people keep asking me to do admin work, coworkers don’t wash their hands, and more

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

1. How do I stop people from asking me to perform the admin tasks from my old job?

Last spring I took a position as an administrative assistant at a local company after a few years off for maternity leave. Prior to that, I had worked in a much more technical field, but at the time this was the only position I found that worked with the schedule I required. Nine months later, a position opened up in my company in a different department, and I applied and ended up getting it. I started that new role a few weeks ago, but since then, it’s been hard to get certain coworkers and managers to stop asking me to do tasks that are no longer my responsibility. For example, this morning when I mentioned I was going to the lunch room to grab a coffee, one coworker asked me to take some outgoing mail for him and use the postage machine to seal/stamp everything. Yes, I was heading in that general direction, but so had a number of other people throughout the morning and he specifically waited for me. Most of the requests have been made in a similar manner, where I find it awkward to flat-out refuse. However, I feel that if I don’t nip this in the bud now, it will be a lot harder in the long run.

Yeah, you definitely should nip it in the bud. Right now is the perfect time to explain your role changed, whereas it might get harder if you wait a month or two. So:

* “Oh, I’m not the person to do that anymore — check with Jane.”
* “That’s not me anymore — I’m in accounting now. Jane should be able to help.”
* “Sorry, can’t help with that anymore! I’ve got my hands full with my new job.”

If there is no Jane (i.e., your replacement in your old role), you can say, “I’m not sure who on the X team is handling it until my replacement is hired, but you could check with (manager) about it.”

2. My coworkers don’t wash their hands

I’m writing for advice on what to do regarding my coworkers’ lack of hand washing. I am the only woman in an office of roughly 15 men. I have unfortunately noticed how few men wash their hands after going to the bathroom. There are only two unisex bathrooms in our office, so everyone uses the same ones. I have heard at least five different coworkers go from immediately flushing the toilet to opening the bathroom door. As far as I’m concerned, this means they aren’t washing their hands — I don’t hear the water running, paper towels being dispensed, anything. Just flush and door open.

I’m increasingly getting grossed out by this and I’m unsure how to proceed. Do I contact HR and ask her to put up “Employees Must Wash Hands Before Returning to Work” signs? My boss is one of the people I can hear who doesn’t wash their hands, so I’m not sure I feel comfortable going to him and saying, “I think people aren’t washing their hands after using the restroom and before going back to work.”

What can I do? I’m using my weight in hand sanitizer just to appease my conscience but I don’t think that’s a sustainable solution. Also shouldn’t people be washing their hands even MORE because of the pandemic? I’m at a loss.

I’m sorry to tell you that a ton of people don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom. Yes, it is gross. And it is incredibly common. It’s happening everywhere, not just in your office; you just happen to be able to hear it in your office.

As for what you can do … unless you work in food service where it’s an actual government regulation, probably nothing. People who don’t bother to wash their hands aren’t likely to be spurred to change by a sign in the bathroom. You’re better off assuming germs and other gross things are everywhere (because they are) and proceeding accordingly.

3. I have a disrespectful trainee

I’m a high school senior and I work in a grocery store, I enjoy the job and get along great with upper management. I’m not eligible for a promotion yet (haven’t been there long enough) but management trusts me and is gradually giving me more responsibility. They’re now letting me cross-train a 16-year-old who works in another department. They’re handing me the reins and allowing me to train her directly rather than having her report to my boss. I’m super grateful they’re giving me the opportunity.

She’s a good kid and can be a hard worker (when she feels like it!) but disrespectful — cusses like a sailor, flips people off on the sales floor, makes comments about her boss that are borderline sexual harassment, etc. She thinks it’s all jokes but no one else is laughing. It’s starting to get exhausting, and I’m concerned that if I’m not making progress with her, management will notice and that might hurt my rapport with them and/or my chances of a promotion.

I’m not her boss by any means and she knows it. I could easily talk to her boss about what’s been going on but I don’t want to get her in trouble. It’s her first job, and I’d like to think she doesn’t know any better. She has great attendance and has a good head on her shoulders. I was pretty awful at my first job, but I’ve grown a lot and I would like to think that she can too. I want to give her a chance but also don’t want to hurt my own job.

Yes, say something to her! Part of training is how to talk on the sales floor and what is and isn’t appropriate in your work environment, and you can frame it that way. You’d be doing her a favor, since guidance from you about it will probably be preferable to a talk from her boss. Say something like, “We don’t cuss like that here. An occasional swear word isn’t a big deal as long as it’s not on the sales floor, but doing it frequently will make you look bad. You also can’t flip people off, especially where customers could see it, or make comments like X and Y. That stuff is a big deal and can get you in trouble or even fired.” And the sooner you say it, the better — both because it’s easier to train someone out of those habits before they take root, and to save her the embarrassment of realizing she’s been messing up for months.

If your message is going to get through to her, you should expect to see change pretty immediately; don’t wait weeks to decide if it worked. If it doesn’t work, at that point you should indeed mention it to her boss. That’s not about trying to get her in trouble; it’s about flagging for her boss that an employee needs more guidance from someone with more authority than you have. You could frame it as, “I think she needs to hear this from someone who’s not me.”

Read an update to this letter

4. Freelancer doesn’t want to use her last name

I’m doing a freelance gig in the PM role and asked someone I’m working with, A, to use as her display name on our Slack channel. However, she said that she doesn’t want to use her last name. At all. This meant not only on Slack, but other platforms we’re using for work.

This is the first time for this particular team to be working together. There are less than 10 of us right now, but we may grow to about double that in a month or two.

I explained to her that displaying last names communicates accountability and since we’re a fully remote team, it’s important that everyone is aware that there’s a real person at the other end of whatever conversation we’re having. I also asked her if she was concerned about privacy, or if there was a component of emotional tension in her personal history re: her last name (I didn’t ask for details). She just replied with, “it’s a personal decision.”

I’m trying to be understanding here but I also don’t know if I have the right to keep pushing this issue. What do you think?

There are times at work when people really do need to use both their first and last names, like when speaking to the media or at a conference. But is it really that big of a deal if Slack and other internal platforms only display her first name, in a small group of 10-20 people? It’s a little odd, but it doesn’t sound like the benefit of insisting would be significant enough to keep pushing the issue. (People aren’t likely to assume their colleague on a small team isn’t real just because her last name isn’t displaying.) If someone else shares her first name, then there’s a need to distinguish between the two of them … but otherwise I would let this go.

