name.” How rude.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Yes, and the formality thing is very relevant to things like email signatures. If someone’s full name is in their auto signature, but they write the nickname above it in the body of the message, that was a deliberate choice to tell you to use the nickname.

      4. Seeking Second Childhood*

        And it in question, ask.
        We have someone who went by $FullName, but it turns out that was only to avoid confusion with a senior manager who $Nickname. His email signature changed the same week the other guy retired.

      5. doreen*

        I think part of the issue for the LW is that they aren’t distinguishing between a nickname that is unrelated to a person’s name and a diminutive form of a name. If “Michael” is signing his emails “Mike” or “Rebecca” signs hers “Becky” , they are telling you what they want to be called. There are some people who only want to be called” James” and never “Jim” or “Jimmy” – but those people sign their names “James”. On the other hand, I have an acquaintance named “Marc” who is almost universally known as “Bucky” . If I had to email him in a professional context, I probably wouldn’t start with “Hi, Bucky” even is he signed it that way.

        1. Minerva*

          But maybe Marc doesn’t like the English pronunciation of his name, or he’s a Jr with complicated family feelings.

    9. Jerry Larry Terry Gary*

      I suspect there may be some bias in the type of nickname- like it’s perceived as too informal, young or familiar. Like accepting that Elizabeth goes by “Beth” but not using “Lizzie”. Or calling someone “Tom” who signs their emails as “Tommy”.
      I suggest calling people the name they use for themselves. If they aren’t consistent, respond with what they signed off with in the email chain and use the name you prefer when starting a new thread.
      Probably reading their full name in their signature is overwriting their salutation in your head. Ignore that impluse.

      1. too young to die, too old to eat off the kids' menu*

        Hang on, what’s wrong with Lizzie? I know Lizzies in a variety of ages and it’s never struck me as a ‘young’ name?

        Tommy I can understand a bit more (but I was a kid during the golden age of Rugrats, so my default Tommy is an actual infant), though it still shouldn’t matter. If a grown human wants to be called Tommy, then Tommy they are.

        (I know I’m repeating your point here. The Lizzie example just gave me pause)

        1. Anononon*

          I think, for a lot of people, any nickname that ends in the “ie/y” sound sounds a bit childish or like it’s a diminutive. (Says someone who’s nickname ends in a -y.)

          1. banoffee pie*

            I don’t know about that, I know a 58 year old Danny. I don’t think that’s as much of a thing in the UK maybe? I go by a -y name with everyone, even in formal situations. (It’s like Katy but not that)

            1. Simply the best*

              I think it’s not at all uncommon to have a kid who’s known as Tommy or Joey or Mikey, who then as they become a teenager and young adult start going by Tom or Joe or Mike. Still not Thomas or Joseph or Michael, but they’ve grown out of the Y. That Y sound is added to so many things to turn them into little kid words (think potty, kitty, doggie) which I think is where that feeling comes from.

              And it very well may be a UK versus US thing. I’m from the US but I watch a lot of British shows and come across a lot of British terms that to me sound inherently childish as opposed to their US counterpart because they have that IE/Y sound in them. Fizzy drink versus soda, for example. Or squirty cream vs canned whipped cream.

              1. banoffee pie*

                I’ve lived in the UK all my life and I’ve never heard the phrase squirty cream…maybe I run in the wrong circles!

              2. Caboose*

                Yeah, -ie and -y are suffixes used to make a word diminutive in English. Humorously, in German, one of the suffixes used for this is -chen, and native German speakers sometimes find it funny that people are named “Gretchen” by English-speaking parents, since that’s just “Greta” with the diminutive suffix popped on.

      2. Pwyll*

        I had this exact conversation with my boss once. We had an intern that went by ‘Tommy’. My boss wanted me to coach him that he should use Tom or Thomas. I pushed back as long as I could, then had a chat with the intern that basically said “In more traditional environments people may stigmatize you as being young or inexperienced by using Tommy, but if Tommy is your name then Tommy is your name, you should just be aware of the potential for bias.” He said Thomas was his grandpa and Tom was his dad, he preferred Tommy, and despite it driving my boss up the wall, at work he was Tommy.

    10. MistOrMister*

      I think it’s rude to go against what someone is putting in their emails to you. I have a Rach/Rachel coworker. Yes, her full name is Rachel. No, she does not want you calling her Rachel, ever. She introduces herself as Rach and signs every email as Rach. And it irks her to no end when people continue calling her Rachel. I don’t blame her. If someone is letting you know what name they want used, it’s rude to call them by their full name because you want to be formal. You’re now making the person uncomfortable and going against their preferred name….for what reason exactly?

      1. Forrest*

        I don’t think it’s the case that everyone has one single preferred name, though! My best friend Rachel and an ex-colleague Rachael go by both, and introduce themselves as Rach(a)el but are sometimes/often Rach to friends and closer colleagues. Same with Holly who sometimes goes by Holl, Debbie who answers to Deb and Debs as well, Tasha who is Tash to the people she works with regularly and so on.

        There are plenty of “My name is Sam, it’s weird that you’re calling me Samantha” people, but there are also plenty of “Sam or Samantha is fine” people or people who are nearly always Samantha at work and where Sam seems a bit weird and over familiar. I don’t really see the problem with saying, “oh by the way, do you usually go by Rach or Rachel?” rather than assuming one way or the other.

          1. sunglass*


            It would also be kind of rude if this person signed off with “best wishes, Rachel” and then the LW replied with “Dear Rach”. Just go with the name people use to sign off!

          2. Forrest*

            I meant, why assume that they ONLY go by that name and only want to be called by that name rather than asking. Like I said, I’ve plenty of colleagues who go by more than one name and might use their abbreviated version in email the same way they’d use contractions, but that doesn’t mean they’d be unhappy to be called the longer version (or that they necessarily want to be called the shorter version. It just makes more sense to me to ask them if you’re not sure rather than assume there’s a fixed rule that holds for everyone.

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              I think it would be easier to simply assume that they want to go by the name they signed their email with rather than try to guess if they’re also okay to go by the longer name? Maybe they’re fine with Rachael too, but if they’re signing off as Rach use that unless they’ve told you otherwise.

                1. Forrest*

                  Because in my experience, “I sign emails with X so that means I prefer to be called X” isn’t universal. It seems to be the dominant position here but there are several comments to the contrary. So if there’s more than one name in use, I just think it’s better to err on the polite side and ask if they have a preference!

            2. Jessica, but but but*

              It certainly makes sense to ask if its someone you are closer to, but I think the reason for the heavy push back is that it’s honestly just easier to use the name someone signs in their signature. For larger workplaces, utilizing the most generically polite and appropriate approach for the bulk of your coworkers is going to help establish more professional boundaries than taking the time to have a conversation with everyone.

              I go by Jessica but others often choose my initials (vaguely amused by), Jess (not bothered by), and Jessie (irked by). At work, I correct neither but it does impact how I feel about you. If someone asks, I’m happy to share all that – but it seems like a lot to remember. Especially when you can look at every email I ever send, and it will just say Jessica.

              1. Elsajeni*

                To me, as someone who does go by a nickname, it’s also partly that checking “Do you prefer Liz or Elizabeth?” after I’ve signed my name as Liz in every interaction we’ve had can imply some sort of disapproval of my name, or of nicknames in general, or a kind of weird condescension about it. It feels related to the (rude!) thing discussed upthread where some people insist on calling people by their “full names” (or what they assume are their full names) because nicknames are “too informal”. It might be more reasonable to ask when someone isn’t consistent — if sometimes you get an email signed “Best, Rach” and sometimes “Regards, Rachel” or whatever — but in general, when someone gives you a name to use for them, it’s okay to just use that name!

                1. Forrest*

                  This is a situation where the Rach/Rachel and Mike/Michael have their full names in their email signatures, though! If you’re Liz everywhere, I can see it would be weird to have people asking if you’re Liz or Elizabeth. But if your email has both Liz as a sign-off and Elizabeth in the signature, would you really find it condescending for someone to check if you have a preference?

                2. Simply the best*

                  @Forrest would you really find that confusing and need to clear it up? Because someone writing:


                  Michael Smith
                  My Company
                  My Title
                  My Contact Info”

                  Seems pretty clear to me. Mike is the name he has provided as part of the conversation. So…that’s the name you should call him.

                3. Forrest*

                  I have in fact asked my colleague Mike-in-his-sign-off and Michael-in-his-signature which he preferred and he said either is fine.

                  It’s just not my experience that when someone has a longer name in their signature and uses a shorter name in their sign-off that that universally means “I prefer you to use my short name” and I find the insistence that that’s a universal rule to the point that it would be bad etiquette to ask which someone prefers really weird!

                4. Aitch Arr*

                  @Forrest –

                  I think of it this way: back in the Old Days when people would send actual letters, the return address on the envelope might start “Mrs. Aitch Arr” or even “Mrs. Humperdinck Arr”* but I’d sign the letter inside “Aitch” or “Ai”.

                  The name used on the envelope is the sig file or the email address; the name used when signing the letter is the name I’d use in my email salutation.

                  * – Mr. Arr’s first name is not, in fact, Humperdinck.

        1. Willis*

          This! I am a “Will or Willis” is perfectly and equally acceptable to me person. And a lot of people use them interchangeably. I also think OP can just ask the person if they have a preference if the OP isn’t sure. It sounds like the OP is really cognizant of the fact that people have preferences on names and when someone in the office uses something consistently that’s what she uses as well…but then there are a couple people who use multiple versions of their name. If they sign off with the nickname, it seems fine to use, but if the OP feels awkward about it, it seems perfectly fine to ask their preference.

        2. Humble Schoolmarm*

          Yes and no. I’m one of those people who isn’t picky about nicknames and am fine with a variety in my social life (think Ashley, Ash and Ashes), but when I’m dealing with parents I always sign off as Ashley (or possibly A. Schoolmarm if the parent needs some boundaries). If a parent were to write Dear Ash, it would be weird, even if I’m perfectly happy to be called Ash by friends, family, or people that I’ve worked with for a while.
          I think going with the person’s sign-off if your best bet. Asking is polite, but I feel like it puts some pressure on me to decide whether this relationship is strictly professional (Ashley) or more friendly (Ash is fine, but it doesn’t really matter).

          1. Aitch Arr*

            I had to read your comment twice before I realized that you would not, in fact, sign off an email to your mother or father as A. Schoolmarm. *sigh*

      2. Julia*

        I think part of the problem the parent commenter is experiencing is… have you ever heard of someone who literally wants to go by Rach at work? I never have. Rach just seems like the kind of thing I’d breezily call a coworker I knew really well, but never drop into an email with an acquaintance, because I can’t imagine anyone actually going by Rach. I’m sure that is my failure of imagination, and I don’t mean to pick and choose which nicknames are legitimate; it just strikes me as an odd example.

        1. Julia*

          Forrest said this better than I – I’ve never known any “full-time Rachs”, just Rachs who were okay being called that by friends in familiar settings. Like how I call my friend whose last name is Bielen “Biel”.

        2. londonedit*

          Maybe not specifically ‘Rach’, but I absolutely have encountered people at work whose names were along the same lines. Yes, it sounds like a more ‘informal’ sort of nickname, but I’ve worked with people called Meggie, Jonny, Mags, AJ…that’s what’s in their email signatures and everything. If someone prefers Rach to Rachel, and that’s how they choose to sign off their emails, then who are we to decide we’re not going to call them by their preferred name?

          1. Julia*

            Meggie, Jonny, Mags and AJ all sound more common to me than Rach. My comment was specifically about Rach.

            1. londonedit*

              It doesn’t matter if Rach’s name is Rach or Liz or Tabitha or Princess Consuela Bananahammock, if Rach wants to be called Rach then that’s what people should call her. It doesn’t matter whether anyone thinks it’s ‘more of a name you’d call a friend than an acquaintance’, it’s her name.

            2. Elsajeni*

              I agree with londonedit — an unusual nickname is still the name someone wants to use, no different from if they had an unusual first name and wanted to use it (I’m thinking of an old letter from someone named “King” who ran into problems with people feeling weird about calling him that). Either way, though, I don’t think it’s worth getting in the weeds about “but this specific nickname would be weird in the office” — since people generally anonymize their letters, it’s very likely that Rach/Rachel is just a placeholder, not a real example of a nickname being used in the OP’s office.

        3. Jennifer Strange*

          If someone didn’t want to go by a certain nickname at work, they wouldn’t sign their emails by that name. Just because it’s odd doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still honor it.

        4. After 33 years ...*

          I would … my formal first-name has 6 letters, but my name that I’d like to be called, and that appears on my e-mail signature and all documents I sign, has 4. I thought about getting my first-name legally changed from 6 to 4 letters, but realized that would not stop some misidentifications.

        5. Spreadsheets and Books*

          I’m with you and I’m not sure if I can explain why. And my name actually is Rachel.

          Rach isn’t a particularly pleasant-sounding name IMO (but neither is Rachel, also IMO… I’ve never liked my name). I have no problem at all being called Rach, but I’d never introduce myself that way. I could *maybe* see signing off on a particularly casual email that way, but not often. Sooner or later, most friends and coworkers end up using it in passing, but it’s not a trend I’d start for myself. If I sent an email signed Rach and got a “Hi Rachel” back, I wouldn’t think anything of it.

          An Elizabeth wants to be called Liz or Beth? Cool. Joseph wants to be Joe? Understandable. Mike instead of Michael? Yup. I just don’t see Rachel and Rach on the same page. I’m sure there are some people who want to be called Rach but I’ve never met one (and I know a whole lot of Rachels… the late 80s was a big time for that name).

          1. theerdbird*

            Ha! Another Rachael checking in! Are you me? (spelling differences notwithstanding)

            I completely agree with Spreadsheets – Rach isn’t necessarily a common nickname that people reach for and is really jarring to hear from people who I’m not close to. Rach or Rachie is mostly used by family (and friends who have gotten there on their own) and I’m fine with it, but Rachael is definitely my preferred name for casual use.

            (I mostly sign my emails with Rachael or just R after a few interactions).

        6. Jessica, but but but*

          I think the real risk with taking your own comfort level with a nickname, particularly when it it’s not offensive nor wildly whimsical (aka Princess BananaHammock) it puts a lot of our own authority and opinion over what is normal. And I don’t think this is ever a positive in the workplace.

          I’ve never seen the nickname of Sica for Jessica….but is that truly unlearnable? Particularly in a time when people are seeking more gender neutral names or nicknames, this just doesn’t seem like the strongest line to hold.

        7. ThatGirl*

          Not specifically Rach, but I worked with a Melissa who went by Missy full time; it took me months to realize her full name *was* actually Melissa because nobody called her that.

        8. Observer*

          I think part of the problem the parent commenter is experiencing is… have you ever heard of someone who literally wants to go by Rach at work? I never have.

          But what does that have to do with anything? “I’ve never seen this so it cannot be real or proper” is not a reasonable stance.

          The OP is saying that this is what someone is signing off with. If that’s an actual example, then THAT’S WHAT YOU USE. You don’t get to decide that it is not legitimate because you’ve never seen it before. If I knew that a coworker was refusing to use my name (or nickname) because you have never heard of someone going by that name, I’d have a very hard time working with them. That’s extraordinarily disrespectful.

          1. Simply the best*

            Yeah this really got into sandwiches territory because people got stuck on one example.

            If you can’t get on board with Rachel as the example, replace that with Michael or Daniel or Margaret or Rebecca or the literally thousands of other names that have a common diminutive. My God.

    11. Forrest*

      I think this depends so much on the individual, and the name! I don’t think I’ve ever known any full-time Rachs, but I also know hardly any interchangeable Mike/Michaels. I’ve had a colleague who went by Rach and Rachael about equally– she’d always introduce herself as Rachael, would often sign Rach in emails to colleagues she worked with regularly, would happily be called either. Mike is definitely Mike, and if you called him Michael it would sound like you were trying to be his mum. I often sign quick emails to colleagues with F., but nobody would call me that. I just don’t think there’s a hard and fast rule here!

      1. Loredena Frisealach*

        My spouse is a Mike, my cousin a Mike, several friends… and a manager is Michael. Once I referred to him while talking as Mike and got a double take from coworkers he’s so firm on it! Fortunately I never made that mistake with him.

    12. Super Admin*

      I think it’s important to point out these aren’t ‘nicknames’ in the sense that they’re joke names, or childish names, or fun-between-friends names. These are simply short versions of a person’s name, and likely the name they prefer to go by. If I’m formally an Elizabeth, but I have always gone by Beth, I would be really cheesed if someone insisted on calling me my full name.

      Heck, some people give their children names based on the shortened version they would prefer them to be called! (…I have a friend of a friend who named their child Albert only because they wanted him to be a Bertie – this is an extreme example.)

      1. Asenath*

        That practice (naming a child Albert but we’re going to call him Bertie) was actually extremely common when I was growing up. I think the idea was that the child would have an adult formal name for documents and formal situations, and would probably revert to that as an adult. Meanwhile, the formal name was a bit much for an infant or small child, so a nickname would be used and parents would often announce which nickname they preferred (Bertie instead of Al). Of course, eventually some of these children would continue to use their nickname as adults, but most wouldn’t. In my family, we had one reverted to a less “childish” nickname as she grew up, another picked up a nickname completely unlike the legal name, which everyone except relations and childhood friends use, and a third had a constant battle through childhood to get new people to NOT use a nickname since the full name which was preferred was, apparently, too long for a child in some people’s opinion. The safe thing to do if to find out what the person likes, and use it – and that’s done by using the nickname the writer puts at the end of the mail.

      2. Tisiphone*

        When I was a kid, I knew a Jack. For some reason his parents weren’t allowed to name him Jack, so they made the birth certificate name John and called him Jack. As far as he is concerned, his name is Jack and not John.

        1. Emma Woodhouse*

          I don’t think I know any Jack who isn’t a John (I’m in my late 20s for reference) but I do think it’s becoming more common for parents to skip the formal name and just go with the nickname. I have a long name but go by the common nickname and everyone I know up until the age of 16 or 17 also had the long till name/nickname – I ended up babysitting for a girl whose legal name was my nickname.

          Off topic but always hard to assume someone’s full/legal name from a nickname because for all you know their nickname is their legal name!

          1. londonedit*

            There are tons of Jacks in the UK who aren’t John – it’s been an incredibly common and popular name for baby boys for years now. I don’t think many people would even realise at this point that Jack was originally a nickname for John – it’s completely a name in its own right now.

            1. too young to die, too old to eat off the kids' menu*

              To my knowledge, I’ve never met a John Jack in the wild. I’d considered that nickname a bit outdated, but I’m a bit older than you, so who knows.

              I do know A LOT of Jacks, though, both male and female. I’d say about 75%, it’s their full legal name. The others are a fun mix of Jackson, Jacqueline/Jaclyn, Jacoby, and one probably ill-advised Jackal.

            2. banoffee pie*

              yep you’re right londonedit. it’s always near the top of the baby name popularity lists as a name in its own right in the UK. I can think of one kid called Jack just off the top of my head (definitely not formally named John)

          2. Oryx*

            I know a Jack who was really a St. John. (He was in his late 20s/early 30s. I think it was a family name)

      3. Hard First Name :)*

        This right here! My parents gave me a long difficult to pronounce first name, with the idea that I could go with the shortened version. (Jessamine – pronounced like specimen with a j) but I’ve gone by Jessa my entire life. It’s very off putting when people use my full first name, one because I’ve never had a single person pronounce it correctly and two because my parents used it when I was in trouble as a child. It also really bothers me when people can’t even get my nickname correct, I get all the variations (Jess, Jesse, Jessica, Jasmine).