5. Should I rehire an employee who left after five months?

We just had an employee leave after only five months in his position because another company he had applied to last year reached back out and offered him a much higher salary. He left on good terms, we are still in touch, and there is no ill will on either end.

However, he has indicated that there is a major gap between what he was led to believe his new company would be and his experience there so far as an employee, and it sounds like he might leave soon due to frustrations with the company culture.

We certainly enjoyed working with him and he did his job well overall (albeit with some areas for growth around meeting deadlines, reliability, etc.), but I am wary of rehiring him if he leaves his new job soon because I would be concerned that he might leave our company fairly quickly again as well. Is that a good reason not to rehire someone who I like, or am I being overly strict/cautious here?

In general when you’re thinking about taking someone back so soon after they left, you want to make sure you understand why they left in the first place so that you can both accurately assess whether those things are likely to still be issues. Sometimes it’s really just that a higher offer dropped in the person’s lap, but often there were other problems in play which you’d need to address if you want to keep the person around long-term (whether it’s under-market salaries or unrealistic workload or bad management or so on).

But in this case, with a guy who only worked for you for five months and in that time had issues with deadlines and reliability, I’d push you on whether it really makes sense to bring him back. Reliability and meeting deadlines are big deals. While those things are sometimes coachable (although definitely not always), I’m skeptical that you would have eagerly hired him the first time if you had known in advance that those were going to be issues. If I’m right about that, take advantage of the fact that you do know in advance this time around and look at other candidates.

Read an update to this letter

{ 420 comments… read them below }

  1. Observer*

    #4 – I’m kind of confused. You say that ” displaying last names communicates accountability”, but I don’t really understand how using a last name does anything to improve accountability. I also don’t understand why you think she needs to display her last name to insure that ” everyone is aware that there’s a real person at the other end of whatever conversation we’re having” Do you really think that the rest of your team is so incapable that they will not be able to understand that the person with only one name is actually a person? That’s just a very odd take.

    1. supertoasty*

      The most generous explanation I can parse is if there are multiple people on the team with the same first name, but… other than that, yeah I got nothing on what LW4 is trying to say.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      My best guess — and I hope the OP will correct me if I’m wrong — is that it’s a feeling that the employee is keeping herself at a remove and maybe a little “if this person can’t even be bothered to share her full name with the the rest of us, is she really as much a part of the team as the rest of us? … and maybe more unconscious than fully articulated to themselves. But I’m just guessing.

      1. Wendy*

        Another possibility: some of the others on the team are gossips/pot-stirrers, and someone not showing their last name and not working in the office in person will cause more Totally Avoidable Drama than necessary. “Sansa? She won’t give us her last name? Hmm, wonder why – oh, I worked with a Sansa once, she was a total jerk, let me tell you ALL about it, I wonder if that’s her? She’s probably trying to hide her identity from us because [insert conspiracy theory here]!” etc. etc. ad nauseum.

        I’m not saying this is a GOOD reason to require last names, but it’s something that a boss could legitimately be dreading :-\

        1. Observer*

          I’m not saying this is a GOOD reason to require last names, but it’s something that a boss could legitimately be dreading :-\

          That really does sound pretty dreadful. But I don’t think that people like that need anything to really set them off. It’s like yesterday’s letter with the coworker who flipped because, among others things, the OP had the audacity to actually say thank you when the employee did stuff and also had the temerity to use their title in their signature block.

          Also, that’s not what the OP is saying. If their issue is not what they are saying it is, but problems with their staff, then they need to deal with those problems not make up stuff.

      2. Polecat*

        I just can’t believe the OP can’t let it go. It seems a ridiculous hill to die on. People have weird quirks. That’s just people. If it doesn’t impact work, which this absolutely does not, move on.

        1. JM60*

          It’s weird, but it may be legitimate. She may have emotional reasons for not using her last name that she doesn’t want to discuss with anyone (including the OP when being asked). If others don’t know her last name, she may also not want people to Google her name and find a particular embarrassing news article about her.

          On the other hand, I don’t understand why displaying the last name is important. The only reason I can think of is for differentiating between people with the same first name, but even then, using an initial or nickname may work.

          1. Ally McBeal*

            My very first thought was domestic violence or an otherwise abusive person in her life. Lots of reasons to want privacy – and a lot of people, women especially, have increasingly started using their first + middle names unofficially on public platforms. It may not be the norm, but it’s normal, and OP needs to take a breath on this one.

        2. Allonge*

          I don’t know, it’s really weird in a work context. Maybe because I have worked too long for bureucratic organisations where you don’t get to not have a last name, but it would throw me for a loop too, and people get to ask these questions.

          1. Eliza*

            I do think it depends on workplace culture. I work with a lot of people who go by pseudonyms and it’s not really seen as a big deal, but that’s in a field that’s both kind of artsy and very online, so people are used to it. In other jobs it could be different.

            1. Allonge*

              Hmm, I can see that.

              In a culture like that though, if I were A, I would say, hey, OP, I don’t want to go by my legal last name here, how about Firstname Fantasylastname?

              If the general culture / setup allows for pseudonyms, then the whole thing is best solved by having a pseudonym. At least from the text here, I don’t think OP is insisting that the last name shared needs to be the Official Name proven by multiple photo IDs, just to add a last name.

          2. Brightwanderer*

            I think it’s weird in a work context if she’s trying not to use her last name at ALL, like with HR and so on. But as a username on a chat program? Honestly I have no issues with my last name at all but it’d feel super weird to me to have my full name popping up for every message in that context!

            1. Allonge*

              I think this is something I am reading quite differently from a lot of people here:

              However, she said that she doesn’t want to use her last name. At all. This meant not only on Slack, but other platforms we’re using for work.

              For me, this is ‘OP and the whole team should accept that A has no last name at all ever’. Which is weird. Anyone can have an issue or multiple issues with their last name, but then changing it / using a different one seems like the next logical choice and I don’t see OP insisting on using a legal last name, just a last name, (but that too I am reading differently from others here).

              If it is just for Slack, then sure.