        I did the same with my daughter. Her name is Jocelyn Lucille and she goes by JociLu or Joci. Completely her choice, I think all her names are beautiful.

      4. banoffee pie*

        If people go by Liz. they’re unlikely to even look up if someone shouts Beth. It sounds like a totally different name

    13. Roscoe*

      I disagree.

      At my job, we have a Mike, a John, and a Jess. Their full names are Michael, Jonathan, and Jessica. If they introduce themselves as those things, and go by those things, it seems absurd to not call them that. Its like your parents yelling. at you and using your full name when they never do.

    14. Ya Girl*

      My mother’s legal name is traditionally a nickname. She HATES when someone calls her “Elizabeth” instead of “Lizzie” because that’s not her name! It has caused major headaches when service people create accounts under the “full name” that isn’t her legal name. Just call people what they want to be called.

    15. SheLooksFamiliar*

      ‘I really don’t think it’s “chilly” to call someone by their full name even if they’ve signed off as Rach on an email. It’s still their name! ‘

      Well, it kind of is chilly. If someone signs off as Rach, that’s how they prefer to be known. They don’t have to formally announce, ‘I am to be called Rach forever more,’ they told you their name when they signed off as ‘Rach.’ Referring to them as ‘Rachel’ ignores their preference; Miss Manners herself says we should call people by the name they use, not the one we think they should.

      If someone signs their email with a shortened version of their given name, I’m going with the sign-off version until and unless they tell me otherwise.

    16. cubone*

      I felt a little guilty reading this letter because I have a long first name and long last name and over the years, my initials have been used as a nickname (which I like! People still use my first name, but it’s a familiar or quicker way of acknowledging me).
      We have full name email signatures but people tend to resign their first name above it so I usually just do my initials….. now I wonder how many people have been hemming and hawing if they’re supposed to call me by my name or my initials.

    17. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

      I agree, but recognize I’m in the minority. Signed — a Sally you better not call “Sal”

      1. LTL*

        I don’t think you’re in the minority. People are advocating for taking their signals from the person in question. If you sign your emails with Sally and only refer to yourself as Sally, I’m not going to call you Sal.

      2. Jennifer Strange*

        Are you signing your emails as “Sal”? If not, then that’s not an apt comparison to this situation.

      3. Two Dog Night*

        But if you don’t want to be called “Sal”, you wouldn’t sign an email “Sal”, right?

    18. Oxford Comma*

      If someone signs their name as oh, I dunno, “Beth,” they’re telling you that’s the name they prefer to use. Not Elizabeth, not Liz, or Betsy, or anything else. That’s how they’re identifying. I strongly feel we should respect that.

    19. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Except that my full legal name is not the name I go by. If you call me by my full name, I will politely correct you, once. After that, you’re screwing up and being disrespectful, and I WILL tell you, firmly, not to call me that and if you continue I will take it to your boss and to HR if necessary.

    20. A Library Person*

      It definitely comes off as weird, and potentially a little offensive. I’m lucky enough to work with an email/id system that allows me to use a preferred name (a nickname that is common for two prominent US names) and yet people will still extrapolate out the full name. I have no idea where they’re getting it from (lucky guess?) and it feels really intrusive that they would either make this assumption about me or dig deeply enough that they find a name I have never used professionally and haven’t used socially (with the exception of >10 close family members) since I was a kid in the late 1990s!

      We have interacted before! You know my name! The easiest public information to find on my is my name! My email return address is my name! Why would you use something else?!

    21. secret commenter*

      It is weird, a little chilly, and to me, a sign that you aren’t respecting what I want to be called. It’s MY name. It’s not about YOUR comfort. I have a very long, feminine name, and I go by a very common androgynous nickname for my full name. I notice when people switch to the nickname I prefer, and I am so much more comfortable talking to those people and hearing myself be addressed the way I want to be addressed. Plenty of people still call me by my full name at work, and I’ve gotten used to it, but I don’t really like it. I feel awkward and distant when people don’t use my nickname, that I introduce myself as, and that I use it in email.

    22. Yorick*

      I overheard an older man talking to my coworker Jen. He insisted on calling her Jennifer, making a little speech about using people’s real names. I thought it was so patronizing. If she introduces herself as Jen, call her Jen!

      Sure, if someone uses a really silly sounding nickname and you feel weird about it, then use their full first name. But if someone goes by Mike, don’t call them Michael. Maybe they hate the sound of Michael.

    23. But that's not my name*

      A person would also have to make sure that they know what the actual legal name of someone was. Some Mikes might be Mikhail, not Michael for example.

      I go by Kathy at work. It’s on my badge, it’s in my email that way ( Every so often someone decides to try to be formal and call me Katherine. Nope. Don’t know who that is, since that’s not my legal name.

      If someone gives you the gift of putting what they want to be called in their signature, use it.

    24. LTL*

      As a general rule, you should take your cues from other people. If they signed their email with a nickname and that email was sent to you, it signals that they go by the nickname. If you don’t know, ask what they prefer.

      Call people what they want to be called. I’ve heard a lot of people who have to deal with people shortening or lengthening their name for their own comfort (i.e. “I’m Dominic” “Hey Dom, can you hand me that report?” “My name is Rach.” “Nice to meet you Rachel”). They don’t like it but they just learned to live with it because there’s literally no way to stop others from doing it. But just… don’t do it.

    25. Database Developer Dude*

      No. What someone chooses to go by is what they choose to go by. You call people what they want to be called. I sign my emails “J.D.” You call me Jay you’re going to get side eye. This is about controlling the narrative of someone else’s name. What gives a person the right to do that?

    26. Glitsy Gus*

      Eh, I try really hard to call people they way they sign off, since that’s clearly how they want to be addressed. If I don’t know for sure I’ll use their legal name, but as soon as they use something else in the sign off or some other interation, I’ll switch to that.

      I’m in that boat where my legal name is GlitsyGustav, and my company has made that my sign on, email address, Teams name, etc. because that is the company protocol. No one in the entire world other than the IRS has ever addressed me as GlitsyGustav. It has always been Gus with everyone, even the grandmother I’m named after. That is, until now. I really do not like being called Gustav; it’s not my name, Gus is my name. But so many of my coworkers COMPLETELY IGNORE the fact that I have signed every single email, slack chat, interoffice memo, work birthday card, and bathroom graffito for the last 9 years with GlitsyGus and insist on starting emails with, “Hi GlitsyGustav” and it drives me BONKERS.

    27. ObserverCN*

      My full first name is on my email account at work, and I can’t change it. So I put “Full First Name (Nickname) Last Name” in my email signature. Most co-workers call me by my nickname, but a few call me by my full name, which doesn’t bother me that much. What does bother me is when people shorten my nickname even more.

    28. Mrs Nesbitt*

      This whole preferred name “argument” is why I have no hope that the preferred pronouns will every take off. I’ve been fighting people my whole life to use the only name I’ve EVER been called simply because my parents believed that we had to have “real names” even though they fully intended to call us shortened names from the start. It really makes me angry when someone changes my name back to my full name even when I’ve signed off as my preferred name simply because my email address was required to be my full name. Doubly so if we’ve been introduced and you know I use a shortened name. It’s rude and disrespectful to change someone’s chosen name for your ease/ comfort/ laziness.

    29. anon for this*


      The nickname thing is so much harder than it appears. I’m in a company of 3000 and OF COURSE I am going to use the name in their email address. Some of them act really offended i.e. “NOBODY refers to me as Thomas, only my mother does, call me Tom!” It’s like geez. Seriously? You expect me to memorize how all 3000 of you want to be addressed? Can you get your email address changed then?!

      1. anon for this*

        I agree the sign off thing does help but if people don’t do that….. it’s very hard.

      2. Glitsy Gus*

        So, you get an email from Thomas Butcher that goes: Hey, I was told to ask you about where to find the Spencer File. Thanks! Tom”
        Then you reply: “Hello Thomas, The Spencer file is in the Client folder on C: Drive.”

        Because that’s the thing that pisses me right off. My preferred name is RIGHT THERE! WHERE I WROTE IT! I don’t care if you have 300,000 coworkers, you can read what is right in front of you. Sure, if we’ve never met and you’re starting the conversation you’ll use the formal name, that’s expected, but not once you have direct evidence on the page you are reading that you should call that person something else.

        1. anon for this*

          No, I specifically said the person DOES NOT SIGN OFF with their preferred name. They just tell me after the fact.

          Not sure how you misinterpreted my post to mean the complete opposite of what I typed.

    30. allecto*

      I have a couple of friends who are always known by a shorter version of their names and they have said that getting called by the full version makes them feel like they are kids in trouble (I guess because teachers and parents would go to the full version when they were being serious). So it’s possible that insisting on addressing Rach as Rachel is making her feel like she hasn’t done her homework and is being told off. She might be way more comfortable if you follow her lead.

    31. Database Developer Dude*

      Seriously, Miss M… if I sign off all my emails as J.D., and you insist on calling me Jay, you need not be surprised when I stop voluntarily talking to you. That’s a really clueless take you have there….

    32. Lastname*

      Always use someone’s preferred name. It’s a matter of basic respect. The choices we make in a directory are often determined by the way we want to represent ourselves and our companies to strangers, and don’t necessarily reflect what we want to be called by people we know.

      Professional reputation and identity are important to consider too. I have a very common first name, and it’s rare that I’m the only person with that name in a group. It gets so confusing that a few years ago I decided to go exclusively by my last name (no ms., just Lastname). This is actually helpful in my industry – it’s much easier to build a name and reputation for myself with a unique name.

      It gets tedious to constantly explain my name to people who don’t understand that I just want to be called Lastname. It’s much too complicated to explain in an email signature, so I really appreciate when people get the hint from my signature. I do warn people that I might not respond if they try using my first name, because I usually think they’re talking to someone else. I don’t hold it against anyone if they use the wrong name on occasion, especially if they meet me before I switched my name, but it’s become uncomfortable for me if they do. My first name is used only by close loved ones.

      Use the names people ask you to use. An email signature IS an ask that you use that name.

  4. nnn*

    For #1, if you haven’t considered this already: rather than quit your job right away, see if your employer would be willing to grant you an unpaid leave of absence (6 months? 1 year?).

    Whether this is possible depends greatly on industry and employer. But if it is an option, then you can take time to recover your health and explore other job leads, but still come back to your current job at the end if it doesn’t pan out.

    And, since you’re on leave, you could probably rightfully present it without looking like a resume gap (unless you run into that guy from a few days ago who thought the letter-writer was lying by saying they were employed while on maternity leave)

      1. work sucks*

        This. I had a friend who took FMLA because work was so stressful it was harming her health. Since you have $$ you could put the FMLA pay into savings or treat yourself to a trip/health related spending. Try this option OP.

        1. Anon this time*

          FMLA is unpaid, it just holds your job and benefits for up to 12 weeks. I wish more people realized this: so many healthy people don’t know just how poor the safety net is (even FMLA is not available to everyone).

          Short term or long term disability insurance, if you are lucky enough to have it, will pay part of your salary but rarely covers mental health.

          1. Can't Sit Still*

            There are states with short term disability that pay out during (some) FMLA, but you’d want to confirm that your state is one of them first!

            I have intermittent FMLA, and don’t get paid for it beyond my 6 days of sick leave, which isn’t nearly enough. I worked out a deal with my previous manager that I would try to take vacation days before I thought I would need to be out, but really, if I knew when I would need to be out…I wouldn’t need intermittent leave.

      2. Sparkles McFadden*

        That’s not how FMLA works. FMLA leave is unpaid and is of limited duration. FMLA just means you’re supposed to have a job to go back to after 12 weeks.

        Some companies have related coverage of limited time that IS paid (not often at full salary). In any case, the application process can be pretty strict and “burnt out from work” wouldn’t cut it.

    1. AnonInCanada*

      My reckoning is that OP #1 really doesn’t want to go back to this employer, citing the 12-14 hour days as the reason. My guess is she’s looking for a better work-life balance, and needs a break before embarking on a new job in her industry.

      I believe taking six months won’t harm her chances on finding another job. If the gap comes up in an interview, she can (rightfully) say “I needed to take time off for a health related matter which I have since overcome.”

    2. I'm just here for the cats*

      Even if that was how FMLA worked (it’s not, for reasons others have said) this isn’t going to solve the issue. She will just go back to the same 12 hour work days and get burnt out again, have more health issues, and then not have a safety net.

      I think the OP should take the time. Maybe take 2-3 months just focusing on their health and then start looking at work.

  5. Allonge*

    Hi LW1 – first, it’s really really good that you are thinking of taking a break. Do it! Your health should improve just from not being as sleep deprived as I expect you are now.

    As Alison says, it’s not like you need to fix how long it will be in advance and hold to that. But you most definitely deserve a break, and if you can afford it – go ahead! Take care of any health issues, and take at least one more month off (not necessarily in that order) would be my advice for a minimum length.

    And not in the first weeks, but take some time to think on how you want to live your life – I cannot agree more with Alison on her last point. Nobody else can answer this for you, but is this career worth it?

    1. JC*

      I agree and am in the same boat. I took time out as I could afford it, had burnout and health issues. My initial plan was to relax and eventually look for a change in career with much less hours and stress, but I tried a few things and just missed the buzz of my old career (I did a month long admin role, volunteering and tried to start an online business). I recently applied for a step up in my career (better conditions, pay and benefits)- the gap was barely mentioned and I have an offer after being unemployed for 13 months (I didn’t list any of the roles I tried out on my resume). I think most employers will be lenient around any gaps over this period as so many people have burnout or health issues. It’s also positive to frame the gap as a “recharge” with you excited to be back in a role after time away. Also- take time to work with a therapist on boundaries that can be used in any new job going forwards- 14 hour days should definitely be the exception not the norm!

      1. spinstah*

        Same same! Take the time LW1, you can’t imagine how much of a gift it will be to yourself. I quit my job of 10 years in April due to severe burnout. I might have been able to take an unpaid leave of absence, but in thinking it through I realized I didn’t want to work there anymore, no matter what role it was or how long a leave I could take.

        So my advice is to quit. Take at least a couple of months to just decompress, relax, and (to the extent that you can) be on your own schedule doing whatever it is you feel like doing. With a little help from my therapist I resisited the urge to fill up my day with “should dos” or create a schedule for myself and it’s been fabulous. Some days I do all kinds of stuff, other days I spend the afternoon on the porch or the couch with a book.

        The free time from leaving your job will also help you to understand what YOU want to do. Maybe you’re like JC and you think you’ll miss the buzz, and want a fast-paced role with better hours. Or maybe you’re like me and figure out that your ambition to do or become [a thing] is a societal (or familial?) definition of success, and not something you actually want.

        It’ll also make it easier to job search. Before I quit, it was incredibly difficult to engage in the job search process, write good cover letters, or even be interested in postings. Now I can think much more clearly about the roles I’m seeing and assessing my level of qualification for them. I’ve been able to take my search kind of slow, looking at tons of different jobs at different kinds of companies. Seeing what’s out there, my idea of what I want to do next has started to evolve. I don’t think I’d be at this point if I’d tried to keep working at my old job.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      Personally if this windfall would last year with no hardships, I’d plan to take 4-6 months off and start looking for work after that. But don’t make looking for work your full time job. You’re job hunting while still continuing take time for all the healthy and self-care activities you need.

      I’d also definitely be looking for something with better work-life balance so take the time job hunting to be picky to find the right job for you.

      1. AY*

        I like this idea! After 4-6 months, OP should have a good idea whether returning to her old job is doable or will just put her back in the same situation in a couple months or years. At that point, OP can start planning her next move.

    3. korangeen*

      Yeah, if you can take the break, go ahead and take the break! Hopefully LW1 will have better luck than I have finding work again after the break.

      I was feeling burned out at my last job and had some money saved up so decided to take about a year-long break to decide what I wanted to do next, and left in spring 2019. I started job searching after six months, and unfortunately am still job searching 2 years 3 months and counting after I left my job. (Currently I have a part-time job and some sporadic freelance work, but haven’t been successful finding any full-time work.) Do I regret leaving and taking the break? Absolutely not; I had zero desire to continue working there, and I doubt I would have been very effective jumping into another job. But at this point I’m pretty frustrated by my hundred+ job rejections and having been on a barebones budget for an extended period of time. I don’t think my trouble finding a job is due to taking a break or even because of the pandemic; it’s probably more a combination of bad luck and having pretty niche experience, so it’s hard to find something where I’m a good fit.

    4. Amelia*

      I did this last year.
      My mental health reached a breaking point, we were financially stable, I left the dark hole that was my job in September 2020.
      I set a rule that I wasn’t even LOOKING for work until the new year.
      I wound up not starting a new job until July this year and it was an AMAZING break.
      None of the interviews I went for were worried about the fact I’d taken a break – I explained it as covid had driven me to take a break and reassess what I wanted from my life.

  6. Ms. Frizzle*

    I exclusively use a nickname (think “Kate” for “Katherine”). When people use my full name it makes me feel like I’m at the doctors office or a bank, because it’s just not something anyone who knows me ever says. I notice when people address me as Katherine in work emails because it doesn’t sound like they’re talking to me. It doesn’t offend me or feel like a problem when it’s someone who hasn’t met me and is just replying to the name they see in my email address, but it would feel strange if it was a coworker that I knew. If someone introduces themselves one way, it seems much more polite to use that name.

    1. Quoth the Raven*

      I’m the same. I’m Jess*, not Jessica; I love my full name, but I don’t love being called that — it makes me feel people are upset at me, or that I’ve done something wrong. I always introduce myself as Jess and over time it does upset me when I’m called anything else.

    2. Not Australian*

      Me too. Whenever I hear my full name I always hear my mother telling me off for something – even at my advanced age – and I only use it for formal purposes or when it’s absolutely necessary.

      1. Kit*

        Ooh, yes, it feels like I’m one step away from the middle name being broken out in terms of exactly how deeply I’ve dropped myself in the cacky.

    3. londonedit*

      Same here. I’m not a fan of my full name and much prefer a shortened version, which I’ve used for about 30 years now. If someone at work arbitrarily decided they were going to call me by the longer version of my name, I’d be really annoyed, because it’s not the name I use! The only person who’s done that is my elderly great-aunt, who believes that nicknames are vulgar and that everyone should be called by the name their parents gave them at birth. She gets a pass for being nearly 90; people at work don’t.

    4. Haven’t picked a user name yet*

      I’m and Elizabeth who goes by Beth, and I was expecting the op to be complaining about nicknames like “sport” or something unrelated to their name. I go by Beth, and do sign it above my formal signature.

      I don’t get annoyed about being called Elizabeth since that is also my name, but I do get annoyed at being repeatedly being called another shortened name for Elizabeth. People call me whatever the other Elizabeth in their life is called and completely ignore my signature or verbal introductions and still call me Liz, Bethany or Betsy etc. there are a lot of nicknames for Elizabeth.

      1. MechE*

        Why sign Beth above your formal signature instead of using it as your formal signature? Company policy or personal preference?

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I can’t speak for Haven’t picked a user name yet, but I do the same thing she does and it’s because of the way our IT system is set up.

          Not my real name, but let’s pretend my legal name is Margaret, and I prefer to be called Peggy. Our email addresses and sender info are all set to the names in our payroll files, so mine’s MargaretCarter@library. Our signatures are pre-programmed by IT, so every email I send says “Margaret Carter” in the signature. If I want the people I’m emailing to know I go by Peggy, I have to add a separate sign-off above the official signature. It’s annoying, but it’s the system we have.