              1. Smithy*

                This is where my take comes from. If this consultant is just going by John/Jane, but then has other visibility materials such as a website or social media accounts of say “Just John Consulting” – then I do think those should at least be shared with the immediate team.

                In my comment below, I note accountability and transparency in regards to some very problematic issues in my industry – but whether its consultants or managers or coworkers – lots of times our professional networks are there just to let us know if someone is good/bad to work with. Someone in my network was recently working with a consulting firm where they were expecting her to regularly work 4pm-midnight when she was hired under the expectations of regular first shift work. In addition to general commiserations, my first question was – who is this consulting firm, I need to know for my own records….

                I do agree that if this is just how they want to be named on Slack but can be identified in other ways (either via their consulting entity, social media, etc), then it’s fair to let it go. But not allowing other coworkers to identify them at all isn’t something I would like.

                1. Observer*

                  It’s not like no one knows the person’s name. It’s that she doesn’t want to use it in communications channels.

                  I get the need for accountability. And if the OP were saying that “freelancer won’t give us her name so we can do background checks or reference checks”, I would be reacting very differently. But that’s not what is happening here. This is the person not using her last name with a bunch of people who she doesn’t know – and to whom she is actually NOT accountable to.

                2. Smithy*

                  @Observer – this may be a semantics thing around how I read the letter. But, I will just say if I was a full-time hire being asked to work with a consultant who’s surname/identifying information (i.e. which consulting firm they represent) would not be shared at all, I would have a problem with that.

                  If the information was shared, but then told that it would not be represented on Slack/other online channels due to confidentiality/privacy concerns, that would be understandable. And in this case, I don’t think that the consultant owes colleagues accountability – but whoever hired the consultant (be it the CEO, a manager, HR, etc.) does owe other staff that accountability. If this were a person who works for a large consultancy firm (i.e. McKinsey) – then that accountability would be how McKinsey was chosen.

                3. ohpeafour*

                  Hi! As far as I know, we’re pretty much just solo freelancers without consulting entities behind us, just our names. We’re not required to share websites or social media to other team members, just the emails we use and our names. I feel like requiring websites/socials is a bigger ask, though, so I didn’t even suggest it to the boss.

                4. Observer*

                  @Smithy, you can feel how you feel. I know I’d find it very weird, too. But that doesn’t obligate her to use her name. And it doesn’t give the OP standing to demand that she use her name.

                  The CEO owes you accountability, yes. But that doesn’t mean that they owe it to you to make someone use their name if they don’t want to. They DO owe it to you to show that they do their job competently, and so does HR. That would include making sure that they have done their due diligence when hiring either staff or consultants. But it doesn’t extend to sharing all of the information that they glean while doing the appropriate checks related to hiring.

              2. MsM*

                I mean, if people can handle Cher and Beyoncé, I think they can probably wrap their heads around Just Plain Denise.

                1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

                  LOL. Yeah, I wouldn’t argue about someone I *know* not displaying their last name in various contexts. However, there can be business reasons to need a last name, or at least a last initial if there are multiple Denises working there. As someone who hires and does phone interviews I find it absolutely ridiculous when someone schedules through our calendaring tool and only lists a first name and then I have to dig through our applications and try to match it to the person because they didn’t provide their last name. I have (jokingly) complained to a coworker, “what are these people doing – they are not Cher!”

                  OP – really think about what the business need is. If there’s any confusion about who this person is that is causing problems, you have to weigh that, but my guess in your situation is that it’s a quirk that’s become a hill for you to die on.

              3. Sick of Workplace Bullshit*

                Not “…A has no last name at all ever”, more like “A isn’t using her last name on Slack or other chat programs.” Not a big deal at all.

                Just because you don’t understand the reason, doesn’t mean it’s not a good one.

                1. Allonge*

                  So why is using a last name in an email ok but on Slack/other chat not?

                  I, as random internet commenter certainly do not need to understand – I think it’s weird but that is a feature of reading forums, not a bug. I am sure there is a good reason!

                  But knowing the last name of your fellow team members is really, really normal. I would prefer that ‘project manager asking for a last name of team member’ does not get equated with ‘inflexible, insensitive, culturally unaware and abetting abusers’ which is the direction that we seem to be going in here.

                2. anne of mean gables*

                  If my colleague expressed a preference to not use their last name on work platforms, I would assume they had a stalker or DV issue (and, to be clear, would not think any less or differently of them for that – that would just be my assumption re: rationale). In general, when people ask to not be identified or identifiable, I tend to assume they have reasons and they’re probably none of my business, and most generally, we don’t owe each other full transparency across domains of our life.

              4. Loredena*

                I know it’s unusual in the US, but some cultures don’t even use a surname ! There are many reasons she might prefer to be known by only one name and it’s not a hill worth dying on. HR can handle the legal aspects no one else needs to

                1. Jessica*

                  @Loredena, thanks, that was a fascinating article about names! I wish I could know the details behind all the rules (I recognize some of them).

                2. Tali*

                  @Jessica, I recommend looking into names used in Indonesia, there is such a diversity of ways very different to the US there!

            2. Jora Malli*

              At my workplace it’s even weirder than using your first and last name in the chat program. Our chat program is programmed to pull the user’s name from their email, and our emails are our full legal names. I go by a shortened version of my first name, but I’m not allowed to use my preferred name for email which means I can’t use it for the in-office chat either. This means that most of the people I work with call me my full name most of the time and I really don’t like it.

              OP, if you can, let this employee be called by the name she wants. It’s hard to feel seen and known when all of your coworkers are encouraged to know you by a name that doesn’t feel like it’s yours.

              1. Hazel*

                It seems unnecessarily rigid to force someone to use their full legal name in their work email address or anything that doesn’t require it. When applying for one of my early jobs, I used a resume with my legal first name (I thought I was supposed to), and it was a big pain to get my work email address changed but they did it. Problem solved. At another job (after I stopped using my legal name on resumes), they refused to NOT use it for my email address. I’m sure plenty of emails were bounced back to the senders because they assumed the name they knew me by was the name in my email address. It’s not a common nickname for my legal name. It’s just a change of one letter, but of course that matters in an email address.

                1. Rainy*

                  This happens to me a lot–my parents are 0 for 2 on naming children, I go by Rainy so a lot of people think my name is the usual Rainbow, but it’s actually Rudyardina (see above re 0 for 2, they also named my sister something awful). My workplace won’t let me have a first.last that’s what people actually call me, and I don’t want anyone thinking that calling me Rudyardina is an option, so I managed to get an email that doesn’t include it, but people still try sending email to Rainy.Lastname sometimes and are surprised when it doesn’t arrive.

              2. lilsheba*

                This is a tangent I know but…..say one were trans, and had a legal name, but preferred to go by a completely different name that was more gender suitable. They wouldn’t be allowed to at all?

                1. Rainy*

                  At my workplace, I think that a trans person could easily obtain an exception, but if you just don’t use your legal name, you’re SOL.

                2. Susan Ivanova*

                  We had a coworker who had started work under one name, then legally changed it. Deadname was full of consonant clusters. New name was short and simple. Her account name was her deadname, and IT said they couldn’t change it. She had an alias set up that worked for email, chat, and everything *except* the “code reviewed by” field. This was annoying because if we used the name we knew her by our code submissions would bounce with “unknown reviewer” and we’d have to rack our brains to remember the other name and how to spell it.

                  One day IT added a new “request reason” to their forms: “affects performance”. Ha! I re-filed the name change request with “every time I submit a review and it bounces, that’s a delay in getting changes in that affects performance.

                  She got her account name changed.

          3. Smithy*

            I’ve largely worked for humanitarian/human rights organizations – and as such this would strike me as very odd given the focus our field has had on transparency and accountability. Certainly there’s the paternalistic component of being transparent to donors, but also around questions in our field of staff abusing their position with people from vulnerable communities and colleagues. And because our work can extend across many countries, too many people have been able to job hop as a way of avoiding accountability.

            So someone who’s refused to share their last name/wouldn’t be able to be searched on LinkedIn would make me fairly uncomfortable. Not that every new coworker I have, I’m immediately adding on LinkedIn and tracking down any shared contacts to ask about them – but rather that it provides that secondary check if you’re working with someone as a peer and start seeing orange flags, maybe someone else in your network can give insight.

            Don’t know the OP’s sector and whether or not this tracks as a larger trend or issue. But from my experience, I wouldn’t like it.

            1. hbc*

              I can see why you want to make sure you’ve fully vetted your employees, but oftentimes people who do that kind of public work that have the most need to protect themselves. The Cruelty Investigator at my local Humane Society has had to remove herself from all social media because some people will spend a lot more energy harassing the person who took their animal than actually keeping it warm and fed.

              1. Smithy*

                I get this in regards to having no public visibility – but this is about transparency and accountability with staff.

                In my sector, there are issues around abuse of position with those programs are meant to serve – but also potential issues as a colleague. Basically a MeToo+++ that includes a range of concerns, one of which being cronyism. That people hire their friends as consultants as a way of bypassing traditional hiring processes and background checks.

                I’m not saying that I could never see a situation where we were told of a special case where for their security and safety, it was deemed necessary – but it would have to be exceedingly rare.

            2. Observer*

              So someone who’s refused to share their last name/wouldn’t be able to be searched on LinkedIn would make me fairly uncomfortable. Not that every new coworker I have, I’m immediately adding on LinkedIn and tracking down any shared contacts to ask about them – but rather that it provides that secondary check if you’re working with someone as a peer and start seeing orange flags, maybe someone else in your network can give insight.

              Why do you need to be able to search for your coworkers? Since when do your coworkers need to be accountable TO YOU?

              In a functional work place, your management / HR team would be doing this kind of checking. And also, if issues started to show up, you would be able to go back to them and say “Such and such is happening.” and they would do something about it. On the other hand, if you are NOT in a functional workplace, I can think of plenty of scenarios where someone might not want their coworkers to know their last name that are not nefarious. We’ve seen plenty of those here on this site…

              1. Avril Ludgateau*

                Why do you need to be able to search for your coworkers? Since when do your coworkers need to be accountable TO YOU?

                The commentariat here have what I find a disturbing propensity to defend googling people, and it’s the reason I use a fake name and lock down the only social media page I use. (Nothing to hide, but I value privacy. I only have social media to keep in touch with distant friends and family.) If I used my real name online, I would probably be cagey about having to use it on Slack channels, simply because I am not trying to be found by snoopy colleagues.

            3. Lanlan*

              Whoa nelly. Looking me up on LinkedIn yields exactly the same things I talk about in the workplace: I went to college at so-and-so, I have relevant experience doing this-and-that, and now I’m here. There’s nothing on LinkedIn that anyone needs to know about. I’m primarily listed there because one of my schools made us all make accounts as part of a class.

              Guess what else isn’t there? The deadname I spent most of my adult life as. So even if I had a job history worth the listing (I really, really don’t and I’m open about why), you’d probably get a “Lanlan who?” if you called a previous employer. I’m not obligated to disclose my deadname so HR can learn more about me, am I? Would I be, in your sector?

          4. Snow Globe*

            Maybe I’m not understanding how this works, but I would think if they are collaborating on a project, there would eventually be emails? Wouldn’t this person have their last name in their business email address?

            1. ecnaseener*

              I’ve seen plenty of company email formats with just the first name, or first name + last initial

              1. CupcakeCounter*

                That’s how my husband’s company works. Sometimes with a number behind if it there are more than one JohnS@company addresses. My old employer was First initial.Last Name @ company, which was nice because it was one of the only times people consistently used my not always associated with my legal name preferred name instead of my longer, old fashioned legal name that I don’t go by (think Gigi and Margaret).

            2. Observer*

              Wouldn’t this person have their last name in their business email address?

              Not necessarily. That tends to be the way we structure our emails, and I happen to prefer it. But that’s far from universal. To the point that I don’t really even notice it anymore.

              I DO notice the cutesy stuff. But just a first name? Nah.

          5. Observer*

            I don’t know, it’s really weird in a work context. Maybe because I have worked too long for bureucratic organisations where you don’t get to not have a last name, but it would throw me for a loop too, and people get to ask these questions.

            And? Why does that matter? People do strange things. Other people are likely to see this and think “That’s weird”. But assuming the employee does their work and can be identified as needed, how does affect anyone? Sure, you would have questions. But how much time and energy would you really put into finding answers to those questions?