          1. Glitsy Gus*

            Same boat here. I’ve asked several times if I can have it changed, but no dice, company protocol is that it has to be my legal name. They are starting to get more push back on that due to it not being very inclusive to trans or non-binary folks, but for now the policy is still in place.

            Also, way too many people in my company ignore the sign off I’ve added and continue to call me by my full name. It gets really old being called the wrong name for 9 years.

    5. cubone*

      I went to meet my brother at his work once for lunch and the receptionist offered to let him know I’d arrived. When I told her it was for “Mike”, she was like “um… we don’t have a Mike here”. I’m floored for a second (has my brother been faking a job for years?!) and then she goes “oh wait, do you mean MICHAEL?”

      I have NEVER heard anyone call him Michael, with the exception of a few very rare times by my grandmother. When he came out I was like “dude wtf” and he goes “oh yeah, I introduced myself as Mike the first week, but they set my email signature to Michael, so everyone calls me that here.” I asked why he hadn’t asked to change the signature and he shrugged and said he didn’t mind. It completely blew my mind! I still imagine Michael is his workplace secret identity and I wonder what Michael is like!

    6. Enginuity*

      Same here! Because I have a nickname that could be its own name and use exclusively that in work and social situations, most people don’t know that what I go by isn’t my legal name. I’ve gotten some genuinely shocked reactions from people upon learning my legal name, like they think I must be concealing a criminal past or something, when I really just want people to use my nickname consistently without having to correct or clarify.

    7. This Old House*

      FWIW, the letter writer says that she does use the nickname when someone uses it exclusively. That’s a much more clear-cut situation, and one where it would clearly be rude to not use the nickname. I work with a “Becky” who no one ever calls anything but, but I also work with a “Jessica” who introduced herself as Jessica when we met . . . but then I noticed that a lot of people call her “Jess.” Are they just her close friends? Her email signature says “Jessica,” but she signs her emails “Jess.” Sometimes. Sometimes she signs them “Jessica!” Am I supposed to wait to be asked to call her Jess? Wait until we seem close? Is it rude to call her Jess when she introduced herself as Jessica? Is it rude to call her Jessica on the days she signs her emails Jess? (There are several people in my office about whom I have this dilemma, actually. I sympathize with the OP’s confusion!)

      1. Willis*

        This is how the OP’s letter read to me. That there are some folks that exclusively use one name (which what their name was at birth) so obviously the OP also uses that name, and then a couple people that use both. My guess is that if your co-worker uses Jess and Jessica interchangeably, she’s fine with being called either. If Mike and Rach sign their emails to the OP that way, they are very likely fine with being addressed that way by her in return. If the OP’s hearing them be called different things in person or introducing themselves using their full name, she could ask what they prefer.

      2. Humble Schoolmarm*

        I would imagine that Jessica’s probably one of the people who are perfectly happy with both if she’s using them interchangeably. I would use whichever she uses most frequently, but maybe go with Jessica if they’re 50-50.
        You could also ask which they like better if it’s hard to figure out from context.

      3. LC*

        I agree, I feel like a lot of the examples in the comments are completely clear cut, call people by the name they use. But to me, OP’s letter read more like your example.

        There was someone that I occasionally worked with for a while whose name was Rachelle. That’s what was in her email address, that’s what was in her signature, that’s how she introduced herself to me. But in maybe half of her emails, she signed “Rach” above the default signature with her full name/title/etc.

        (I keep wanting to say handwritten, which I know isn’t right, but trying to differentiate between the default signature that people tend to have on all their emails and when someone intentionally types it in as part of what they’re saying.)

        These were rarely emails just between the two of us, and usually weren’t addressed to me directly but more to the group. She didn’t particularly care either way but she tended to use Rach with a smaller or less formal group or with closer coworkers.

        If someone always adds a “handwritten” (for lack of a better word) to their emails, even if it’s different than the name in their email address and/or default signature, then that seems very clear cut. Call them the one that they intentionally add. But if they go back and forth though, sometimes adding it, sometimes not, ask.

        This is all assuming you only really communicate via email, but if you have at any point been formally introduced (i.e. “Hi, I’m Mike” “Hi Mike, I’m Jessa”), absolutely use the name they introduced themself with.

    8. Free Meerkats*

      And sometimes you get into the situation I’m in where I have a full name that is also a nickname for a different full name; something like my real name is Gene, not Eugene. At a previous job, one of the admins constantly referred to me as Eugene, registered me for conferences as Eugene, and sent official paperwork to Eugene. This continued after I corrected her, my manager corrected her, the plant manager corrected her, and HR corrected her. Best part was, she had my personnel file at her desk.

      It got to where I’d do whatever it took to not deal with her and continued to the day I left that job. Never did figure out what her problem was.

  7. ronda*

    for #1
    On one forum I read, one of the posters talks quite a bit about burnout and calls it a medical emergency.

    I recommend you read what the user Malcat on the mr money mustache forum says about burnout and see if this applies to you.

    Good luck to you and take care of yourself, before taking care of work.

  8. too young to die, too old to eat off the kids' menu*

    > In fact, if someone signs an email with Rach and you write back “Hi Rachel,” it’s going to sound a little chilly — like “I reject your warm familiarity!”

    Alternatively, “I’m a victim of predictive text”

    Anyway, OP – I really, really recommend calling them what they want to be called.

    I have a really long name, but go by its obvious (unisex) nickname. Sometimes people I don’t interface with often will slip and call me by my full name which is nbd, but I also worked far too closely closely with two people who flat out refused to shorten my name.

    1) A terrible boss who considered it unprofessional for me to go by a ‘boy name’. She would correct people (INCLUDING ME) who didn’t call me by my full name. It was so infuriating.

    2) A guy who would also stretch out one of the vowels whenever he said it. It was so creepy, my skin is crawling just thinking about it.

    Don’t be my weird boss or creepy coworker. It’s not a good look.

    1. allathian*

      Ouch, that’s awful, I’m so sorry this happened to you. My skin’s crawling just reading your description.

      I agree that when you’re talking to or about someone, the only right thing to do is to use the name they want to be called. In email, there’s a bit more leeway, because it’s possible to greet someone without using their name. A cheerful Good morning/afternoon should be okay even if a simple Hi feels too informal.

    2. Trisha*

      I agree. I have the opposite issue though – I use my full name at work and people love to shorten it a generic, unisex name (that I hate – but that’s some good old fashioned childhood trauma stuff) especially telling me “well, every BLANK i know prefers BL”. Like, I tell you what my name is, please don’t assume you know better than I what to be called. And please don’t “insist” that the shortened version is better or my preference.

      1. Elenna*

        “well, every BLANK i know prefers BL”
        “Okay, now you know one who doesn’t!”

        Seriously, what even is the point of that argument? Like, just because they haven’t encountered something in the past, they assume that no such person exists? That’s not how life works…

      2. Observer*

        “well, every BLANK i know prefers BL”

        No you don’t. Because you know be and I. Do. *NOT*.

        People can be SOOO weird.

      3. emmelemm*

        I’m the same, I go by my full long name and people love to shorten it to anything under the sun.

    3. Allypopx*

      I would get myself fired if a boss did that. In minutes flat. I would not react professionally. I’m sorry you had to deal with that.

      Your predictive text point is well taken though…I’ve definitely gotten myself in trouble there by hitting send too quickly.

      1. too young to die, too old to eat off the kids' menu*

        I was a nineteen year old intern, so I just kept reminding myself that my time with her had a definite end date, and, aside from her, the place was pretty awesome.

        It also helped that I had more than one person (also managers, but more junior) tell me that my preferred name was perfectly fine and she was the weird one.

    4. Quickbeam*

      In my profession, I’m known by my initials which coincidentally is a male name. It’s a small world so if you say my initialed name everyone knows me. I had a manager refuse to call me that because she felt it was inappropriate for me to use a man’s name as my first name. I explained it’s just a coincidence, it’s my initials…but gave up and was happy when she left.

      1. too young to die, too old to eat off the kids' menu*

        I see we had the same boss.

        You know, I’m really curious how these weirdos would react to a male Ashley, Stacy, or Allison joining their team…

  9. treeduck*

    Some people on here are very, very trusting of employers.

    LW1 – Just tell them you were sick, now you’re not? Really? Don’t disclose your health unless you have to to get accommodations. Sure it’s illegal to discriminate but that doesn’t mean they won’t find a way.

    Everything is disclose this and that upfront, go to HR if you have a problem and so on. Employers don’t always do the right thing, people need to act with caution before they go telling about their issues or going to HR.

    1. Allonge*

      If a company cannot handle ‘I have been sick in the past’ at the application/interview stage, it’s a huge red flag.

      Obviously not everyone can afford to pick and choose jobs, but ’employer is aware that staff are in fact human with bodies that sometimes don’t work well’ is a low bar.

      1. Andy*

        But the cutthroat, fast-paced industry that works you 12-14 hours daily will have only companies full of red flags. Cutthroat industry is exactly the place where someone will use your health against you.

        1. Allonge*

          I suppose that is the price one pays to work in such a place though? If the break needs to be explained, the other option is to lie (not quite sure what kind of break is more acceptable, but LW could come up with something I suppose), which has its own risks. I am not extremely lie-averse, but there are times and places where it’s a bigger risk than at others.

          1. Clisby*

            There’s an alternative to actually lying. OP could say something along the lines of “I had inherited enough money to allow me to take a break, and since I was planning to change jobs anyway, I did.”

            1. Yorick*

              This is what I would go for too. In this case, I wouldn’t mention a health issue unless you want to screen for employers who won’t be ok with that. There’s a great explanation that’s actually true!

            2. Allonge*

              Huh, you are quite right! I am not 100% sure why, but I dismissed this option as even more personal than ‘health issues’.

    2. Kara*

      Hmm. Arguably there’s privilege in being able to “act with caution before you go telling about your issues”. The advice to disclose isn’t necessarily idealistic – it may be the least-worst option available.

      If someone is so burned out that they need to take a long time off work, the least-worst option is to do that and then find something to tell employers that isn’t a lie. The letter writer is not choosing between perfect options here.

      I think it’s usually made clear that HR works for the company, but that’s going more off-topic. I will say though that this I personally find this kind of perspective unhelpful because a) it helps convince people that, if employers do discriminate, it is somehow normal and inevitable, and b) you often need to disclose to have any kind of legal protection. Which means most people with something to disclose are stuck between a rock and a hard place, and there’s limited point debating which one is rockier.

      1. WellRed*

        I’m tired of all the HR works for the company comments. Of course they work for the company but a good HR and company knows that it benefits everyone to treat people right.

        1. Black Horse Dancing*

          Problem is, HR will choose the company over the person every time. They do work for the company and in fact, are pretty toothless. HR investigates a claim/problem and finds out high level employee is the issue? Well, company likes employee and HR is instructed to let it be. HR can do nothing but shrug. They are impotent unless federal/state laws are being violated. Many misbehaving employees, including CEOs, have a thick HR file but nothing happens. Or the CEO finally ‘retires’ with a huge bonus/payout. HR is there for the company. Period.

          1. Aitch Arr*

            “Problem is, HR will choose the company over the person every time.”


            I know this is getting into #notallHR territory, and I know there are a lot of shitty HR departments out there, but c’mon.

            1. Aitch Arr*

              Forgot to add, in the situations you mention above, there’s a reason “HR can do nothing but shrug.”

              The reason is shitty senior management.
              I, as an HR Manager, cannot outright fire someone. I cannot promote someone. I cannot demote someone. I cannot even put someone on a warning.

              Managers do those things.

          2. MadisonB*

            This is my experience, too, at multiple companies in a few different industries. One person gets fired because they had one flimsy allegation and were a longtime PITA, another person floats by because they threaten a lawsuit and HR decides the allegations are too shaky, while the next person gets “resigned” because a bigger fish in the sea has an axe to grind, and the next person looking at multiple sexual harassment allegations gets an expensive lunch for being bothered. I’ve only gone to HR when I had nothing to lose by doing it, was ready to walk, and fully understood it could be a mutually assured destruction scenario. I’m sure there are good HR people backed by good managers but you never know – and even when you do know, unexpected politics happen.

    3. ecnaseener*

      Everything is disclose this and that upfront, go to HR if you have a problem and so on.

      This really isn’t a fair or correct assessment, if you’re talking about the advice Alison actually gives. (You said “some people on this site” so maybe you’re talking about the whole commentariat rather than Alison – in which case, yeah, in a group of thousands of people you will see some statements you disagree with.) Alison’s advice almost always leans to the side of “disclose anything ADA-related as late as possible if you need to disclose it, don’t go straight to HR without talking to your boss in 99% of cases.”

    4. Metadata minion*

      Do you have a recommendation for what LW1 should say instead? I would think the same sorts of companies would also not think highly of anything along the lines of “I wanted a long vacation” or “I was pursuing personal interests”.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        I was thinking something like “I had the incredible opportunity to take a break and now am ready to get back into things,” and/or if they are going to look for work in another field, “I was lucky enough to be able to step back for a bit and think about what my next step was going to be…” But you’re probably right that if they are going back to the original field that might not go over well? Unclear!

        1. Metadata minion*

          Yeah, that’s a good point — if they do decide to make a significant career change, I agree there’s a lot more wiggle room in terms of phrasing.

        2. Genny*

          I think those might raise more questions for me than just saying you took time off to address a health issue that is no longer a problem. “I had an incredible opportunity” or “I was lucky enough to step back for a bit” would lead me to question how reliable you are and what’s going to happen the next time an incredible opportunity presents itself.

          1. Lily Rowan*

            But they’ve got this solid career history in what I’m sure people know is a tough field.

            Honestly, I think any answer COULD raise questions in someone’s mind, if they are inclined that way, and equally any answer COULD be fine, depending on the interviewer.

            For me, if someone told me they took months off for a health issue, my first thought would be mental health, and I know that can be life-long, not something that gets fixed in one go. Not that that would keep me from hiring the person, but that is where my mind would go.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Have you read this site? I rarely recommend going to HR except in very narrow circumstances and I recommend waiting to disclose most things until you have a job offer.

  10. Ana*

    Hello Alison, I believe LW1 is worried about a heart attack in her 30’s, not 20’s.
    (If I’m misreading, just delete this.)

  11. Viki*

    LW # 4
    I think there’s a difference between expected expenses vs expenses occurred during unexpected wfh.

    When my company was pivoting to be wfh, we spent most/all the budget we had for equipment for the next five years on getting everyone a desktop set up with dual monitors (10,000 + employees national wide).

    It took Q1 this year, to get the people who had gone fully remote their business internet, but our company still subsidize 40$ a month for the extra bandwidth being used for internet.

    Desks are/still not covered. Everyone was pivoting, trying to find a work surface. I don’t know if your company would reimburse that, because I can see the argument being “no one asked you to purchase this, Jane worked on her kitchen table.”

    Definitely try the internet for reimbursement but the work surface/desk/chair might be a hard sell

    1. ecnaseener*

      Does your company’s remote work policy not include standards for desk ergonomics? Ours does, not that they’re helping pay for anything. But we’re not allowed to use the kitchen table etc.

      1. Elenna*

        Not Viki, but my company’s doesn’t include anything like that, and I’m sure lots of people would be annoyed if they were like “you have to buy an ergonomic desk unless you happen to have an unused one for some reason, but no, we’re not paying for it.”

        1. ecnaseener*

          My employer is doing that and yes, we are annoyed by it! They made it sound like a non-issue so I thought it was fairly common to require home offices to be OSHA-compliant.

      2. Amtelope*

        How in the world would they monitor or control where in the house you’re working while you’re at home? Are you supposed to stay at a properly-ergonomic desk (which they’re not paying for) every minute of the day and never take your laptop to the couch or the kitchen table? Seriously? What a ridiculous over-reach. I don’t think your company gets the entire concept of “when your employee is working off-site, you have to give up some control.”

        1. ecnaseener*

          LOL we have to agree to let our managers inspect our workspaces -_- and while we’re not required to stay there every minute, we do have to declare 1 remote workspace and agree not to work elsewhere for “significant” amounts of time.

          1. ecnaseener*

            I should clarify: we have to sign the policy which says our managers can inspect our workspaces with reasonable notice. It’s not required for managers to actually DO that and I’m sure it’ll be rare.

    2. Sara without an H*

      “Definitely try the internet for reimbursement but the work surface/desk/chair might be a hard sell”

      Maybe, but you don’t know until you ask. OP#4, please consider going to your manager with a polite request for at least partial reimbursement.

  12. Tree*

    My nickname is Tree (for Teresa). I get annoyed when people call me Tre but I completely understand if people who have never met me call me Teresa as it’s a bit odd!

    1. Persephone Mongoose*

      Interesting, I know a Teresa who goes by Tre (pronounced as tree), so I never thought of them being pronounced differently.

  13. Interrobang*

    OP1, I often drop the name altogether and just go with “Hi,” as the opening for a reply email. Only exception is for judges, who I call “Judge X” in email salutations unless they have very explicitly told me to call them by their first name (not just signed an email with it)

    1. RabbitRabbit*

      This. I address a lot of people via email as “Dr. (Surname)” even if they sign off their internal emails by their first name, because they’re medical doctors and I’m not, exceptions made for those who’ve told me “Call me (Firstname).”

      1. ecnaseener*

        I email a lot of doctors in my work, and if they sign an email with their first name that’s what I use. Partly because it’s not always apparent whether a new person is a doctor, and I don’t have time to go looking them up if they didn’t include a degree in their signature — but also because it kind of rubs me the wrong way to be SO deferential as to assume they didn’t mean it when they signed with their first name. I’m not so lowly that I can’t talk to a MD colleague as equals.

        Of course, this approach does occasionally get complaints of “why are you addressing your messages to ‘Fergus and Dr. Jones’? I’m a doctor too!” Well Fergus, it’s because you sign all your messages as Fergus and Dr. Jones signs as Tom Jones MD. All I can do is use the names you’re telling me to use!

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          I’m just following the lead of my colleagues. I’m newer to the team and would be an outlier if I was the “hey Bob” type with Dr. Smith.

          1. ecnaseener*

            Makes sense! Sorry if I came across as criticizing you, it’s something my team is divided on so I’m frustrated about it.

            1. RabbitRabbit*

              Yeah, I know, it’s a thing. I see doctors sending me emails as (First name) or doing phone calls like that, but I’m like really, who signs off an email as “Dr. Brown”?

              1. RabbitRabbit*

                Hit submit too fast: But I guess some people do, probably especially with their patients. And the ones who tend to do it more tend also to be the women, so I don’t want to jump to assuming anything about how I can address them because women’s titles deserve to be respected just as much as men’s do.

        2. Alianora*

          I always use “Hi both” or “hi all” with multiple people to avoid the “Fergus and Dr. Jones” problem, if I’m emailing multiple researchers who may or may not be doctors. Definitely do the same as you when it’s one-on-one with a doctor, though.

    2. Anononon*

      Hah, I would sometimes work across the aisle with an attorney, who went by a common nickname of her full name, who has since been become a judge. I’m just picturing the jaw dropping if I were to go, “oh, hey, Kate!” (fake name) the next time I appeared before her in court.

    3. Office Lobster DJ*

      I was thinking of this, too. Of course the OP should call people what they want to be called, but also never underestimate the power of a “Hi” or “Good morning,” (plus or minus an exclamation point…you know, for warmth). Covers you for so many title, formality, or level of familiarity gaps.