            And how does any of this relate to the concerns the OP is expressing? Being strange or doing weird things doesn’t remotely equate to lack of accountability.

            1. Allonge*

              It matters because this is a work advice site, and people get to have work problems without a full, approved by this commentariat justification for it being an actual issue. So maybe accountability is not a good reason to ask that a last name is shared – that is what OP asked, no?

              But still, OP asked the question I would ask: what do I do with a team member who does not want to share any last name at all. Alison’s advice is leave them be, which is fair enough if that is an option, but in over 20 years of work experience I never had a place where it would have been. TIL.

      3. ohpeafour*

        Hi, Alison! There’s definitely an element of that, because I want the team to work together well. Not saying that we have to all be besties, but I am aiming for a certain level of rapport. However, my bigger concern is really the accountability and having real names documented on the tools and platforms we’re using. Especially for comms or channels where the client is included.

        Also: thank you for publishing my question! There’s some discomfort being called out (for totally valid and legitimate points) and occasionally being assumed to be a fascist (not so fun), but I can work with that.

        1. Monkey Fracas Jr.*

          I’m confused about who’s who in this story. The headline says that A is the freelancer, but you describe yourself as a freelancer, not A. If you are all freelancers, then you really don’t have any authority to demand anything of this person other than her work. If you’re the freelancer, and you’re working with a group of employees, then you have even less of a leg to stand on here.

          I mean, A has shared her last name in an official capacity one way or another, either on her W2 or W4. This just feels like you’re trying to exert your power to make a statement, rather than an actual concern over “accountability.”

          1. Bad Memories*

            yeah I’m a little confused – I think OP may be a peer? Like, another freelancer who is also working on this product, and wants A to share their last name? I’m sure A has shared all the info that they need to with HR (and if not, that’s not OP’s problem)!

          2. Willis*

            This!! What is A’s relationship to the OP? If she’s an employee, maybe the OP has some ground to ask about this and have a uniform approach to what type of profile pics they use, although I still wouldn’t force someone to use a name or image they were uncomfortable with. But if A’s another freelancer working on the project or a member of client staff, I think the OP really needs to back off. She has no standing here, particularly since it doesn’t sound like there’s any actual confusion about who A is.

        2. Beth*

          I understand the need for complete documentation, but this still feels like a big reach to me. In a group of less than 10 people, I don’t think you need to worry about it being difficult to figure out who is saying A’s messages. That’s a small enough group for everyone to be familiar with everyone else.

          If someone unfamiliar with the team really needs to connect A’s contributions in the documentation to her legal name—which, I have a hard time imagining why someone who doesn’t know your team at all would need to do that, but let’s assume—I’m sure the company has A’s legal name documented somewhere. It wouldn’t be hard to connect the dots.

        3. Glen*

          If you weren’t going to accept “yes I have a reason and it’s personal”, why even ask if using her last name was troubling? Is she required to explain the reasons she doesn’t like it so you can judge whether there’s enough “emotional tension”? (Also, whaaaaaaaat? That’s, yeah, don’t!) I think you really need to back off if you can’t articulate a good reason.

    3. CatCat*

      It is seems that if it’s important to use a last name for some reason, which there could be since the team will be growing and is fully remote or its needed on some documentation, it can be any last name of the person’s choosing.

      So if her legal name is Jill Warblesworth, but she does not use that last name, she doesn’t actually need to go by Jill Warblesworth. She could be Jill Snuffledown.

      This will still be a unique identifier for communication and documents and avoid confusion with any future Jills.

      1. Jessica*

        It makes sense to me. I’m not saying I necessarily think this employee in this context should be made to reveal her surname, but I agree with the general concept that last name = accountability.
        In a customer service context, if the person I deal with about some problem is “Jessica,” maybe that’s her real name, maybe she’s one of innumerable Jessicas, maybe by the next time I interact with this business she’ll have left but there will be a different Jessica and that’ll be confusing, maybe she’s someone with a non-Anglo name who has chosen or been compelled to assume an Anglo alias and picked “Jessica,” maybe I heard wrong and her name’s actually Jennifer or Monica–really, who knows. I just feel like when I make second contact and tell whoever that “Jessica” promised me X, Y, or Z, they may not know who that is.
        But “Jessica Smith” is a specific, identifiable person, and I expect others at the business to know who she is and/or be able to track her down if they need to follow up on my problem.

        1. John Smith*

          There’s a good number of reasons why a person shouldn’t use their full name, especially in customer facing roles, and a substitute such as a staff code number can be used instead as an identification. I’ve experienced aggrieved customers come to a prominent call centre asking to see staff by name (some pretending to be a relative) with ill intent. Sadly it wasn’t uncommon for this to happen.

          1. lilsheba*

            Exactly! I worked in a call center for a bank, and they said it was against the rules to not give your last name if a customer aske for it. Yeah….I’m not doing that! Some crazy calls us, asks for my full name, and then they find me on facebook or whatever, or use those tracing service to look up people’s addresses and phone numbers, and then finds me? Noooooooooo that is not happening. I refused to give my last name, never got in trouble either. Nice to know they care about our security though.

        2. Kal*

          I would expect that when you make second contact, you don’t even need to even mention “Jessica” most of the time. If its a system where you have any sort of account, they can usually look up what happened the last time you contacted them through your account details, and even without an account its not uncommon for the systems to be able to trace you via whatever phone number or email or whatever you used last time.

          Lord knows I never remember any names and I’ve never had any issues with it. I’ve never even ever had a time where it would have been helpful to mention a name, at most all I’ve had to say was that a previous rep did or said a thing. It seems like a pretty rare situation for there to be both enough customer service reps that a first name is insufficient but also so few service reps who can do the follow up that you absolutely need that one specific Jessica – most systems that are beyond the level of a small business have notes systems designed so that any rep at the same level can handle the same things and continue if repeated contact is necessary.

          1. Kat*

            You must never have had to deal with a cable company in the US.
            Each time I call it is like I have never spoken to them before.
            There are no records of the conversations I have had with the last 6 people I spoke with…

            1. Observer*

              Yeah, these companies are legendary. I’m pretty sure that they actually DO have the records, but they either don’t make them accessible to the CS people on the line, or they make these poor folks pretent like they don’t have any information.