      1. Humble Schoolmarm*

        I use Good morning almost exclusively when emailing parents unless/until they sign off with just their first name. People can have strong feelings about familiarity and titles and they’re impossible to predict until you make a mistake.

    1. Mental Lentil*


      I’ve been in LW’s shoes, and while all that experience is a good thing to have, I’m hiring you to do a job right here, right now, in the present. If you can’t—or worse, won’t—show me how that experience relates to the job we’re going to pay you extremely well for, it’s not ageist to not hire you. It’s just good business sense.

  14. learnedthehardway*

    OP#3 – you were absolutely right about your assessment of the candidate, and no, you were not being ageist. You observed that he had no recent relevant experience, that his experience was dated and obsolete, that he hadn’t kept up with the industry, and that he had no self-insight or self-reflection. The fact that he hadn’t kept up with the industry and didn’t have any “lessons learned” indicates that he thinks his dated experience is going to be just fine, and that’s going to cause a lot of problems when/if he’s in a role where he’s supposed to produce immediately. The fact that he hasn’t kept up his skills also suggests that he won’t be able to manage the learning curve.

    Finding that someone’s experience and skills are dated is NOT ageist. In fact, what your candidate showed you is that he is coasting on long-past accomplishments. Otherwise, he would have told you about current accomplishments. I mean, he could have kept up his skills and experience, but clearly he either did not do that or forgot to tell you about what he has done in the past 10 years. That’s on him, not you.

    What IS ageist is failing to consider someone who HAS current skills, experience and accomplishments current, simply because they don’t fit preconceived ideas about what age ranges would have those attributes. Your colleague might want to look in the mirror, because he’s being ageist about young people.

    1. Allypopx*

      Age discrimination is the legal sense can’t apply to people under 40. But yes, people need to be judged by what they’re bringing to the table, full stop.-

      1. Yorick*

        Sure, but the concept of ageism is different. learnedthehardway didn’t say anything about a young person experiencing age discrimination.

      2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        That’s federal law in the United States, and some states have broader protection: for example, in New York the protection applies to anyone aged 18 or older.

        I am not a lawyer, etc., but if you’re wondering whether you’re protected — or, from the other side, whether your plan to favor older job applicants is legal — talk to a lawyer or at least look up information for your state. Quite a few people now think it’s legally OK to turn down applicants for being too young, because it’s not against federal law, and is allowed in a lot of places.

  15. Tired2Work*

    I’m actually in the same predicament as OP1. My work is not essential yet I was forced to come into work throughout the pandemic. I am mentally stressed out and want to take a year break. But I am not financially fit as OP1, don’t have a lot of savings; so I doubt I will actually be able to take a full year off. My parents, too, say that a year is too long and that I will “miss out on good opportunities.”

    Maybe in your case OP1, you can try it out for three months, then six months if you don’t feel it’s not enough, then a full year if that is still not enough – considering you have the time and money. But whichever length you choose, I hope you’ll be able to use the time to recover!

    1. London Calling*

      Exactly what I’m doing, although I’m a few decades older than OP. I left my job in March (official reason, commute getting burdensome, unofficial reasons, too many to go into) for three months off in the summer. Three months has stretched to five and I’m now looking at MAYBE October. OP1, if you can afford it, do it. My stress levels are down, my BP is down, I don’t wake up at 4am thinking about all the things I must do today that probably won’t get done. I’ll be going back to the same field for the four years I have left to retirement, but you might decide on a total change of direction. Either way, you’ll have given yourself some space and space is where the changes can happen.

      1. MK*

        As far as I can tell, the OP knows this will be a good thing for her, but is concerned that if she takes a year off, she won’t be able to find her career footing when she is ready to get back. That is a very valid concern, and, frankly, it is much more pressing when you are 3 decades off retirement than 3 years. You seem sure you will be able to return to your previous field when you are ready, but for many industries and people, that’s not the case.

        Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a reliable answer. I don’t think it’s even remotely likely that it will end her career; but no one can tell what the job market will look like a year from now, or how potential employers will look upon her leave of absence, so it could end up setting her back years, or even closing some career paths.


  16. Roeslein*

    LW#1, it sounds like what you need is a new job/industry, not a career break – that’s only a short-term solution. Unless you are actually burnt-out – in which case of course it is a different issue. Since you’ve come into some money, perhaps you now have the option of taking a slightly less well-paid job but one that is actually sustainable in the long-term and can be combined with a healthier lifestyle?

    1. L in DC*

      This is me! Leaving current industry in two years with enough money to say “Bye” but not “FU”. Now what is the new industry?? Will save for Friday work thread…..

  17. JM in England*

    Re: #2

    During induction at OldJob, as well as filling out our legal names on the paperwork, there was a space to put your preferred name (ie what you wish to be called day-to-day). For example, there was a woman called Maria in the inductee group called Maria but she stated that she preferred Ria. I thought this was a good idea to prevent misunderstandings from the start.

  18. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP2 – having been on the other side – it definitely lands wrong to keep using Rachel (or equivalent).

    I don’t like being called “Rachel”. Continuing to do it makes me feel disrespected and stressed.

    Please, believe people when they tell you what their name is! It’s not up to you to judge whether their choice is sufficiently “correct” for you to use.

    1. Bebe*

      I agree – it is just as rude to insist on using someone’s longer name as it is to insist on shortening a name when no one has invited you to do so.

      1. Persephone Mongoose*

        I have a short name that a lot of people seem to assume is a nickname. It isn’t, it’s my full legal name. It drives me barmy when people insist on inventing a long form of the name and calling me that instead.

  19. capedaisy127*

    #1. Would recommend having 3 months off to decompress and work on your health. Don’t even think about work etc. Do you want a holiday? Is there a course about a subject you’ve always been interested in, you could do? Are there any local organisations you can join?
    You need to shake up your routine that you’ve built up. Really think about what you want your next job to look like. Do you want more time at home? Do you want to change how you commute? Do you want to try studying, part time or volunteering
    Take time as an opportunity to put a full stop against your former life and use this as a chance to make changes. Don’t put a timetable on it. Be sensible with your finances. And good luck

    1. London Calling*

      100%. If OP takes this time off (and I hope she does) she has the luxury of time to decide what she really wants her life to look like.

    2. Katefish*

      A fantastic book along these lines is called, Time Off For Good Behavior – highly recommend if OP is reading the comments.

    3. Allypopx*

      I agree. Three months is a good minimum to be able to distance yourself, focus on your health, and take an objective look at your situation. Then you’ll be in a good place to decide next steps – whether that’s more time off, a different career path, or something else.

  20. sunglass*

    If she’s signing her name “Rach”, she’s telling you to call her that, imo. I have a long name, it’s in my email address and signature because I don’t have control over those. I sign my emails with a shortened version of my name because that’s the name I actually use! By signing my emails with it, the one place I control which version of my name appears, I’m telling you to use it.

    Some people I work with still call me Bettina, rather than Betty. It makes them seem chilly and a little rude.

    1. Bagpuss*

      I agree. I think it is just as rude as if you do it the other way. If you are e-mailing with Thomas, you wouldn’t (I trust) suddenly start addressing him as Tom or Tommy, it’s no different if it is the other way around.

      1. UKDancer*

        People unfortunately do. I’ve never shortened my name or used a nickname professionally. I have always been (let’s say) Susannah and never Sue or Suzie. That’s my preference. I have dealt with a number of people who have decided that they want to shorten my name and been a bit put out when I asked them very politely not to do so.

        The only person I let use a nickname is one of my ballet teachers. He has 3 Susannah’s in the class and it’s confusing. So I asked him to use a childhood nickname of mine as at least that way I know he’s talking to me whereas I don’t associate any of the abbreviations with my own identity. I would not use that nickname at work ever because it’s a bit childish but I don’t mind him using it for me.

        1. Anononon*

          I worked with a guy who used dumb nicknames for everyone, including shortening my nickname that I go by. The worst part, though, was that he would profess how much he disliked it when people called him by common nicknames of his name. He was pretty awful.

  21. Allie*

    The guy doesn’t have any experience in your field and hasn’t done any classes or research on your field. Of course that’s not ageist.

    We once interviewed someone who kept saying he “doesn’t use computers”. The job, by definition, is all performed on a computer. He also apparently expected he wouldn’t have to do his own typing (I’m really not sure what he expected to do all day). We didn’t hire him.

    1. Ana*

      How did you find out about the typing? Did he just ask about a secretary/assistant or something like that?

      1. Allie*

        Yeah this was like 2 years ago. I think he had run a business and had an assistant but it failed and he just wasn’t used to how things worked outside of that system.

    2. Sparkles McFadden*

      I wish this were more amazing but I had something similar happen. The guy responded to almost every question with “I always had staff to do those things for me.”

    3. Sleeve McQueen*

      Agree with this. The fact that his skills date from the 1980s is not even the issue here. He did no research on the company and field and refuses to demonstrate that he can grow and learn.

      I changed careers and the field (from the entertainment to the tech industry) and when someone who was pretty well known in my old field applied for a role I gave him an interview. He was in the interview talking very dismissively about not knowing anything about tech and “apparently everything is in the cloud now”. I don’t expect tech experts, but acting like tech ignorance is a point of pride is an interesting approach

  22. Gem*

    For lw 1- could you frame it as deciding to take a sabbatical to study and travel? Or attend to family matters? Maybe you could do a low key certificate program?
    I do think that the asshead reaction of some people to the greatest of all time Simone Biles shows the dangers of being candid about burn out and me time. As dumb as it is, I’d frame sabbatical as having a purpose your future interviewers will be able to relate to, like “I realized after the world started to open up again how much I missed travel, so decided to spend some time exploring the world” or something

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      Its so funny you mention Simone Biles as a group of my friends and family just had a huge discussion about this and it was really interesting to see how the response was divided both by age and gender lines. Most of the women were all super supportive and thrilled that she spoke out so publicly about the pressures and her mental health but some of the older generation (late 60’s and up) were talking about how that is private medical information and shouldn’t be shared with the public. The older men were essentially in the “suck it up buttercup” category and the younger guys (20’s-30’s) were split between a “whatever you do you” take or “totally cool she did that” while the 40’s were all “she should have just faked an injury or something”.
      You hear all the time about how mental health is viewed by different generations and genders but it was so interesting to see it live and in person with all the players present. And yes…those of us on Team Mental Health Awareness did speak up and clearly make certain points to those on the other side. We have several cases in our friend/family group of mental health issues leading to very sad situations so by the 4th example you could kind of see some lights turning on.

      1. Mental Lentil*

        Interesting! I can’t wait until we get to the day where mental health is just “health”, but damn, we’re still at the point where my teeth and my eyes aren’t actually parts of my body and have to have their own insurance.

      2. PT*

        Simone Biles’s situation was physical health, though. If she messed up a move and landed wrong, she could have broken her neck or died. On international televison, to boot. I do not think any of us wanted harm to come to her and I also don’t think any of us wanted to watch it happen. Gymnastics is dangerous! (Hence why many, many kids aren’t allowed to go past Tumbling Tots at the Y. Mom says “No it’s too dangerous!” and that is that.)

  23. Chili pepper Attitude*

    Re #1: why say she was out for a year due to illness? Is there a reason not to say I got a windfall inheritance and it allowed me to take a year or 6 months off and do x thing I’ve always wanted to do?

    1. The Original K.*

      I wouldn’t disclose a windfall because it might make employers think she doesn’t need the job. Her personal finances aren’t her employer’s business.

  24. BatManDan*

    In my youth, I knew a man whose full, legal name was “Butterball.” (He changed it to his nickname after a falling out with his family.) Checks, driver’s license, the whole nine yards – all in the full, legal name “Butterball.”
    2 years ago, I was introduced to a friend of friend, who also only had one name. I commented that he reminded me of my old acquaintance Butterball, and told the story of how I knew him and how I understood his name came to be. The young man let me finish, and then said “I see you’ve met my Dad.”

    1. KaciHall*

      This makes me twitch. I work for a company that does background checks. Every so often we get people with only one name and it screws the system up every time. It turns into a cluster that takes a week and lots of calls because no part of the automated system wants to run only one name.

        1. TryingHard*

          Spitting moment. Thanks.

          Did have an email get flagged because in the attached tax record file a record contained person’s last name as Gay. That took forever to find.

          1. Zephy*

            Look up “the Scunthorpe problem” if this kind of thing amuses you. The Futility Closet podcast has discussed a number of listener-submitted examples.

          2. UKDancer*

            There used to be a TV gardener in the UK called Gay Search and apparently that was her real name. I always thought she must have had a lot of problems with search engines and the results.

            1. MusicWithRocksIn*

              My mom’s family has a super English last name that is basically the name of a profession (Think Gardner) and it is 100% impossible to google anyone in her family. I tried to do some research on an uncle once and came up with exactly squat. I actually wanted to change my name to hers when I was younger, because it is easier to pronounce and spell and I would never have to worry about anyone searching for me on the internet – but I ended up changing in my German last name for a different even more difficult to spell German last name when I married.

  25. Unpopular Opinion For LW #1*

    I’m also in a cutthroat industry and have seen people do this, take leave for a year and then try to come back — but it can np be tough or impossible to get back in if you’ve caused tension with too many people on your way to the top. The ones who were stepped on, if that was the case and you may not even realize it, have long memories and move throughout the industry.
    Also, the people with no choice but to keep on grinding will probably resent you leaving and coming back.
    Can you take “special projects” or get assigned to another region or area for a while?

    1. Allypopx*

      I feel like that’s assuming a lot of things not in the letter about the LW’s social situation in their industry.

  26. hola my peeps*

    My name is Jennifer but I prefer Jen and it’s how I sign everything. I notice when people call me Jennifer but I think those of us who use shortened versions of their given name are used to it.

    I make a point to scan an email for the signature rather than default to using the name in someone’s email address.

  27. Julia*

    Can I just say how utterly bummed I am that we don’t live in a world where the answer to #1 could be an unreserved “yes! take all the time you need! not an unusual thing to do at all.”

    1. Carlie*

      Me too. And my first thought was if they are in the US, be absolutely sure what healthcare you will get and how much it will cost first.

    2. cubone*

      Amen. It’s so bizarre and sad. Also, having taken a medical leave myself, the idea that 3 months is enough to actually impact severe burnout is laughable to me.

    3. Minerva*

      I think countries with longer parental leave come to see gaps differently. If you see everyone (including dads) take a couple months off and then come back, and see mostly mothers do fine after a year or 2 years (I was hired off a 2.5 year break, and it rarely came up other than as “what was this last bit of time? Oh, didn’t go back after parental leave and taking time to pick a new job. Cool, about your skill in this stuff…), then career breaks are more normalized.

      I also think framing it as taking time to ponder a career change and coming back, either more committed to the career or looking at a different role, with a good cover letter/story as to why it fits should work. It’s probably no secret your industry has burnout.

      (though a work friend had to defend a 3 month gap in an interview, I told him it is a sign he doesn’t want the job)

      1. Simply the best*

        I was in the same situation as your friend! I got laid off and in an interview about 3 to 4 months later they asked me what I had been doing for the last couple of months and made it clear that job searching was not a good enough answer.

      2. cubone*

        Yeah, my partner was off for a full year and while he got questions about it for sure, this was absolutely the successful positioning trick for him too: “taking time to ponder a career change and coming back, either more committed to the career or looking at a different role, with a good cover letter/story as to why it fits should work.”

        The job he ended up with responded to it in the interview basically saying “makes sense” and that was that. Lo and behold, they’re also a fantastic company to work for. Funny how that works!

  28. KHB*

    Q4: I don’t think Alison’s answer addresses the problem the LW is raising, which is not about expenses incurred earlier versus expenses incurred now. Both the people working remotely 5 days a week and the people working remotely 2 days a week have the same ongoing expenses – because they both need to have a fully functional work-from-home setup – but only the former are getting reimbursed for it by the company. And that’s not right.

    What would they say if you pointed out that offering a stipend to fully remote workers is equivalent to charging you rent for your space in the office. (In either case, you have to choose between having an office workspace and having $X.) That seems more obviously unjust to me.

    1. Lore*

      My work is basically saying, we will pay for equipment for one primary workspace and computer setup, and you choose whether that’s at home or in the office. If your primary workspace is home and you want to occasionally work in the office, you won’t have a monitor, keyboard, etc there (and if you don’t have a work laptop, which most Mac users still don’t, you’ll work at a hoteling station). If you have the full setup in the office, then you’re on your own as far as home office monitor or you remote in using a personal machine. There is a separate ergonomic reimbursement for some things (chairs, keyboards, headsets) but not monitors. The weirdest thing to me is that they will only reimburse for, not supply, headsets for remote use even though meetings will remain online so anyone working in the office will need them for sure.

    2. Hazel*

      I keep thinking that the OP should expense the office setup they had to purchase last year, and see if it goes through. I assume that the people who are opting for fully remote work purchased the stuff they needed last year as well, so I don’t think the dates of purchase would be an issue. I don’t think of it as “cheating” because the OP (and everyone else who’s doing ahybrid schedule) should be reimbursed.

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        The OP may work in a place where they don’t have a way to expense something. In my experience most people don’t have the access to the systems to expense something unless its been given to them based on their role (i.e. someone who travels for work).

        You cant just have your receipts and drop it off at accounting. That’s not going to get you anywhere and accounting is going to think you’re nuts. This is a conversation that should be had with at least the manager.

  29. B*

    Most people I know who go by Mike or Liz or Kate would feel you were their parent and they were in trouble if you called them Michael or Elizabeth or Katherine. Use the name they sign off with. Even if it’s something less common like Rach for Rachel.

  30. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I must be an outlier, because I have my signature in my email set as


    “Kimberly” Lastname
    My Title
    Other stuff

    And it honestly doesn’t phase me if people use “Kim” or “Kimberly”. Now if they use “Kimmy”, we’re gonna have words. It also irritates me when people misspell it as Kimm. Like… it’s right there.

    1. Threeve*

      This column may tell you that some of your coworkers are agonizing about which to use in their reply! :)

    2. Forrest*

      Yeah, I’m genuinely surprised by how many people are like, “people have ONE name and they always use that to sign off and you should never deviate from it”. I’m absolutely down with the fact that you call people what they want to be called and don’t decide you’d rather call them X, but I don’t think that what someone signs their email is a better guide to what they want to be called than saying, “What do you prefer to be called?”

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        Yeah, I’m genuinely surprised by how many people are like, “people have ONE name and they always use that to sign off and you should never deviate from it”

        I don’t see anyone saying that. I see people pointing out that it’s better to go with the name that person is using to sign their emails than assume they’re fine with either.

        1. Forrest*

          I think if someone’s got their full name in their email address and signature, but signs off with a shortened version, that’s enough ambiguity that I would ask whether they have a preference if I was chatting to them.

          I’ve quite a few colleagues with full names in the email address and a shortened name in their signature, which makes sense since the email address is usually created by IT, and might not reflect their preferred name. But in my sector everyone has control over their own email signature, and I don’t think I’ve ever come across anyone putting a name in their email signature that they’d be unhappy to be called by.

      2. sunglass*

        That’s not what people are saying? They’re saying that if someone’s signature says “Beverley Smith” and they sign their email as “Bev”, the are possibly/probably signalling that you should call them “Bev”.

        1. Forrest*

          I would just prefer to ask! I’d honestly find that easier and more polite than assuming that the sign-off takes precedence over the signature.

          1. Anononon*

            But the point is that, usually, the signature is automatic. People are actively choosing the sign off.