              But the thing is that knowing the name they used when you spoke to them is not all the useful. To the extent that it’s helpful, first name is just as good as first and last name. More important is date and time. But fundamentally, the main thing with these companies is just that you’ve proved that you are PAYING ATTENTION and therefore they are not going to be able to snow you under so easily. I’d be willing to bet that the name any rep is giving you is probably not real.

              1. Kal*

                Yeah, this was a point I was sorta talking around. I haven’t dealt with US cable companies, since I’m not in the US, but when I have dealt with companies that do that kind of nonsense, remembering the name isn’t particularly helpful. Being able to repeatedly contact them and hold your ground until they do what is necessary is what tends to have the highest change of working when you’re dealing with a system that is designed to obstruct you. A name usually only helps with accountability when you’re working with a decent system and run into a bad employee that you need to report, not when the system is designed to be bad.

          2. Merrie*

            You’d think. But I deal with this constantly with both outside call centers as well as the call center at my company’s own corporate office. None of these being organizations/departments that I have any choice but to deal with for the functions I’m trying to do — i.e. if a vendor was as terrible at customer service as these places, and it were up to me, I’d have cut them loose long ago.

        3. MsM*

          See, I don’t get that logic. “Jessica Smith” isn’t necessarily a real person any more than just “Jessica.” And if I’m feeling the need to go play PI to see if I can connect other identifying details with the name I was given…well, I can see a lot of reasons Jessica might not be comfortable with that.

        4. hbc*

          She is either “Jessica who was on the floor last Tuesday at 3pm” or “the woman who rang me up at register 7” or “whoever handled my phone call last night.” I do not expect Jennifer Smith to risk being harassed in her personal life just because I want as much info as possible when I complain about her.

        5. Dona Florinda*

          I have a rather unusual last name and would never reveal it costumers. I’ve been harassed by customers with them having just my first name, I can’r even imagine having a customer find me online or even tracking me down IRL just because they didn’t like that I couldn’t accept their expired coupons.

          1. Katara's side braids*

            “Unusual” (South Asian in a mostly-white area) first and last name here. First name narrows things down considerably; last name has made it possible for people to act in invasive ways both on- and offline. There is no level of “accountability” that justifies pressuring someone to share that information if the work can get done without it.

        6. Jora Malli*

          I’m in customer service and too many of my coworkers have had their social media or actual physical address discovered by disgruntled customers for me to feel comfortable giving any customer my full first and last name. I have to use it for internal communication, but customers get my first name if they ask for it, nothing more.

        7. Littorally*

          Yup, this is where my mind went too. It isn’t that it necessarily fits This Specific Context, but the full name = better accountability is a real thing.

          1. Observer*

            Except that it actually is NOT. It *feels* that way. But in real life, it doesn’t actually work that way.

            If someone gives their real name, what it enables is harassment, not accountability.

            1. Rainy*


              You can’t always tell if someone talking about real names and accountability has been stalked, but you can *always* tell when they haven’t. Sigh.

        8. Observer*

          <But “Jessica Smith” is a specific, identifiable person, and I expect others at the business to know who she is and/or be able to track her down if they need to follow up on my problem.

          Jessica Smith is no more identifiable than just “Jessica in customer service.” ESPECIALLY if you factor in all of the possible scenarios that you yourself just brought up.

          Which is to say that using a last name FEELS more accountable, but in actual fact, it is not.

          1. STG*

            Yea, but James Van Der Beek is more identifiable than James in customer service. Less helpful for Smiths obviously.

            1. Nameless in Customer Service*

              James Van Der Beek may or may not be his legal name, though (both IRL — actors pick working names — and in the customer service example). I would never ever in a million years give a customer my real first and last name because I don’t need them showing up at my apartment at 2 am or calling my kid’s school.

              1. STG*

                Oh, I agree. I think the whole ‘require last name’ deal on Slack as a bit much.

                Just pointing out that there IS more identifying information in a last name than not. Even if it’s a lie, having that piece of info may make it easier for the manager/supervisor to track down the call and what may have gone wrong.

      2. Wendy*

        There are plenty of people, especially married women, who do just this! It’s not at all uncommon to find someone who changed their last name when they got married but who still uses their maiden name professionally, or who has been remarried and the name clients know her by is no longer her legal name. Ditto for trans people everywhere whose “real” name and legal name don’t line up. If there’s a way to accommodate employees in that circumstance, there should be no problem with her just picking a name and running with it.

      3. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        Yeah – at my org we would all use last names, but that is largely due to the org being so big that you will need their last name if you want to contact them for follow-up.

        Also the emails are structured to be firstname.lastname so if you have someone’s full name you can email them….but if it’s only 10 people, that seems unnecessary?

    4. Siege*

      It’s so odd, in the West, to go by a mononym unless you’re a celebrity that it kind of doesn’t matter why. It’s a legit request and it sounds like the only issue is OP thinking it’s weird, but the other issue is what you pointed out. I’m thinking about this in terms of how I’d feel if my manager thought a teammate needed to go by not-their-name because I’m so dumb I can’t work out there’s a person there without a last name. And the answer is “not great!”

      OP, does your organization have a habit of lying to people that makes you feel this person’s lack of last name would raise red flags? I’m thinking specifically of the companies that pretend someone hasn’t quit or are violating the law in odd ways and the like. How does a Slack display name counter that level of entrenched dishonesty?

      1. Ed123*

        When I read first, I assumed that she was going to be about self branding and the employee wanted to be know with jus one name :D

      2. Asenath*

        I’m not sure going by a single name is always odd these days. I go by a variety of names online, often only a single one – even when it’s my real first name or my real first name plus numbers. In “semi-formal” contexts, like classes or lectures, where I’ve got an ongoing relationship with the group and people know and expect to know everyone by name, I often just put my first name into the system, and so do others. I never used chat and rarely online meeting technology at work, but anything involving computers was tied to our official username which was almost always Firstname.Lastname – but there were exceptions – I was one of them. I had a carryover from an earlier system – ILastname, where ‘I’ was the initial of my first name. With all these variations in use (and I’m surely not the only one with this experience), and a small group with no duplicate first names, I don’t really see the need for insisting on a full name.

        1. Susan Ivanova*

          There’s someone at one company I’ve worked at who’s gone with a single name for at least 20 years, and since he’s *the* expert in his area he’s become as well known (in our rather small circle) as any of the single-named entertainers.