            1. Forrest*

              Sometimes I type the short version of my name because it’s quicker rather than because it’s what I want to be called. That doesn’t mean I’d mind being called that, but if I had a strong preference I wouldn’t have my full name in my signature right below it, or I’d use my signature to make it clear what my preference is.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                I think this is backward. If you’re signing off with a different name, your signature does NOT make your preference clear. If your signature was Forrest and you signed off Fori, it would never ever occur to me that you did that to save 3 keystrokes but really preferred for me to call you Forrest, as was “made clear” in your signature.

                1. Forrest*

                  That’s pretty much my point! You can’t tell my preference when both are right there, so feel free to ask.

                2. Forrest*

                  (Honestly not getting the resistance to asking. I think if you’re presented with two versions of someone’s name, “Do you prefer X or Xtina?” is just a perfectly normal and polite thing to say and I don’t get why anyone would rather come up with rules about which version is obviously the preferred one.)

                3. Rusty Shackelford*

                  Whoops, I misread your comment, sorry!

                  But I think you can’t assume someone’s signature is their preferred name, since it looks like some people are required to use a name they don’t actually go by. I can’t imagine an employer being that picky but I’m surprised every day by things I couldn’t previously imagine.

                4. Forrest*

                  I agree that you can’t assume someone’s signature is their preferred name. I’m just generally against assuming either way tbh!

                5. Detective Amy Santiago*

                  What if you don’t have a preference? I’m fine with being called by my nickname or the full version of my name.

                6. Simply the best*

                  @forrest people aren’t resistant to asking. Go ahead and ask if that makes you more comfortable. It’s your insistence that it’s crazy ambiguous that people are pushing back on.

              2. Elenna*

                I feel like maybe you’re assuming the signature can be changed, while a lot of commenters are coming from the perspective of “signatures may be forcibly set a certain way by company standards, in which case the presence of a longer name in the signature means nothing and you should proceed as if it wasn’t there”.

                I do agree that if someone is choosing to have both a nickname and a longer name in their signature, you may as well ask. But in some cases they’re not actually choosing that.

                1. Forrest*

                  It’s more that I’m assuming that I don’t know and neither a sign-off nor a signature is an indication of preference.

              3. doreen*

                The thing with signatures, though , is that they are usually automatic and therefore the same for every email recipient. It is not at all uncommon for a shortened name to indicate familiarity and therefore for a person to sign off emails to certain people with “Tim” while leaving emails to other recipients with just the email signature that includes “Timothy”. It’s the equivalent of starting a letter, “Dear Title Lastname” , and crossing “Title Lastname” out with a pen and handwriting in “Firstname”. ( which happened all the time when I started working)

                It would never occur to me that someone would sign off ” Bev” if they actually preferred to be called “Beverly” especially if “Beverly” was in the email signature right below the signoff. Because I would think if the person preferred Beverly, they would skip the sign-off altogether and let the signature stand on its own.

          2. sunglass*

            I would find it really weird if I signed off “Best wishes, Betty” and that person came back and asked what I wanted to be called. I just typed my name to you, on purpose. I wouldn’t be rude about it, but I would find it really strange.

      3. Willis*

        Well, I think people who use are happy to use either their full name or nickname haven’t had a life of it being A Thing when someone erroneously shortens or lengthens what they prefer to be called, so they’re probably less likely to feel strongly on the question enough to write in.

      4. Observer*

        Yeah, I’m genuinely surprised by how many people are like, “people have ONE name and they always use that to sign off and you should never deviate from it”.

        Except that this is NOT what most people are saying. They ARE saying that “If someone consistently uses a particular name for their signature, that is the name you should use to address them. Don’t decide for them that it’s not appropriate or something.”

        Obviously if someone uses different sign offs, that’s a different situation.

    3. BigHairNoHeart*

      I think this is common! There are a few people in my office who sign off of emails the same way you do and go by the short and long versions of their name interchangeably (and I know that, because I’ve asked what they prefer and they’ve told me either is fine).

      I get the feeling this is a situation where some people wouldn’t care what I called them, but some people have a STRONG preference, so I try to tread carefully and be mindful of preferences, just in case I run into someone in the later category.

      Sidenote, why on earth would anyone call you Kimm? Where’s that extra M coming from??

    4. Rusty Shackelford*

      It also irritates me when people misspell it as Kimm. Like… it’s right there.

      Like when people receive an email from Rusty and respond with “Hi Rusti.” GRRRRRRRR.

      1. cubone*

        This bothers me soooooooo much more than informal/formal name misuse or even just like, outright wrong.

        Eg. my name is something like Jessie. In emails, I get “Jessica” (not my name), “Jess”, or occasionally something completely out there like “Jane”.

        But what gets me the most is “Jessy” because it’s RIGHT THERE and you are close enough to clearly have registered what my name is, but apparently not close enough to get it right. It bothers me SO MUCH because it happens constantly and certain colleagues have done it exclusively, to the point that it starts to feel like they’re disagreeing with how I spell my name.

        1. cubone*

          Oh, and I should add that at a past and current job, we have first names in emails (one was FirstNameLastName@business.come and the other was just So most of the time they absolutely had to type/select my email, WITH THE CORRECT SPELLING, but somewhere between the recipient line and the email body, just gave up.

          Clearly I have a lot of unresolved feelings about this.

        2. Humble Schoolmarm*

          Yup! My name is one that can be commonly spelled with or without an h (something like Sara or Sarah and my name is Sara). I’ve worked really hard to curb my annoyance with people who send emails to Sarah and mostly succeeded, but still, the correct spelling is right there and it’s not like the no h version is unusual! Sigh.

      2. Le Sigh*

        I worked with a woman who for years — years — would respond to my emails with, let’s say, “Hi Annie.” Except let’s say my name was “Allison.” We had no Annies on staff. She was in meetings with me. She had calls with me where she called me by Allison. I led projects with her. I even pointed it out, in email, that my name was Allison — but nonetheless, when responding to my emails, it was, “Hi Annie.”

        I didn’t like her for a whole host of reasons beyond the name thing but that was always so baffling.

        1. quill*

          *Cringes* I accidentally did that to a supplier for a few months because, due to covid and me getting a new job duty right when her precursor left, I legitimately had no idea that Tangerina Warblesworth had been replaced by Arnica Flute-Trumpeter. It was super obvious too, until finally she was like “can you PLEASE update your form email Tangerina hasn’t worked here for six months!”

          1. Le Sigh*

            Oh those are the worst (I’ve done it, too, and had it done to me when accounts transition) — but it also sounds like it was something you apologized for and fixed?

            The woman I was dealing with was just arrogant and obnoxious in every interaction I had with her, so the Annie thing was just icing on the cake.

            1. quill*

              Took me some time to fix it all, given that the forms I inherited had Tangerina’s name all over them, but yup.

      3. Windchime*

        I get this all the time. I have a name that normally ends in “ie” but mine ends with only an “i” (thanks, Mom). We’ll say it’s Stephani. I spell it that way everywhere; email address, signature, phone directory……everywhere. And I still get “Hi, Stephanie” or “Thanks, Stephanie”. It isn’t horrible but it’s annoying. Pay attention, people!

      4. Detective Amy Santiago*

        My mom has the opposite problem! She spells her name with an I at the end and people constantly misspell it with a Y even though it’s right there.

    5. MechE*

      Is there a particular reason for having both Kim and Kimberly, rather than just Kim in the signature?

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I have my sign off and my “official” signature saved so I don’t have to type “Thanks, Kim” a hundred times a day.

  31. Not Really A Waitress*

    #2. For the love of Ramen, use their nickname especially when they sign their email. I worked for a boss who “did not believe in nicknames” . Well they exist. The name on my birth certificate may be Fredricka but I am Fredi. Can you imagine if I told someone “I don’t believe in using peoples full name.. i only use nicknames?” He refused to call my by my nickname. It made me cringe when he did it. I have never been called anything but Fredi. I had a coworker a few years later who did the same thing. I told her I went by Fredi. Well Fredricka was her granddaughter’s name and it was so BEAUTIFUL. Yes it is. But I prefer Fredi. After politely asking her to stop several times. I quit responding. One day she called my full name like 8 times in a row. Finally she said Fredi. I looked up, smiled at her and said Yes? Your coworkers have told you what they prefer. Please respect them by using it.

    1. Sleeve McQueen*

      I have a double-barrel first name and have not gone by that name since I was 12. I would be very unimpressed with this.

  32. Mental Lentil*

    #2 — I’ve never thought of using a shortened form of someone’s name as a nickname, so that’s an odd take for me. Jim and Jimmy are just alternate forms of James, and I’ll use whichever you prefer.

    “Tuna” is definitely a nickname though (unless that’s what’s on your birth certificate), and I won’t use that in the workplace.

  33. Percys Owner*

    Re: nicknames: Many years ago, before we had cell phones, I worked in a library for lawyers. We had a private phone booth and a few isolated rooms with phones in them. The lawyers would leave our number for important calls. We would forward the call to whatever public phone was available and then page the lawyer to let them know to pick up “Mr. Smith, telephone phone booth 1”. One day we got a call for “Bubba” the person answering the phone said “does he have another name” The caller said “Well, I hope so,” but he didn’t know it or the man’s last name. So there we were in this highly professional library paging “Bubba, phone call in phone booth 1”. We all watched carefully to see who Bubba was. The we informed anyone working the front desk that Bubba was really Wakeen. From then on we simply translated his name when we had to page him to the phone.

    1. Insert Clever Name Here*

      My uncle was a colonel in the air force and worked at the Pentagon during the last part of his career. Let’s say his name was Michael Smith. One day, his secretary answers the phone and a woman asks to speak with Dickie — the secretary says “you have the wrong number” and hangs up. A little while later, phone rings, “may I speak with Dickie,” “you have the wrong number,” hangs up. A little while later, phone rings, “I know this is the right number! Dickie wrote it down for me. Please, may I speak with Dickie?” “Ma’am, you have the wrong number. There is no Dickie here. This is the office of Colonel Michael Smith,” hangs up.

      My uncle walks in from a meeting, asks if there are any messages. “No, sir. Strange though, I got several calls asking for ‘Dickie’ even when I repeatedly said there was no one here with that name.” You know where this is going right? Uncle Dickie’s nickname came from my mom’s childhood mispronunciation of his middle name, which is the name he went by in the family. That was his mother calling, completely forgetting that at work he was Colonel Smith, not Dickie. The secretary learned, my grandmother learned, and we howl about that every Christmas!

  34. foolofgrace*

    Re: #2, nicknames: I have the opposite problem. Where I work, people don’t usually sign their emails at all, they just have the boilerplate signature block and it invariably uses the full name — Deborah, James, etc. So when I address them, I use their full name rather than a nickname because I don’t want to offend them by being overly familiar. If they do happen to sign their email Deb or Jim, I take that as green light to use the nickname. Maybe I’m being overly careful but I wouldn’t feel comfortable by just diving in with a nickname.

    1. Joielle*

      That’s my problem too! There’s one admin in my office whose signature block says “Samantha” and I’m pretty sure people call her “Sam,” but when she sends emails, she just uses the default signature block. I don’t know her well and don’t work with her very often so I just stick to Samantha. I figure if she wanted everyone to call her Sam, she’d change it in her signature (we have control over those).

  35. Ali G*

    LW1 I’ve been there! Actually this is the best time to do it. I would plan to take the rest of 2021 off after giving ample notice. Nothing really happens in Q4 so just take that time to work on your health. Spend a little of time each week researching what you think you want to do next. Not in a stressful “I need to figure this out right now!” way, just to educate yourself on what else is out there for you.
    Alison is right and it can take a lot longer than you might think to find another job, especially if you are switching up your career. I did end up taking off almost exactly a year, but that’s because when I was finally ready to seriously look for work, it took me 4-5 months to get a new job.
    I also volunteered and worked part time in the interim to keep me busy and “marketable.” I do not regret anything, except I wish I had spent more time with my husband away from his work during that time.
    Good luck!

  36. Person from the Resume*

    LW#2, I think your understanding of nicknames is a bit off. In many cases it’s not my name is “Michael” and close friends and family call me “Mike.” It’s his name is “Mike,” he has always gone by “Mike,” he introduces himself to people as “Mike,” and signs his emails as “Mike.” He wants you to call him Mike. Do not decide to use his legal name for him in place of what he has asked you to call him.

    Some guesses on why are their full names in their email signatures?
    – Because it’s their legal name that they use sign legal documents
    – Because it’s their email address (because IT didn’t use their nickname) so they are letting you how to spell their name for global lookup or email address.

    1. Bucky Barnes*

      Some of our systems at work have fields for your full name and then one for your “preferred name” (as opposed to nickname). Then your preferred name is what appears in the system, and I think that’s how our email addresses are generated now. I find this helpful.

  37. CupcakeCounter*

    I’m in a similar boat except that I already left the terrible job. I spent the first week on a mini vacation (we have a lake cottage my husband’s family has owned since the early 1900’s) and the hardest thing I did was make dinner for a fun group of friends/family. I ate, I drank, I swam, I slept, got a massage, and I felt really good after that first week. Then I spent the next week “clearing the backlog” of my life…scheduled Dr appts that have been put off for a year or more, purged my son’s closet of all the stuff that doesn’t fit and rotated in the new stuff, baked about 100 batches of zucchini bread because everyone I know has dozens of them that are overgrown, etc… Yeah it was work and effort but its stuff that has been on my to-do list for AGES and getting it done has provided a lot of mental relief.
    Week 4 I started my job search because I was ready. I still have my availability set about a month out (late September) because of some scheduled stuff coming up and I’m not going crazy with it. Sit at the computer for a few minutes each morning, look at the posting, and only apply for what really interests me. I will get the salary I want, I will get the schedule I want, and I will get the right job this time. I have a back up plan to help explain the gap if needed (regulations in my state have changed so I can pursue a license I was previously ineligible for) but the company I left has a reputation for “churning and burning” through employees so it isn’t unusual for people to leave without a job lined up.

    So as someone who is currently doing what you are thinking about doing…DO IT! All the things are better for me now than they were a month ago. Quit, deal with the health issues, and then decide on timing.

    1. Sparkles McFadden*

      I agree the LW should take a break. I don’t think it will need to be a year-long break. Once she’s out of the exhausting work situation, she will be able to handle the health issues, think more clearly, and consider what she wants long term.

  38. MacGillicuddy*

    I have a nickname. Everybody calls me by my nickname except when I go to the doctor. At work I sign emails with my nickname.

    Occasionally I’d run into someone who would ask “but what’s your real name?” I always hesitated, then said “MollyMacGillicuddyopolous, but nobody calls me that”. Sometimes the person would then always call me MollyMacGillicuddyopolous. It was really annoying. Now I answer that question “MollyMacGillicuddyopolous – but I never answer to that”.

    I find it disrespectful not to call someone by the name they prefer. It has nothing to do with familiarity or formality. When someone tells you their name (even if it’s something like “Biff” or “M.J.” ) that’s what you should call them.

    1. londonedit*

      I’ve had the same – some people insist on saying ‘But what’s your real name?’ or ‘But what’s that short for?’ and then deciding they’re going to use the long version of my name that I haven’t used since I was about 10 years old. It’s really frustrating. Everything except super official legal stuff like my passport and driving licence uses the shorter version of my name, and I don’t know what makes people think they can arbitrarily decide to use a version of my name that I specifically don’t use because I don’t like it.

      1. Lizzo*

        I will admit to asking about the origin of folks’ nicknames (primarily in social contexts), but my motivation is to ensure that I get names and spellings 100% right in future interactions, e.g. never calling an Annie “Anne”, or a Charlie “Charles” when their legal name is actually Annie/Charlie; or getting the spelling of Jo(h)n right, depending on whether they’re actually a Jonathan.

        Most folks seem appreciative of the attention to detail, but maybe that’s because I would never insist on calling someone a different name than they ask to be called.

        1. Allypopx*

          I think genuine social curiosity is different than probing, and people can generally tell the difference – as long as you don’t start using their non-preferred name in conversation.

          1. londonedit*

            Absolutely – if you ask me whether my name is short for anything, and I say ‘Oh, it is, but I haven’t used that name in 30 years’, and we have a lighthearted conversation about it, or it’s along the lines of ‘Oh, is that Lizzie or Lizzy?’, then that’s totally fine. It’s when people go down the ‘Is that short for Elizabeth? Why don’t you use Elizabeth? It’s a nice name! Does anyone call you Elizabeth?’ route, and then mentally file your name away as ‘Elizabeth’, when you’ve explicitly said you don’t use that name and you only use Lizzie except for on legal documents, that it’s frustrating.

            1. Lizzo*

              ^^Yep, have had this conversation before, though it’s usually that people want to call me a different diminutive than I prefer (vs. my full legal name).

          2. Lizzo*

            Agree, and I’ve also noticed that I retain the preferred name much better if my brain has some context or an unusual piece of info that is associated with the name, e.g. “I’m named Regina after my grandmother, but I go by Gina.” (Not the best example, but you get the idea.)

      2. Rainy*

        A lot of times it’s a power move. They’re demonstrating (or hoping to) that they can unilaterally decide to name you something different than you name yourself, and make it stick, because they have more power in whatever the context is than you do.

        My FIL demanded to know my “real” name because he didn’t want to call me–metaphorically, of course–Rainy. (Mr Rainy has been a Mr Rainy since HS, as his HS gf also went by Rainy although in her case it was the normal nickname for her given name of Rainbow, and FIL didn’t like Previous!Rainy. Weirdly enough he didn’t seem to realize that coming out of the gate like a jerk didn’t do much to endear him to me either.)

        I had a job when I was younger where I dealt with customers and some of them would ask my name and then think I’d said “Lainey”. The ones who were very invested in the “nicknames are for friends, I’m your social superior” thing would invariably respond, in a super condescending tone “Oh, ELAINE” and call me Elaine sometimes for months, with me saying mildly, “It’s Rainy, actually” every time, until someone not me would correct them. (It’s actually more like Rhapsodella, and you’d go by Rainy too, amirite.)

    2. Allypopx*

      Right. I don’t consider my name a nickname. It’s my name, and I have a different form of it listed on my passport. Call me by my name.

    3. OP #2*

      LW 2 here. My problem is the people I’m referring to introduced themselves at Rachel, but then eventually starting signing emails as Rach. They still respond to Rachel in the office, and have never explicitly asked me to use Rach.

      I get the point though, and I’ll start calling them Rach. It just doesn’t feel natural to me.

      1. Observer*

        It just doesn’t feel natural to me.

        I hear you. But that’s part of being adults- doing what we need to do, not necessarily what’s “natural”.

      2. Lizzo*

        Again, as I said in a different thread below, **it’s not about you and your comfort level.** It’s about respecting people’s preferences for what they wish to be called. If you have any confusion about what that preference is (and the preference might vary, depending on context!), ASK THEM. And then respect their choice.

      3. Hiring Mgr*

        In that particular example, it sounds like Rach(el) doesn’t really care which one you use? but just ask her if you want to be sure. As much as some people care a ton about this, I think lots of people are indifferent

        1. LC*

          Agreed, especially with this extra context, asking is the way to go.

          I had almost this same exact situation (only Rachelle instead of Rachel), and I let it live in my head rent free for far too long. Finally I just asked her, “I noticed you use Rach sometimes, do you prefer that to Rachelle?” She had no preference at all, just tended to sign Rach with people she knew a little better, and said she was fine with me using either, but I felt a million times better once I’d just asked.

  39. blackcat lady*

    LW#1: Spouse was in high pressure job – CPA in big firm. The company REQUIRED the partners to take a minimum two months sabbitical during their career. There were also plenty of people that left that big firm and went to small local firms with less stress. Is it a possibility to ‘move down’ to a smaller job in your field that would not require 14 hour days? I agree that a 4-6 month break to evaluate what you want to do is a great idea. And unless you’ve got a good nest egg, retirement funds and kid college funds don’t burn through the whole windfall.

  40. Hiring Mgr*

    The name one seems pretty simple.. just go by what they go by, if you’re not sure just ask. Except if their name is Margaret and they want to be called Peggy, that one still baffles me. (kidding)

    1. Mental Lentil*

      I’ve always been baffled by this one too! I mean, James » Jim, Jimmy and Margaret » Maggie both make sense to me. But Margaret » Peg has always baffled me. I really need to get out my old linguistics textbook to see if there is some relationship between “m” and “p”.

      1. sunglass*

        I think it’s Margaret >> Meggie (because of some accents shifting vowels) >> Peggy >> Peg

        Meggie-to-Peggy arose because of the commonality of rhyming nicknames, at least in English. Like Will >> Bill >> Billy.

        1. This Old House*

          Yes, rhyming used to be a common way of deriving nicknames. Other examples are Ned and Ted for Edward, Polly for Mary (via Molly), and Bob for Robert. I’ve heard that most of these names had a variety of other rhyming short forms that have since fallen out of common usage.

          1. Humble Schoolmarm*

            Molly for Mary is the biggest head scratcher for me. Why would you have a nick name that’s longer than the original?

            1. Simply the best*

              Because the point of a diminutive is not to make the word shorter, it’s to indicate something small. These kinds of diminutives were originally used by parents talking to their children, often children who had the same name as their parents. So Mom’s name would be Mary and daughter’s name would also be Mary. So daughter would be called Molly to essentially mean Little Mary.

      2. Marillenbaum*

        From what I understand, it came out of Welsh; the adaptation of Margaret went to Megan/Meg. Also, you can get Daisy as a nickname for Margaret, because the French Margeurite is also the word for daisy in that language.

    2. Daisy-dog*

      I discovered recently that my late grandfather’s name was actually John. He went by Jack and I have no clue how that comes from John.

      1. Caboose*

        My grandfather’s name is Buzz. Always has been; it wasn’t a nickname he got because of grandkids, or anything like that. His given name has NO letters in common with Buzz, and I have no idea how he wound up with Buzz.

  41. LKW*

    #1 – I was laid off from my job, got a great severance package that pretty much paid for a full year of health coverage and had enough savings that I could take a year off. And I did. It was great. When it was over, I started reaching out to my network and ended up returning to a previous place of work. My circumstances were a little different, when asked about the gap I could truthfully say “I was laid off and used the time to my benefit.”

    However, if you’re doing it just to manage burnout – then use that year more wisely than just taking time off. If you need a mental health break – then figure out how to avoid reaching that point again because if you’re 10 years in – you have at least 30 years before you’re eligible for retirement benefits. Invest some of it – grow your nest egg. Use some of it to perhaps get some additional skills to move industries or companies that demand less of you.

  42. Jayn*

    LW 2, as someone who uses a similar diminutive, it may feel weird but I only ever use my full name on formal documents anymore—I’m fairly sure I still have a friend or two who doesn’t actually know my name—so it would be weirder for me if you did call me by it.

  43. Pike*

    #2 – Nicknames are names. As someone with a very common, very traditional name with “traditional” nicknames, I’ve gone by a unique nickname my entire life. The nickname is still directly related to my name, not inappropriate or childish, and is easy to say and spell. Yet, I have had people, to my face, say they aren’t going to use it when I’ve introduced myself as that. It’s not as big a detail if some uses my full name without being told my nickname, but once I do tell them, it doesn’t feel great when ignored. This is no where near as bad as blatant misgendering, but I definitely feel like my identity isn’t being respected.

    1. Lizzo*

      +1 to this. Call someone what they prefer to be called. It’s not a difficult concept. People who refuse to show this simple respect to others are not nice people.

      1. OP #2*

        LW 2 here. I’m certainly not trying to disrespect anyone and I do try to be a nice person. My issue is they introduced themselves to me as Rachel, and then eventually started referring to themselves as Rach more and more. It’s taken me a while to catch up, not because I don’t care what they want to be called, but because I’m not 100% sure what that is. I erred on the side of being more formal, because it seemed more polite at the time. However, I see Alison’s and your point.

        My name also has an obviously nickname. I’d never be offended if someone called me Samantha, but I’d be pretty surprised if my colleagues started calling me Sammie, even if they had heard one or two other people do so.

        1. Susie Q*

          I don’t blame you for being confused. I’d be confused too. But I’m one of those people who doesn’t really care. People are busy and stressed. If they get my name wrong or spell it incorrectly, I’m just like whatever, life happens.

        2. Lizzo*

          I apologize–the parts about disrespect and not being nice were more of a broader commentary on this issue and not necessarily directed at you, OP.
          As someone commented in a different thread here, sometimes people are motivated to “rename” people as part of a power play–e.g. “I can’t pronounce that, so I’m going to call you X! That’s much easier.” or my personal pet peeve: people who choose diminutive nicknames over a preferred name. I’ve been subject to the latter, and I’m just so darn sick of it. That frustration is seeping through here.
          In any case, I maintain my original point: just ask Rachel what she prefers!!!

          1. Willis*

            I think there’s a lot of frustration all over this comment section from folks who’ve had people shorten or lengthen (or change! or misspell!) their names against there preference and sometimes against all logic. But, it doesn’t really sound like that’s at all what’s happening in the OP’s case. It sounds like Rachel uses both forms of the name, probably skewing more towards the nickname as she knows people more. There’s tons of people that do that! But, I agree with you, the OP should totally just ask and not have it take up any more of her time or worry to figure out.

        3. Mockingdragon*

          Yeah, if she introduced herself as Rachel, then I’d call her Rachel until I heard otherwise. I think what people are latching onto is that in the absence of other face-to-face communication, an email signature is the way people introduce themselves. But in your specific case, just ask :) I definitely agree that a longer name is neither more polite nor more formal (nor less polite or formal).

  44. photon*

    LW2: In your company’s system, are people allowed to change their default names (in email, in ticketing systems, in the company directory, etc)?

    If so, I’d just use whatever name is comfortable, and not overthink it. I’d personally go with “Mike” and “Rachel”, because “Mike” feels like a standard shortening, whereas “Rach” feels too intimate for someone I don’t work closely with. I use a nickname, and just have it changed in the system.

    If not, I’d probably lean more on the names provided in email signature.

    1. Rachel*

      As a Rachel, I can attest it is, but it’s always been more of a spoken nickname (verbal shortening) for me, and not one that I identify with so strongly that I’d use if for a nickname. So I consider it much more informal than using Mike for Michael. Mike is just…more of a normal name to me. But I obviously can’t speak for all Rachels.

      I’ve also had it shortened to Ray, but only by a few specific people and that isn’t one that I’ve ever had anyone try on me.

      1. eggplant*

        As a fellow Rachel, I agree with this. It’s a pretty informal shortening that typically only my family and friends use. Really close friends and family tend to use Rachie, though, which I identify with more. And yeah, I only ever had one friend, in middle school, shorten it to Ray.

  45. Khatul Madame*

    LW1, if you are in the States, I assume you will be covered by your husband’s health insurance and HSA during the hiatus – otherwise your windfall will go towards your medical expenses and disappear much faster than 1 year. Do get your ducks in a row before you quit (which I agree you should do).
    You should work out the timing, eligibility and all the minor details. In theory job loss by a spouse is a qualifying event and you should not wait till open enrollment/end of year, but so many things are employer-specific.

  46. MCMonkeyBean*

    For LW#1 I would definitely suggest something in the middle!

    Definitely don’t take a whole year and *then* start job searching if you finances only support a year off–you don’t know how long it will take to get a new job once you start looking so you may end up out of work for longer than you expected!

    I think your parents are wrong that you can’t do more than a month; but I do think that their suggestion of using the time to really look for something with better work-life balance is better in the long run!

    Without having all the information, my first thought is to take a couple months completely 100% off trying not to even think about work at all. Then see how you feel. Then you may find it’s time not to go back to work yet, but can spend some time looking more at what options are out there–are there jobs like you had but at companies with better hours? Or, would you be happier if you took a step or two *backwards,* so in the same field but maybe a less stressful position? Or maybe you’d like to pursue a new path entirely?

    TLDR–Likely something in between 1 month and 1 year is a good option, and try to spend some of it thinking long-term so you don’t end up back in the same position in a few years.

  47. Lizzo*

    LW2: Call the person what they wish to be called. If you aren’t clear on what their preference is, ask them. It’s not about your (dis)comfort–it’s about theirs.

  48. Khatul Madame*

    LW5, I think standard 2 weeks would not alarm your new employer, in fact most employers will be anxious for you to start ASAP and not care about impact on your old job.
    But if you are worried about appearances and can afford it, give the current employer 2 weeks, then take 1 week’s break between starting the new job.

  49. Salad Daisy*

    #2 I went to work at a large, multinational company and kept getting emails from someone named Biff, who I never met. No email signature. Just “Can you please let me know…..etc.” signed Biff. I assumed Biff was one of the tech support or finance folks (neither of which was my department) with whom I occasionally interacted. Imagine my surprise when I found out they were one of the VP’s!

    1. Mental Lentil*

      I would assume those emails are kind of fish. VPs should definitely have a signature line.

      1. Salad Daisy*

        Nope. You could set up your signature line so it only printed on external emails, not emails that went within the company. Very bad protocol.

  50. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

    “Rach” feels overly intimate for the workplace. I’d stick with “Rachel”

    Signed, a Sally (already a nickname) who hates being called “Sal” by anyone not in her family.

    1. Dwight Schrute*

      But this person is signing their emails as Rach, indicating they don’t mind being called it at the minimum, and even prefer it

      1. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

        I think I’m in the minority here. I refer to myself as “Sal” sometimes in emails but would very much not want to be called “Sal” by a coworker. I also wouldn’t be bothered by someone preferring to call me “Sally” instead of “Sal.” It’s my name…

        1. Mental Lentil*

          I’m confused. So you’re saying you don’t want people to refer to you the same way you refer to yourself?

          1. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

            It’s a level of intimacy that coworkers haven’t earned. Yes, I can call myself that. No, you cannot call me that.

            Which is why it’s kind of silly to assume that “Rach” would lose her mind upon being called “Rachel.”

            1. Mental Lentil*

              Oh gosh, you are definitely in the minority, then.

              If I want people to call me Lentil, I sign off as “Lentil”.

              If I want people to call me Len, I sign off as “Len”.

              It has nothing to do with intimacy. I’m just telling you what I want to be called.

              1. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

                And you’re applying your attitude to others, when it’s very much not universal, which is my point. Don’t assume. People referring to themselves by shortened names that you shouldn’t use is not a new concept.

                1. Jennifer Strange*

                  It actually is. That makes zero sense, and basically puts the onus on the other person to be a mind reader.

                2. BuildMeUp*

                  And you’re doing a lot of applying your attitude to others when yours isn’t universal either…

                3. Jennifer Strange*

                  @Hogsmeade AirBNB except you’ve said several times in this thread that you sometimes refer to yourself as “Sal” on emails, so that was not an assumption on my part. Also, you’re REALLY being unnecessarily snarky to folks here.

        2. Dwight Schrute*

          If you don’t want people to call you Sal I’m confused why you sign off with it? That doesn’t make much sense to me. Generally people like to be called what they sign off with

          1. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

            Well, no, not always, which is the point I’m trying to make. I can call myself that. You, someone I don’t have an intimate relationship with, may not.

            1. sunglass*

              I think this is a disconnect between how people see signing off emails, then. Because when I sign-off my emails with my shortened name, I am seeing that as a way to signal my preferred name to people. Signing off with a nickname I really don’t want people to use seems unnecessarily confusing. If you don’t want to be called Sal by co-workers, then I don’t understand why you’d sign-off that way when you could just call yourself Sally in your emails to those people.

                1. all good*

                  Most people don’t sign an email with the name they call themselves but don’t want others to use. They sign off with the name they want to be called. It’s fine if you want to do the opposite, but don’t be surprised if people assume your using your sign-off the way most people do.

                2. banoffee pie*

                  That sounds fairly obnoxious and it seems as if you’re just trying to trap people. ‘I call myself that! You may not!’ It reminds me of that joke in The Simpsons with Conan O’Brien saying ‘sit perfectly still, only I may dance.’

            2. I should really pick a name*

              Trying to present this from another outsider’s perspective:

              If I received an email from you and you referred you yourself as “Sal”, I would assume that you want to be called Sal, not that Sal was only a name for people you are close to.
              If the only name I see in the email is Sal, I’m not going to call you Sally, because I don’t know if Sal is short for something, or what specific name it’s short for.

              For some reason, a short form is more intimate, for others, it’s the preferred version of their name, so I find that the best practice is to refer to someone using the name that they presented to me.

              When you say ” I refer to myself as “Sal” sometimes in emails”, are you referring to work emails, or are you referring to emails with close friends? That may be where the confusion is coming from.

              1. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

                Don’t assume- ask the person. Don’t assume. Don’t assume!

                My work email contains “Sally,” so if you can’t figure that out you’re terribly dim.

                Yes, as a quick signature on work emails I will write “Sal.” Don’t call me that.

                1. Jennifer Strange*

                  Question then: Is you saw someone sign off their email as “Sally” would you then ask if they prefer to go by “Sal” instead? Or would you just call them “Sally” since that’s the name they gave you? I don’t think there’s a problem with asking as well, but I think you’re also creating a situation where you’re expecting someone to read your mind.

                2. Cruciatus*

                  I’m just so curious how this works in practice. So we’ve exchanged emails and you’ve signed it “Sal” and I reply to you in my next email saying, “Hi Sal, blah blah blah”. What next? Since I don’t know what your preference is do you reprimand me for using Sal? That is a waste of time and something that is going chill the relationship. But if you had just signed off using the name you prefer others at work to call you we’d have saved time and kept the relationship good. And if you’re just stewing silently, that is unfair to the person who used “Sal” because they truly could. not. know. you didn’t want others to call you that. I just truly don’t understand. It is a well known concept that how you sign off on an email is an invitation to let others call you that as well.

                3. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

                  @Crucio — I would have already introduced myself as “Sally” and not “Sal”

                4. Observer*

                  My work email contains “Sally,” so if you can’t figure that out you’re terribly dim.

                  If that’s THE name you use, then anyone can figure out that you use it. If it’s one of several that you use, and you actually sign off with something else, you have absolutely no standing to expect people to know that you actually do not want people to use the name you sign off with.

                  You certainly don’t have standing to be rude about people failing to read your mind.

                  Yes, as a quick signature on work emails I will write “Sal.” Don’t call me that.

                  So you get to be lazy but everyone else is supposed to read your mind and know that you are not only too lazy to sign off properly, but that you expect them to take more trouble with your name than you are.


              2. Forrest*

                I think Hogsmeade understands where it comes from, but is just saying (as am I!) that not everyone uses their email sign-off to indicate their preferred name.

                There are a lot of people taking the tack that whatever someone uses in their email sign-off is their preferred name and that it’s clearly rude to call them by anything else. Surely if being polite is your aim, then understanding that not everyone uses their email sign-off that way is useful information!

                1. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

                  I’m dying at people trying to police how I refer to myself while in the same line advocating for
                  “respecting” others by doing something they didn’t explicitly ask for. Never change, commentariat.

                2. Observer*

                  No one is “policing” how you refer to yourself. They are pointing out that you are setting up a situation where people are supposed to read your mind.

                  You get to call yourself what you want. You don’t get to expect people to read your mind. Or rather, you can expect whatever you want. But in real life, getting upset at people for failing to read your mind is a YOU problem, not a them problem.

        3. not a doctor*

          I don’t really understand why you’d refer to yourself by a nickname you don’t want people to use. I can tell you, that definitely sends the message that it’s okay to use that name.

          1. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

            Because it’s a nickname I am sometimes called, and one I am used to using when referring to myself. Assuming it’s an invitation to use the same name is an incorrect assumption – which is what I’m trying to explain to you.

            1. Mental Lentil*

              Assuming it’s an invitation to use the same name is an incorrect assumption

              In your case, yes, but this is a common assumption. It’s just the way it works in every case I’ve ever seen. If somebody signed off as “Jim” and I called them “Jim” and they got shirty about it (“I’m James, not Jim”), I’m not sure how I’d feel about that.

              I’m curious how much this has been a problem for you and how you’ve corrected others about this in the past. What have you had to say to people? How have they responded? I have never encountered this expectation before and am honestly curious about this outlier.

        4. Ask a Manager* Post author

          So, you’re running up against an etiquette rule that states that people will indicate how you should address them via the way they sign off. If someone calls me Ms. Green and I sign my email to them Alison, they’re supposed to see that and switch to Alison. You of course can have your own preferences, but realize that they are indeed counter to the general rule/expectation in society about how to do this and it’s not weird that people here are confused by what you’re saying!

          1. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

            I introduce myself as “Sally.” If they’re too dim to pick up on that, that’s their issue.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              What I’m saying is it’s not just about how you introduce yourself, but also how you sign emails, per the etiquette I explained above. No one is being dim.

            2. I should really pick a name*

              When did this introduction happen if your first contact is by email?

              Generally speaking, it sounds like people are talking about a situation in which the email is the only thing they have to go by.

              If someone says “Please call me X”, I will of course call them X. But absent the information, I work with the info that I have. If they correct me, I’ll follow that correction.

    2. Jennifer Strange*

      Okay, but this person signs their email as “Rach” indicating that they would like to be referred to (or at least is fine with being referred to) as “Rach”. If you don’t want to be called “Sal” don’t sign your email as “Sal”. Otherwise, respect what a person tells you their name is.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Please take it down a notch. You’re starting to come across pretty aggressively here. You can of course do whatever you want with your own name; people are explaining why it will be interpreted differently than you might intend it to be.

        2. Wisteria*

          You can refer to yourself however you want, and the social contract is such that people will take their cues on how to refer to you from how you refer to yourself. Suggesting that you change your behavior to get the result you want from others is not policing how you refer to yourself. You are swimming against the current here, and the only thing you are able to control is yourself. Either swim in a different direction or use a different stroke bc this is not a current you can change.

        3. Jennifer Strange*

          Sure, but then don’t get in a snit if people take their cue from you. Imagine if someone signed their email as “Christopher” and so you called them Christopher. Then they got angry and said, “I go by Chris, not Christopher!” Wouldn’t you be confused?

    3. Observer*

      “Rach” feels overly intimate for the workplace. I’d stick with “Rachel”

      What gives you the standing to decide for SOMEONE ELSE what they are too be called? If that’s the name they are using in a business context and on business emails, then, by definition it is NOT “intimate”. It’s their work name. Unless you have someone who is wildly boundary stomping and wants you to call their SO “master” to “honor” their relationship. But the OP is clearly not talking about people who become legends on AAM.

  51. Rachel in NYC*

    OP 2, I was raised with a pretty strict Southern sense of politeness about names…and have the same issue. If somehow signs off as “Bob”, I’ll write to them as Bob in my follow up email (I won’t call them that in person. This is just email land.)

    But if someone doesn’t sign off with a name or they sign off with their signature, than it’s full proper name- which for me means title. Everytime.

    On the other hand, I would have no problem (though I might be slightly confused) if someone wrote me an email addressed to Tuna.