    5. Decidedly Me*

      It seems odd to me, too. I use only my first name in my Slack username. I have a higher level role and no one bats an eye. I’m not the only one either – we typically have first name, first + last, first + last initial, or nickname.We have a few folks with the same name that will just use something different than the person(s) already there. We all know the others are real, cool humans and I’ve noticed no connection between display name style and accountability.

      1. Willis*

        Yeah…if there are multiple people with the same first name, it makes sense to distinguish between them, but an initial seems to easily accomplish that. If she sucks and is not accountable for her work, deal with that, but forcing her to use a last name is not how to do it. If she’s trying to change her name with HR for payroll/tax/legal purposes, that’s obviously a more formal thing than how she’s identified in Slack or Zoom, but it doesn’t seem like it’d be much of a concern for the OP as a freelance PM. (And I’d assume that’s not what the OP means by “across other platforms.”)

      2. KateM*

        I just wrote a work e-mail and I used first+last – because I interact with people whom I wrote it seldom enough to think “they maybe don’t know WTH is that Kate”. I sign only first name when it’s people who definitely do know who I am. I hope that in case of a team, they’d know.

    6. Beth*

      This one is odd to me too. OP4, if these vague reasons are the best you can come up with to require everyone to put their last names in their internal display name, then I think you need to reevaluate. Right now, the reasons you’ve given make me think that you simply prefer to see full names, and are trying to justify forcing that preference on everyone else even though there’s no good reason for it and it makes your team members uncomfortable.

      People’s names are really personal. I think it’s important to respect what someone chooses to go by. Whether it’s a nickname, a preference to only use part of their name, a name change, the correct pronunciation of their name, whatever–respecting a person’s name preferences is a way of showing respect for that person. Refusing to respect their preferences shows a lack of respect.

      Sure, there are situations where names can be challenging. I once worked on a ~15 person team with three Johns, two Sarahs, and two Amy’s–that definitely led to some moments of confusion! But then you talk with them about the problem and find a solution that they feel good about. You don’t insist on the solution you’d prefer over their objections. And you definitely don’t make their name into a problem when the real issue is something else; in your case, if accountability and connection are an issue on your team, it’s hard to imagine A preferring to go by their first name is really the root cause of that.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        Well said. OP suggests in the letter that coworker could have sensitive reasons for this choice. OP admits not pressing hard in case it is a traumatic topic…but is unsatisfied with “it’s personal.”
        I think OP wants the mythical, “how do I get someone to do what they don’t want to do and be happy about it?”

    7. Storm in a teacup*

      I agree
      #op4 if you’re freelancing and she’s in a permanent role in the company she may think your request is out of sync with the company culture. Does everyone else use only first names? Is your request out of step with the company culture?
      To be honest if there are only going to be 20 of you at the most in a project then I’m sure people will need her last name for emails etc and will know it. She doesn’t need to display it on slack necessarily.

    8. WS*

      Yeah, I don’t get it either. Unless your Slack chat IDs are important for legal retention reasons, which is occasionally the case, why does it matter if she uses her legal name (Jane Smith), or another name like Jane Jones, or made-up Jane Imaginary, or just Jane?

    9. Toasty*

      There’s a Canadian soccer player named Quinn and that’s their full name. One word. Maybe it’s like that?

    10. jspa*

      I wonder if there’s something about this particular first name that the OP thinks is less-than-professional or somehow less memorable, and that OP has enough self-awareness to self-censor saying so, but not enough to just, y’know, quash the sentiment.

      And my reaction to that is, if you have that sort of anxiety, don’t project it onto others.

      Don’t assume people can’t tell Michelle in accounting from Michelle in shipping.

      Don’t cater to other people’s presumptions that someone named Bongbong, Trixie, Dodo, Pritee, Mamee, Li, Laquan or Bubba is different in any relevant way from someone named Steven, Linda, Alexander, Danielle or Mitch.

      “Personal preference” does answer OP’s question. It’s intentional / not accidental. There’s a reason. OP does not need the reason. Whether it’s the name of an abusive family member, an ex, a slave name, a name that the person is in the process of changing, a name that is a caste identifier, a name whose meaning in some language carries any particular information and baggage–or several of the above–is not particularly “need to know.”

      It may in any case be meaningless to OP. Most people in the USA who read Dorothy Sayers are confused by the exchange,
      “Good God, it’s Mr. Jones of Jesus” [college]!”
      “who are you calling a bloody Welshman?”

      Discrimination in the US against people based on Indian caste has been in the news recently.
      Treading lightly around geopolitics and the no-politics-on-site policy, I can think of many bunches of place-identifier surnames that someone might find awkward at the moment. The likelihood that the employee is trying to build a one-name “brand” (a la Cher, Madonna, Beyoncé) is super low, compared to the possibility that the employee has a reason that pretty much anyone would consider reasonable.

      Keeping a personal reason personal? Also reasonable. “Kitty has REASONS for not using her last name,” depending how delivered, is already gossip–and already potentially damaging.

    11. Emmy Noether*

      I am so confused by this. Is the issue just the display name, or is the issue that no-one even knows her last name? If it’s the first, I’d let it go. I assume you’re on a first-name basis, and if there’s ambiguity, it can be resolved in another way. If it’s the latter… that does seem really weird to me.

      For context: everywhere I’ve worked, email adresses have been j.doe@company and display names were set automatically across systems, so there is no hiding one’s last name.

    12. The Lexus Lawyer*

      I came to comment the exact same thing.

      OP4 – what about last names communicates accountability?

    13. BethDH*

      My suspicion on the first names thing is a (possibly subconscious) association with the bots that just use a first name, or the customer service “personas” where multiple staff use the same display identity for continuity.
      If that’s the case, this might be a bigger thing of OP feeling like their staff isn’t well-integrated and looking for ways to make the virtual space feel more anchored, especially with a freelancer and a remote office. That’s a valid concern but if that’s the case there are other ways to do it once OP articulates the reasoning a little better to themself.

      1. ohpeafour*

        There’s probably an element of that, too. It’s our first time working together as a team and the CEO of the company we’re freelancing for hasn’t had time to establish much structure across this and his other companies.