    1. Salad Daisy*

      I’m about 20 years older than some of my coworkers and many of the ones who work at our offices down South always call me Miss Deirdre. Both in emails and when talking on the phone. Makes me smile.

  52. Cookie*

    LW #1 I don’t know the extent of your health issues but maybe with the combination of your health issues and burnout maybe you might be eligible for short term disability? I would check in with HR and your doctor about that option. That way you could take a break, receive partial income and not have the gap in your resume because you are considered employed during short term disability. Once you get to the end of your short term disability, you can reevaluate if you need more time and you’ll have more funds in case your job search takes longer. Sometimes when you’re in the thick of things it’s hard to really think ahead and figure out what you need. Take some time so you can get some clarity. Also, if you end up taking a year off, spend some of your time volunteering or even working part time doing something that interests you. That way you have something to put on your resume during the gap and you might make a connection that leads you to a new career.

  53. A Teacher*

    Names: I have two relatives in my family: Cathy and Katherine. Cathy is not short for Catherine and if you called her that would be confused. Katherine doesn’t go by anything shorter than her full name.

    I have a full name and a nickname. Friends, family, and people I’ve known a really long time use my shortened name. I also use a shortened version of my name on two social media platforms. My former boss figured this out and started to call me the nickname. I never corrected him but it was the weirdest thing to hear because I’d only known him a year and don’t go by the shortened version at work for the most part.

    Point being, respect how people sign their names.

    1. fhqwhgads*

      I don’t think your example applies. In this context it’s where in the email program the full name of the person shows up as Katherine SoAndSo, but at the bottom of her email she signed Kathy.

      Now, yes, that does seem to me to indicate she wants to be called Kathy. However if this is someone you rarely interact with, and only via email, it’s really common to only know who the hell you’re talking to based on the name in the email. So it becomes really easy to get confused, or call someone Katherine even though they signed Kathy because the thing you see up front in your own email is the fill name that fills in automatically after you put in their email. So, for that reason, I’d never scoff at someone calling me Katherine, since it’s right there, even though, yeah, I did sign Kathy.

      Your Cathy example would not happen here because it’d say Cathy in both places. In your Katherine example it’d say Katherine in both places. I think part of the nature of OP’s question is “if they sign it this way, but they’re in the system this other way (and I don’t already know that the system is rigid and doesn’t allow for variation) must I assume their sign-off is The One True Name they must be called?”

  54. Dwight Schrute*

    As someone who goes by a nickname and signs all their emails with it, but in the system as my legal name- please use whatever the signature says. I hate when I sign something with the name I prefer and get a reply with the more formal name. I haven’t used that name since I was 6 years old and it feels chilly when someone uses it after I’ve signed off with the name I prefer and use.

  55. L. Ron Jeremy*

    OP1. If you take a year off and follow the advice given to say you had a health emergency, make sure your social media presence reflects your absence with regards to not posting your hang gliding adventures in Maui.

    Just a word from a wise person.

    1. Lizzo*

      “Health emergency” can also include mental health, and it seems completely appropriate to take a trip to Maui and do something life-affirming to help improve one’s mental health.
      If someone is judged for doing this, well, that says more about the judgmental person than it does about the person on the trip.

      1. banoffee pie*

        yeah they hopefully wouldn’t just expect you to sit around the house all the time to recover from burnout; that would be counter-productive. Plus if you’re supporting yourself and not claiming benefits/unemployment what’s the problem?

  56. BlueBelle*

    LW1, if you can afford it, do it!!!! For the last 20 years, I have occasionally taken 3-12 months off, and in my cover letter, I explain I had the opportunity to take some time off to travel. It has never once been a problem, it has been the exact opposite. The hiring managers are always interested in what I did and where I went. It has helped me have a better global view of the world, it has helped me connect with people more easily and quickly, and it has been nothing but positive.
    It has never once prevented me from getting a job, do it!!!! A year of travel is worth 5 years of work and education!
    Have the greatest time ever! Meet people and immerse yourself in the cultures.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      That’s great if you *can* travel, but it doesn’t seem like the LW has those kind of plans. And right now it’s less doable, and may even make you look careless to a hiring manager.

      1. BlueBelle*

        Travel can look like a lot of different things. It can be visiting state parks and camping for a couple of nights, it can be backpacking through Europe, it can be high rolling. If there is no plan for any sort of travel then they should at least do some volunteer work, get active in the community. That is still valuable and can be explained as “I took some time to give back to the community and volunteer with a few causes.”

        1. Mental Lentil*

          All great ideas! And if LW spends all day in front of a screen, some time spent in nature could be very healing!

    2. retired*

      One thing I see from younger people (I’m mincing towards 80) is that they see life as a linear thing that can be planned. In my experience life is a continual surprise and certainly not linear. Having lots of skills and flexibility and experience is a good thing. One of my best experiences was traveling around national parks in NM ($6 a night) with a woman I had met volunteering for the Park.
      We want to believe we have control over our lives, but that really isn’t the case. Let go and enjoy the ride.
      Many years ago I went to a seminar on death and dying (E Kubler-Ross). One speaker was a woman in her early 20’s with cancer we couldn’t cure then and she had about 3 months to live. She wanted to spend the time in her normal life and enjoy it as long as she could. As Jim Morrison said, none of us get out of here alive.

  57. ABBBBK*

    #1: hard to know, but I’m guessing you do have a fairly in demand skill set and skills that would be transferable to a variety of roles and careers. Taking time off work for you would be an opportunity to focus on your health and also time to reassess your career, and I’m guessing you’ll be unlikely to try to get right back into the same role you are at right now! So part of your strategy getting back into the workforce will be to describe your transition to new/adjacent career, what you’ve done to prepare, people you’ve talked with, why you’re excited, etc. That will make time off sound more like health + career transition, not just health + recuperation + (implied) laziness.

    I was partially employed for a year, then unemployed for another year and still managed to jump back into the swing of things. No one really batted an eye if you can talk about your skills, your time off, and what you bring to the job. A 30+ year career is a LONG TIME to not have any extended breaks!

  58. BitterMelon*

    I am one of said people who use a “shortened” version of my name colloquially at work. It almost immediately sticks and in conversation, emails, team chats, people will refer to me by my nickname. In cases where the person uses my full name, it is usually in a more formal meeting setting, a more seriously toned email (read: I’m not getting into trouble, but the topic at hand is usually more important that the usual question) or if someone doesn’t know me as well. Some people will skip using my full first name altogether when they meet me and dive right into the nickname. I literally could care less what the call me, as I have kind of got stuck in the rut of having people call me by my nickname since my name is uncommon.

  59. Elenna*

    For #5: I agree with Allison that taking 2 weeks isn’t a problem. That being said, if you can financially afford it (not a certainty, I know), there’s nothing wrong with giving CurrentJob two weeks’ notice but starting NewJob three or four weeks from now, if you want a longer break to decompress from the toxicity.

    1. Meep*

      I fully agree! I have a (former-) coworker who gave his two weeks about three weeks ago. He is taking two weeks off to decompress as he hasn’t had a vacation in three years since he has been working for us! He is hopefully sleeping as he never got enough sleep before. When I give my two-weeks in two weeks, I am taking off an entire year like LW1 (to get my Master’s, but same difference) because of how traumatic it has been.

      I think it is important to give yourself a week at least to recover because if OP5’s manager is anything like the manager we have, it is going to feel about as bad as a breakup – even if it was toxic – and tears will be shed regardless.

      1. NeedAnOut*

        OP #5 here
        I had the first round interview today and it went spectacularly! I have a second round early next week and they want someone in as soon possible – they didn’t even comment about only 2 weeks notice being given.
        The manager I spoke with was so nice (and sane) that even just this conversation was a breath of fresh air! I felt more valued as a human and professional during that call than I have in the last year!
        I was definitely overthinking the notice part!

  60. WFH with Cat*

    LW #3 – As someone old enough to experience ageism on the reg, no, you were definitely not being ageist. (But, as others have pointed out, the senior colleague who dissed your team of 30-something postdocs as being too young/inexperienced certainly was.)

    Fwiw, I really hate it when people my age act like complete asshats and then, when they don’t get the job/respect/response they want, complain that someone younger is being ageist. Nope, dude, you’re just being a jerk.

  61. Ally McBeal*

    LW1: I am currently doing this exact thing. I resigned my stressful job at the end of December and have just been coasting since then thanks to years of careful savings and an unexpected gift from a relative. It was so, so important for my mental health, although I will caution that you need to keep some sort of schedule outside the home, lest you fall into a semi-feral state like I accidentally did for a month or two (the pandemic is hard!!). I started volunteering and that helped tremendously, so you don’t necessarily need a JOB-job.

    Now that I’m feeling actually eager to go back to work, rather than being filled with existential dread every time I thought of even applying for a job, the application process is going much more smoothly (I’d started applying in March, before my heart was in it, and it felt so wrong, so trust your gut) and I’m getting interviews at places I’m excited about. But my savings are starting to dwindle and that’s stressful, so again, trust your gut on whether that kind of stress is something you can handle.

  62. OyHiOh*

    Oh nicknames!

    I have a board member who goes by a nickname unrelated to their legal first name. Think their given name is Ashley and they go by Tuna in day to day life. 95% of the time, this is not an issue. Occasionally, such as looking up their professional accolades for organization publication, there’s that jarring moment of “wait, why can’t I find Tuna???? Oh yeah, Tuna’s legal name is Ashley, carry on.” As long as there’s a note in the board roster about legal names, in addition to known as, it’s not a problem

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I had a similar issue when I started at my current job. I was introduced to one of our team members as “Bee”. I didn’t work closely with her, so I didn’t really notice for a while that there was no “Bee” listed on our staff list. When I got to a point where I had to email her, I couldn’t figure out what it was because I didn’t know her last name.

      Come to find out, Bee is a nickname (or possibly a middle name, I’m still not entirely sure three years later), and her first legal name is Marjorie, so that’s how her name is listed in our official directories.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I once worked in a full office of those. I took to writing their names like “M. Bee Smith,” which almost everyone went with as a compromise (some were even amused at how formal it looked, since middle names were supposed to be a form of informal communication), just so I could try to keep names straight. I’m terrible with names already…

  63. Observer*

    #2 – Allison says that if you refuse to use someone’s common nickname it sounds chilly. I’d go further. It IS chilly. Think about it. You say that you don’t want to use the name because you are “not close enough” to them to do so. Which means that refusing to use the nickname is clearly emphasizing the distance between you. And it’s especially distancing when the nickname you are refusing to use is so common and not what most people wold consider intimate or an endearment.

    I would understand if the nickname were something that’s offensive or just very intimate. Like if you wrote in that your coworkers sign of Sherry “Shmooples” McGee, I’d hear you. But Mike? Yeah, that’s not best friend territory.

  64. CJ*

    #2 – at both of the schools I teach at, some part of the email is set to “Christopher” and is unchangeable, as much as I’ve asked. (It’s tied into HR.) I always sign at least the first email in a thread with CJ, and all emails in thread if I don’t know everyone well.
    – I will always answer to “CJ” – I consider it my name.
    – I will answer to “Chris” if they’re someone who knew me from high school, or are such-person-adjacent, because I’m tired of having that fight, but it definitely earns an eye roll.
    – I absolutely don’t answer to Christopher unless they’re a judge or a doctor – it tells me the respondent either isn’t paying attention enough to see my signed preferred name, or doesn’t respect me enough to honor my choice of name.

    I will also point out that I’ve known a few people who early in transition started using “Mike” instead of “Michelle” on their way to “Michael”.

  65. WantonSeedStitch*

    In my workplace, I have the frustrating situation of people who share the same given name and have different nicknames or who don’t use nicknames (Think of a “John,” “Johnny,” and “Jack,” all of whom have “John” as their full given name), as well as people who have different given names but the same nickname (Think of two “Beths,” one of whom is an “Elizabeth” and the other of whom is a “Bethany.”) And of course people with different spellings of a name pronounced the same way (think “Catherine” and “Kathryn.”) I sometimes feel like I need to make a chart of all of these people, because I HATE, HATE, HATE calling people by the wrong name, or a version of their name that they don’t prefer.

    1. SnapCrackleStop*

      We have a lot of folks with overlapping first names where I work. So there’s Carol C, Carol Q, and Carol D. Sometimes to clarify, it might be “Engineering Carol”, “Operations Carol”, and “Logistics Carol” in conversations with someone else, but I’d never say “How are you today, Operations Carol?”.

      1. Forrest*

        I once did a teaching session to our library staff and 4/10 of them were called Hannah. We went around doing names and by the time we got to the fourth Hannah (who pretty much apologised for ALSO being Hannah), I was having to work so hard to keep a neutral expression.

      2. UKDancer*

        I worked somewhere with 5 Davids at one point. One of them went by Dave and we used David F, David T and so on for the others. It was a bit confusing at first but we soon got used to it.

    2. Wisteria*

      There are a ton of shared names at my work place. I use last names when talking about people, and first names when talking to them. It’s pretty common at my workplace to just use full names, too.

      My company is so large that there are people who share first, middle initial, and last names. It’s really only a problem when you are searching for someone in the company directory. Some people have changed their display name to read something like John T. (in Springfield) Smith. Their email address will be something like, and I know a guy who goes by T1. He even changed his display name to T1.

    3. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      I worked in Moscow for a few years. The convention in Russian is that your middle name is actually a form of your father’s first name (a patronymic) – Ivan Ivanovich Whateveov is Ivan, son of Ivan; Svetlana Ivanovna is Svetlana, daughter of Ivan.

      Which is fortunate, because I worked in an office with 4 Sergeis and 1 Vladimir. Before I learned to use the patronymics consistently, I’d say “Hey Sergei” and 4 guys would reply “what?”

  66. Jennifer K*

    OP#3: it would have been ageist if you assumed, because of his age, that he didn’t have relevant or new experience. But I find my experience basically irrelevant once it’s over 5 years sometimes as a developer! If I had built something cool, I would definitely still put it on my resume, even if it was 40 years ago… but not showing you anything new (even ignoring that he didn’t seem to learn anything from past experiences) is definitely a problem. If he was just a couple of years out of date, that could probably be remedied pretty easily… but things have change a *lot* in this industry and I wouldn’t have felt confident hiring him either. And some of my favorite former colleagues have been 50+. One of my favorites was a woman in her 70s in my first job who had been working as a software developer steadily since graduating from MIT. But she also wasn’t stuck in the past.

    1. EmmaPoet*

      Exactly. My dad is still doing scientific consulting in his 80s because he’s kept his skills up to date. If you asked him for work samples, he’d hand you computer modeling he did last month. Putting “I built X really cool thing 40 years ago” on your resume is fine, but if that’s the only examples you’ve got to use, then I’m going to wonder if you’ve kept up with any of the advances in your field and how good you’re going to be.

  67. IWishIHadAFancyUserName*

    Re #4, meanwhile Reuters is reporting Google plans to implement a 10% pay cut for staff who choose to work fully remote. It’s being characterized as “an experiment”. So much inconsistency.

  68. I should really pick a name*

    Do you want to start looking for work after a year, or start working again after a year?
    Remember to factor in some time for you job search. A 12 month gap could turn into an 18 month gap.

  69. Pwyll*

    I’ve followed this script my whole professional life, and I’ve never had a problem:

    1. Use the name they manually typed for themselves (e.g., Bob, or JG; or even once a Mugs); if none
    2. Use the name in quotations/perens in their signature (Robert “Bob” Doe; Jean-George (JG) Roe; Margaret “Mugs” Doe); if none
    3. Use the name in their signature (Robert or Jean-George or Margaret); if none
    4. Use the first name in their e-mail title (Robert or Jean-George or Margaret); if none
    5. Use no name at all. (Good morning; Hi)

  70. Wisteria*

    OP1: I took 5 years off work as a white woman in a competitive male dominated field, so I can speak to your question.

    Yes, it will be more challenging to find work after taking a full year off than it would be if you did not take time off. Be prepared to spend several months searching. It took me a year as a white woman in my late 40s with multiple graduate degrees, and I applied to around 100 jobs. I advise taking maybe 6 months off and then starting to apply in a leisurely fashion only to jobs that you really want. You can ramp up the search as you get closer to the 1 year mark.

    Definitely stay busy volunteering. First, it’s fun. Second, it can help you cultivate references, and the right volunteer work can become an accomplishment on your resume. I loved my time off. I read a lot of books, landscaped my yard, baked a ton of bread, and volunteered all over town. I also became a mystery shopper to bring in beer money, and while I didn’t get questions about what I did, if I had, I could have talked about how it gave me some really interesting insights into customer service in a variety of industries that are actually pretty useful in my own working interactions. So lean in to leaning out!

  71. RagingADHD*

    LW2, call people what they tell you to call them.

    If Michael says he’s Mike, or Rachel says she’s Rach, or Lucas says they’re Lux, the person gets to decide.

    You don’t get to decide.


    It is the barest minimum standard of basic civility.

  72. Lizzo*

    LW1: I did something similar: stepped away from my traditional career to pursue a creative career for a couple of years. I think my parents were also very concerned, but 1) their professional work experience is not analogous to mine, and therefore the same advice didn’t apply; and 2) they had never done anything like this, so I think they were a bit afraid of what the negative consequences might be.

    I ultimately came back to my traditional career due to some financial changes with my family.

    Things that made that return much easier:
    –I retained, cultivated and expanded my network, and later called upon these folks to help me find a job.
    –I got some clarity on what I wanted in a role–work environment, salary, benefits, etc.–and was very vocal about these needs when I was job searching.
    –I was very vocal about my talents and what I had to offer a potential employer. Not boastful, but I wasn’t shy about my value as a potential employee during my job search.
    –I explored some projects that brought together my traditional and creative expertise, which re-energized me about both, and also gave me something to show for my time away from the traditional career.
    –I explored some new things that I wouldn’t have had time to do if I’d stayed in my traditional career, and those things enriched me as a person in a way that informs my work.
    –I prioritized my health above all else, and created routines that have remained in place even with my return to full-time traditional work.

    Get your ducks in a row re: the financial and insurance things, and get moving on taking this break and taking care of yourself! You’ve earned it.

  73. Mari*

    LW2, You may be overlooking an obvious possibility. I often sign quick emails “Lisa” because my given name is “Lisaloubella”. Some people call me Lisa, some Lisaloubella but the reality is that I simply don’t want to type that whole tongue twister of a name fifty seven times a day to ask a simple question. Call me what you want (with a name like that, I answer to everything starting with the right letter anyway) but feel free to save yourself the typing.

  74. Minerva*

    LW2 – you can get into cross cultural issues too. My husband’s name is not from English. He goes by a nickname that is easily pronounced in English. He really hates what most people do to his full name (it becomes wrong, to him, and most English speakers don’t hear why).

    So, I ask Aihua if she prefers Helen or Aihua and find either is ok, as long as you get close to the right sounds, but she thinks most people find Helen easier. But maybe Yu really prefers Alice unless it’s a Chinese speaker because she dislikes the way I mangle her name, and it grates on her. And even if it’s a common name, the pronunciation may be entirely different based on ethnic or linguistic roots (Robert likes Bob because it’s Rhow-bear, and Rob-bert just isn’t him, and new people would never guess)

  75. HiHello*

    #2 I use a nickname at work. It’s isn’t a short version of my first name but evolved from my last name. I live in US but am from a different country so most cannot pronounce my first name. I always sign with my nickname. It the system, my nickname also appears between my first and last names. If I have a nickname there, that means I want you to use it instead of my first name. I will actually get slightly annoyed when you use my first name when I sign with the nickname.

  76. Just a Thought*

    #4 – we are in a similar situation but since I am in HR , these are the types of questions I have. Any thoughts?
    1. If we have approved a position for remote, they are giving up their in-office workstation. How can we not supply new computer equipment and chairs when needed?
    2. If someone does not want to give up their in-office workstation, they need a full set up in the office. How does that obligate us to support that home set up?
    3. I’m not sure to how tackle that different people incurred different kinds of costs – or none – during lockdown. We paid bonuses, and implemented salary increases …. but now I am wondering about this more.

    By setting up policies now we are trying to make sure that everyone knows the parameters of the new arrangements and are each supplied with a workstation/computer/internet access to do their work. But just one set up per person.

    1. Forrest*

      2. If someone does not want to give up their in-office workstation, they need a full set up in the office. How does that obligate us to support that home set up?

      I think the big question here is whether it’s optional. LW here says that they are on a hybrid model and that people who have an office workstation are still expected to work remote a few days a week. If the company requires people to have both an office workstation and a home workstation, they should pay for both.

  77. MassMatt*

    These things can come from experience if the person learns, which is a big if. The person interviewed in the letter didn’t give any indication that this was the case. On the contrary, he presented only materials from forty (!) years ago, a long time in any business, eons in a technology field. He also indicated he would do nothing differently. Unless he was/is perfect, this suggests no self-reflection or growth. OP mentioned the interviewer didn’t bother to learn anything about the company, either. This person failed to make a good case to the job interview, let alone a board presentation. I am cringing at the thought of this person making a pitch to a client: “If it was good enough for Geocities it should be good enough for you!”

    The other interviewers not realizing this and saying there are “too many” young people in the group is likewise cringeworthy IMO.

    1. Andy*

      > He also indicated he would do nothing differently. Unless he was/is perfect, this suggests no self-reflection or growth.

      I find this point so often repeated in comment quite surprising. First, I fully agree that 40 years old things are too old to be relevant. Plus, OP says there were other red flags and he does not seem to be terribly interested.

      But, if I am picking work sample to show, very honestly, I am picking samples that I would not do differently now. I have past works that I would change and also the ones I think I have done correctly. The latter stood the test of time. If I shown them during interview, yes, I would have done them exactly the same way now.

      I had good works in the past, those are the ones I would pick for interview. Do I really have to make up pretend faults during interview so that non-technical manager dont think I am stale? The colleagues says that the guy did some famous protocols, so it is quite possible that some of his past work is good.

      1. nothing rhymes with purple*

        Here’s an idea: also have an example of a project which you would have done differently if you knew then what you know now. Don’t submit it as an example until they ask “would you do something differently now” and then say, “here’s an example of a case where I would do something differently now” and bring out that example you had in reserve.

      2. Observer*

        But, if I am picking work sample to show, very honestly, I am picking samples that I would not do differently now.

        I would find that very, very concerning. Because even if it was the right way to do it then, it almost certainly is not the case now. So, you should be able to talk about how the changes over the last X years would change what you do if you had to do it now. Or at least, why you would still do the project the same way despite the changes.

        Do I really have to make up pretend faults during interview so that non-technical manager dont think I am stale?

        Actually, a non-technical manager MIGHT get bamboozled and not recognize the problem. A competent technical manager would run screaming the other way, unless they were as ageist as the OP’s coworker. Because the issue here is not about making up pretend faults. It’s about the fact that none of use is perfect, and even really good work should be something we can learn from. And when that work is really old DECADES in this case), it’s just ridiculous to think that even a really, really good piece of work that has stood the test of time cannot be re-evaluated in light of current circumstances.

        Add that to the fact that ALL of this guy’s examples came from the past, and you have a clear sign that this person has a real problem.

  78. Rainy*

    LW3: Huh, you appear to have interviewed my father-in-law.

    But no, you weren’t being ageist–you just weren’t impressed by irrelevant accomplishments from 40 years ago.

  79. El l*

    #1: Your parents cut their teeth in a time where – if you were fighting off physical issues – you’d just live with it until you retired at 55-60. But that’s not an option for members of the millennial (and younger) generations, who are going to be working well into their 70s. If the extra time will make a difference, take it – your situation is different than theirs.

    Finally, completely agree with the comments above asking if you really want to do 12-14 hour days. It’s not for everyone, everytime, and there’s a good reason for that!

    1. retired*

      Guess I didn’t get the memo. Still working part time at 77: telecommuting and making good money and having fun. I did drop out when I was young, something I never regretted. I once started a sentence at work, “when I was a hippie” and someone said “no, you are a hippie.” Dropping out and finding that I was fine was one of the most important lessons in my life; I think it made the pandemic much less stressful, for example.

  80. in your shoes*

    #1 I am a young female of color in a white male dominated industry, which also requires intense and long hours. I took 12 month off, my parents were very worried as well but I came back to a job in the same industry, at a higher position and a better pay grade (that was before covid though). Before you take your break, plan carefully and allow for some financial buffer. If you have a year of saving, then plan for taking a break for 9 months and allow yourself 3 months for job search so you won’t have pressure. In my case I also got some emails from headhunters while on break so I took advantage of it and did a couple phone interviews in the latest months and before my true job search to keep me “sharp” and ease the transition into job search mode. I did let them know I was still off for a couple months, you can be honest about it, if your profile is interesting, they’ll still want to talk to you and add you to their roster for future opportunities. Depending on what you decide to do during your break, you might also be able to acquire different skills, including soft skills that could be valuable when you come back to the market and you can discuss that in interviews. Good luck !

  81. Koala dreams*

    #1 I think this is a question to discuss with medical professionals, such as a doctor or a therapist. Random people you know (or strangers online) won’t be able to give good advice. Health issues are so personal. You might also want to re-visit the question after a few months. In my experience, illnesses seldom follow the schedule. Depending on what happens, you might also need to look for a different job with less hours or a different work environment. I hope you get better soon!

  82. cheezmouser*

    LW1: Perhaps you could use your sabbatical to pursue some personal interests. Then when you are ready to return to full-time employment, you could talk about your sabbatical to make you a more well-rounded candidate. i.e. “After working hard in this industry for over 10 years, I decided to take a sabbatical to devote more time to my personal interest in mentoring underprivileged children/ceramic pottery/dolphin training/etc.”

  83. Princess Scrivener*

    My new favorite comeback as an extreme introvert: I reject your warm familiarity!

  84. OP #2*

    Hi all, I’m letter writer number two. I’ve seen this question in the comments a few times, so I wanted to clarify. My company does let us choose our own email addresses. I have several coworkers who have decided to use nicknames in their email addresses. For example, “Paula Jean” is I, of course, call Paula Jean PJ. I’m not quite that bad. I’ve just gotten a little turned around with who then sometimes refers to herself as Rach. I very reluctantly will accept Alison’s advice and embrace the familiarity. Familiarity doesn’t come super easily to me I’m afraid.

  85. Steph over Stephanie*

    LW#2: My signature reads Stephanie to match the outgoing name on my email, which I am unable to control because that responsibility belongs to our IT dept (this might be the case for a lot of people!). I exclusively go by Steph and introduce myself and sign emails as Steph. I know Stephanie is my name. But when I introduce myself and sign off as Steph and people refer to me as Stephanie it’s like they think they know better than me what my name is. And that’s super annoying. If someone signs their email as Rach or Steph or Dan or Kate, they are giving you the permission *and direction* to call them that.

    Think of an email signature like an official document, or info you would put out there for people to be able to find you (resume, LinkedIn), but the text of an email as a conversation with that person. That might help. You probably know when I say “Hi, I’m Steph” that my birth certificate likely says Stephanie, but you wouldn’t use THAT fact to determine what you call me when I’m literally telling you the name to call me. So just accept that email signatures are one of those things that some of us use slightly more formally than the rest of the email, just like our name on the door or company website, or our resume, or LinkedIn profile, etc., and you may find it easier to call people the name they use in the actual email body.

  86. HungryLawyer*

    Seconding Alison’s advice on calling people the names by which they refer to themselves! I use the shortened version of my name at work, because I really, really hate using my full first name. My first name reminds me of a *lot* of childhood trauma volcanoes, so I prefer the shorter version. And I absolutely detest when co-workers, despite my email signature with the shorter name, use the full first name. Call people by the names they want to use!

  87. Dr. Tea Blender, PhD*

    So, with nicknames, it’s pretty obvious that Mike, Jim, Liz, Kate, etc., while nicknames, aren’t overly familiar if requested. On the flipside, there are nicknames complete unrelated to the name that feel like it’s not overly chilly to reject (for example, I have an acquaintance with whom I share some mutual casual friends who goes by something like “Cupcake.” I don’t know her very well and it feels like I’m being forced into a level of familiarity with her that she didn’t earn, so maybe I’m a stick in the mud, but I call “Cupcake” by her first name.) For me “Rach” feels like it’s somewhere in the middle of that, like Rach for Rachel or Tiff for Tiffany feels like a name shortening that arises conversationally, but isn’t something that you’d necessarily call someone that every time you addressed them. Or, like, if I knew someone was named Michael and heard people use “Mike,” I can safely assume to use that, but if I heard someone call Rachel “Rach”, I wouldn’t necessarily assume that this was a name I should use.

    1. Dr. Tea Blender, PhD*

      To use a parallel example, my spouse and very closest friends sometimes refer to me by the first letter of my first name. If other people heard this, I don’t think it’s fair to assume that they should call me that.

    2. Jennifer Strange*

      But this isn’t about hearing someone call her “Rach”, it’s about her referring to herself as “Rach” in emails at work. That’s the distinction in my mind.

  88. spaceygrl*

    I rarely comment, but thought I’d add – my former boss’s name is Andy. Not Andrew. Andy. That’s what his parents named him. He said it annoys him when people call him “Andrew.”

  89. I Love Llamas*

    LW #1 – there is a book, Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life, that I would strongly recommend. This book provides a structure on how to approach building a satisfying, meaningful life. I think a sabbatical is a great idea and can easily be explained in your future job search, but I would suggest preparing for it, creating some structure within it (i.e. time to decompress, next up time to do X, then Y, etc.). But please give yourself grace as you do this and allow yourself time and space to think and process everything. It sounds like you haven’t had much of that lately. BEst of luck!

  90. Petunia*

    LW#2 – Just ask people what they want to be called. Sometimes names are contextual!

    As a pre-school age kid, I went by a short form of my middle name, because that’s what my mom liked! Family still call me that, and I’m not going to ask them to change. (Mom also gave me lots of nicknames, including Petunia which was shortened to – absolutely no joke – Tuna. Which is why today’s column spoke to me! Only two people in my life get away with still calling me that.) When I went to school, I changed to my legal first name. In my 20s, I started sometimes using a short form of my first name, which my husband and his family and close friends now use. But I don’t like it professionally, and it kinda weirds me out when not close friends use it. I really appreciate it when people ask what I prefer, especially when it’s a more formal context – like when our financial advisor asked if she should use the nickname my husband uses.

  91. Amaranth*

    LW2, some people hate their given names. Please use the name someone chooses for themselves.

  92. Observer*

    #3- If this conversation comes up again, you might want to AGREE with your ageist coworker that, yes indeed. You DO need people with actual experience! Which this guy doesn’t have. You need skills x,y, and z. He was unable to show you a single example that showed those skills.

    You don’t have to say it, but you know that it’s because all of his samples were from a time before those skill existed. Some technologies that are considered “venerable” didn’t even exist in the 80s. On top of which, the legal and social changes over the last decades have had a marked impact on the “purely” technical aspects of technology.

    These changes are all over the place. HR systems almost certainly need to handle more and different information that was necessary in the 80s. Security on those systems is a whole new layer as well. Or take what in the past has been referred to as SCADA and is now sometimes called OT (Operational Technology). It’s a new world – in the 80s the idea of any such system being NEAR an internet connection was just out there science fiction. Today? That changes a LOT of things from a purely technical point of view.

    I could go on, but the idea that someone with NO work samples to show past the 80 could be considered to have “solid” experience is just laughable. Now, someone who did solid work in the 80s and then continued to do good work? THAT is gold. Because if you can process and learn from that level of change, you have really really valuable experience and insight.

  93. SW*

    Yes you should use your colleagues’ nicknames in part because it is financially and logistically difficult to change your name. It’s either fork over $400 (such as in California) or fork over $100 to the state, $200 to the local newspaper, and take time off to go to court (such as in New Jersey). Plus having to change everything from social security to bank checks to your diploma.
    As a result of this difficulty people are going to use different names than their legal names. So we take people at their word that the name they give is the correct name for you to use.

  94. EngineerMom*

    OP#2 – Please, use the nicknames they sign with.

    A lot of times, companies set everything up for an employee using their full legal name (think Catherine), while the employee actually goes by a nickname in everyday life (like Cathy).

    It feels really, really awkward on the receiving end to be called by the full name every time, even when you’ve made it clear you go by a nickname. Employees don’t always have the option to change any of the other information (email address, contact information available in the company directory, signature, etc.).

  95. Skippy*

    LW1: Obviously every field is different, but over the 20 or so years I’ve been in the working world I’ve found that at least in my industry, that employers aren’t worrying as much about “flaws” in people’s work history, such as short-term contracts, layoffs, career changes, family leave, etc., as they used to. The fact is, with the job markets we’ve seen — including two major recessions in just over a decade — if employers only looked at people with “perfect” resumes, they wouldn’t have very many applications to review, and many good candidates would go overlooked. This is, of course, industry-dependent, and there will always be people who will judge you for taking a year off, but sometimes you need to do what you have to do.

  96. Ariana Grande's Ponytail*

    I feel really strongly about the nickname thing. My full name is a pretty standard white lady name, and my nickname is also a pretty standard white lady nickname – not dissimilar to Allison/Allie. I sign everything with my nickname, and when people don’t refer to me by the nickname after once or twice I start to grow irritated. I’ve mainly encountered it from people above me in my org, and it comes across as a way that they indicate that I’m not important enough for them to know my name or something. It’s also a DEI issue for reasons many many people have outlined above. And it’s not even about you. I am not using my nickname to torture people, it’s because I really identify with my nickname and feel that it better represents me than my full legal name.

  97. MadisonB*

    LW#5 I’ve been seriously burned the two times I gave more notice than required (4 weeks and, yikes, 8 months). It gets weird after 2 weeks. You’re there but not REALLY there, and it gives resentment time to kindle and then ignite. I’ve learned the hard way to not do a company favors, even if those favors may seem beneficial to coworkers at the time. Give 2 weeks and move on.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      It might be different if you’re a high level role, like maybe 3-4 weeks. But generally you’re right it gets weird and 2 weeks is plenty.

  98. Anon for this*

    I’m a queer person who uses a “nickname” (or as I think of it — my name) and it feels really aggressive to me when people insist on using the full version of my name (which I’ve never used). This occasionally happens even when I gently ask a repeat offender to please use my name. Being repeatedly called the incorrect name is conflicts with my understanding of my gender, and feels like erasure, and I don’t understand why anyone feels entitled to “override” my name? Just use the name the person signs off as – they wouldn’t do it if they didn’t want you using that name.

  99. LGC*

    LW2: eh, I’d suck it up, especially if it’s “just” a contraction. And if someone signs their email in a certain way, they’re showing you how they’d like to be addressed.

    (It works both ways. Like, my first name is…Ronald, we’ll say. I don’t really like being called Ron. So I’ll sign everything as Ronald.)

    LW3: This might be a little spicy, but…the part about him not having done anything relevant for half a century might have been a little tonedeaf? (Okay, you might have been paraphrasing, and it’s true, but it was a bit impolitic.)

    That said, he doesn’t sound like he had the right skillset, and he didn’t show any interest in learning – which is grounds enough to dismiss him. And it also sounds like it might have hit a bit too close to home for the senior team member in his 60s.

  100. MissDisplaced*

    #3. No your weren’t being ageist. The guy didn’t even bother to research anything about your field! Before an interview!
    I don’t care what wonderful thing he created 40 years ago, but it sounds like he expected to coast on it. Bullet Dodged!

  101. Maia Rose*

    #1 my mom had similar concerns when I took about a year off 5 years ago now but I didn’t really have any problems finding a new position in my field when I was ready to go back. Like Allison said, most people respect “took some time off for health issues that have now been resolved.” It did put my career momentum back obviously but even then it wasn’t hard to get back into the swing. And honestly as a hiring manager currently staffing up a new branch of our company, if the prospect didn’t offer up an explanation for a gap I haven’t even been asking about it.

  102. You a year later*

    LW #1 –

    I was in your shoes and on the fence about quitting and taking some time off for my mental health. I dropped down to part time so that I could go back to school but really I just wanted to not work, and I used “I’m focusing on school right now” as an excuse (I wanted to get a Masters degree). Then a freaking global pandemic happened and I was laid off and also did not enjoy online school so I just kind of sat around. I looked at it as a blessing, like this was the break I wanted – laid off, collecting really good and unprecedented unemployment money, and no longer had to pretend like I was going back to school to get the break I wanted so badly. And I just sat and sat and sat. And eventually I went crazy because I realized I like to keep my mind busy and work, and it was just the work I was doing that I didn’t like. I started volunteering but then I was offered a paid position at the non-profit I was volunteering at. Now I know where you think this story is going. Working at a non-profit was sooo fulfilling and I found my life calling and I’m so happy and satisfied!!! It was actually the worst experience of my life and while I don’t regret the past year, I wound up rage quitting and sitting around for 3 more months before my old employer that I originally quit to go back to school for called and said they could take me back full time if I was interested. And now here I am again, mental health absolutely down the toilet, drowning my sorrows in wine at the end of the day, and exhausted working 12-17 hour days again in a toxic work environment. Because sitting around and doing nothing didn’t make me feel better and neither did working for a cause I truly believed in in the non-profit world.

    So why am I telling you this story? If you have the money to take the time off I say absolutely GO FOR IT. Just do it. Life is too freaking short not to. But for the love of god do not just sit around aimlessly. Have fun, enjoy yourself, do what makes you happy, if it makes you unhappy then quit it, but have a purpose with this precious time and stick to it. Sitting around and being bored is fun for about a month and then it gets old. You’re gonna want a plan that you can stick to. Trust me on this. I know things are awful now and sleeping in until noon sounds glorious because right now you’re frustrated and tired and depressed. But it is not fun after a while. Do things that will make you grow. Because let me tell you, going back to your old job and industry that’s making you miserable now is not it. You may say to yourself “I’m going to take a year off and when I come back I’ll be better. Stronger. I’ll be able to handle it.” You won’t. It doesn’t get better. Take it from me. I’m here now and it sucks.

    So do some growing during your sabbatical. Experiment with everything. Even the things that make you uncomfortable or that you don’t think you’ll like. Don’t be lazy. Make the most of it. Figure out what it is that you REALLY want – figure out what makes you happy – and do that. But by all means do it. You have the whole rest of your life to earn money, and chances are you’ll land back on your feet if you are as hardworking and dedicated as you say you are. I had tons of job offers even after I rage quit my non-profit job. You’ll be ok. Worry about that later. If 2020 taught us anything, Its that a million unthinkable things could happen between now and a year from now so don’t even bother worrying about that. We could literally all be dead in a year from now the way this pandemic is going.

    Good luck to you.

  103. andanon*

    Late to the game on #2, and maybe already addressed: I have to use my formal name for HR and for doctors. The only people who get to call me by my formal name are my mother, my best friend in college, and my sister. I would be offended if someone insisted on calling me my formal name.

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