    14. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      At my company there are some employees who use just a last initial, because they have long non-European surnames and find it easier when working with Americans who are likely to trip over those names. I don’t think this is the right solution — I should have to learn to pronounce their names correctly — but it gets the job done. Maybe this is something like that?

    15. Erin*

      +1 to this. Not displaying last name is not a big deal. I’m one of those people with a strange, long & complicated last name. There 5 people in the universe with my last name, and a Google search will lead you right to us. Younger me struggled with a few stalking incidents that could have been partially prevented with a more common last name. Older me is grateful that one can find my LinkedIn, any races I have run & public property records, and that’s about it. I have no chance of being confused with the a criminal who has my same first & last name. Anyway, there could be legitimate reasons that make this employee uncomfortable with displaying her full name, and the reasons may not be something she wants to talk about.

    16. Office Lobster DJ*

      Yeah, OP4, I think you need to let it go. “A” said she has personal reasons, and that has to be good enough. You aren’t and don’t want to be the arbiter of what’s a legitimate reason. On the other hand, if A doesn’t really care about the last name and it’s become more of a power struggle (“Would you believe the new PM tried to tell me I “needed” to use my last name in the chat – who do they think they are? I’ll show them!”) …well, the only way to win is not to play.

      I’d go back to A and say you understand she has personal reasons, and that’s fine, but you’ll have to keep an eye out for confusion. If confusion arises, would she prefer to add her last initial or become [Firstname] A [Lastname] Name of Her Business/Department?

      1. L'étrangere*

        OP reminds me of another power-mad young PM.. Do they learn that in school? This is the kind of incredibly petty stuff that pushes people out. I certainly didn’t appreciate having to go to HR to disclose my personal reason for my full name staying off the company website

    17. Mona-Lisa Saperstein*

      There *are* some fields where last names communicate accountability, particularly those where any sort of professional licensing is required. But it does not sound like the OP works in any of those fields. I would love to know what field they’re in.

      I’m a lawyer for the federal government. I can’t choose not to use my legal last name on anything I file in court. It’s a requirement. When I communicate with opposing parties, witnesses, etc., I can’t just refuse to give my last name. I’m bound by ethics rules when I communicate with any of those people.

      You definitely always want to know your doctor’s last name or your therapist’s last name so that you can complain about them to the appropriate authority if you need to. The same would go for social workers in many states, other health care professionals, probably accountants, maybe real estate agents…

      But again, I think that the OP would have said if it was a requirement in their field, so I’m assuming it’s not.

    18. Don't call me by last name*

      In theory I could be the person the letter writer is talking about. I’m not but I would simply want my first name used in our chat program. My last name is a very common first name. If people see my last name they will gravitate and call me by my last name. This is something I dislike and find insulting. If I have the power then I don’t list my last name. Of course I use it in emails as a last name is used. And the number of people who respond with ‘hey last name’ is so annoying.

    19. ohpeafour*

      Hello, I’m OP4/LW4. Getting a lot of responses here, for sure, but I definitely appreciate hearing everyone’s thoughts!

      For additional context, the coworker I’m referring to also uses a single letter for her nickname, so she would just be “A” across all our internal comms. Her profile picture has her wearing a cap and a face mask. In our email threads, some of which include the client, her name only appears as initials (A.D.). It’s definitely possible that this makes me uncomfortable because I’m old-school? We haven’t collaborated before and I feel like a work relationship starts with that.

      As for me not being satisfied with her answer that it was a personal decision, you guys have a point. There may have been an emotional component to it when my message was 2 or 3 lines and all I got was a short sentence with a smiley. I may have wanted a more elaborate answer that implied that she also considered my Perspective ™, and may have felt dismissed.

      1. eisa*

        I am still somewhat confused about the setup.
        You said you are a freelancer; is that true for everybody else on the team, or are they all working for Teapots Inc. and you are a consultant for Teapot Inc. ?
        If it is the former – like, a bunch of actors or musicians who are paid to create a specific performance – it’s less weird. But in a regular office/ professional company context, incredibly weird to have one person who is allowed to cosplay V for Vendetta.

        (Side note: the musician example reminds me of the expression “Camerata telefoniensis” – conductor calling up musicians he knows to get together an ad-hoc orchestra ;-))

        1. ohpeafour*

          Yes, we’re all freelancers – no one works for Teapots Inc. full-time. We are an ad hoc team building an app.

          It probably says something about me that I would have felt more comfortable with it if she was indeed cosplaying V and was simply a theatrical personality who happened to be joining…an app-building team.

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        Holy cow, I missed where you asked her why and lectured her on accountability!

        I would have done more than dismiss you. I would have reamed you a new one in private chat for being a nosy parker and pushing your “perspective” where it didn’t belong.

        She does not need to consider YOUR perspective on how HER name is displayed! Seriously, it’s not your business to dictate who she is!

        The nicest thing I could say in MYOB. If you can’t work with someone who only uses their initials that’s a you problem, not a them problem.

        Her actual name could easily be something that was foreign sounding, or maybe she is trans, or she may be related to someone famous, or any number of other reasons that really, really, really aren’t your business.

        IMO, you owe her an apology for sticking your opinions in her business.

      3. Paris Geller*

        You are a coworker. You are not her boss. You are not her mother. This is none of your business. Butt. Out.

      4. Beth*

        OP4, this still sounds like you have a personal preference that you’re trying to frame as a business need. None of this sounds unprofessional or concerning to me! She has her display name set to what she prefers to go by. She has a profile picture that makes sense for us being 2 years into a pandemic. She responded to your message with a smiley, which generally is used to show warmth. She’s all good here.

        It might be that you don’t have as much of a working relationship as you’d like and that you need to build more connection to collaborate effectively. But insisting on her using the name you want instead of the name she prefers isn’t going to accomplish that. It’s actually probably making it worse; it’s really rude to insist that someone change the name they go by based on your personal preferences. If a closer work relationship is your goal, invite her to a 15 minute zoom coffee break or something and get to know her a little better.

      5. calonkat*

        I’m old :) I’d also find it weird to be asked to address someone as “V” and not make a single reference to the 5th of November. Or almost any other single letter/number/symbol outside of artists. But I also get that people get to decide what to call themselves, and that’s not a bad thing overall. I was thinking this was a first name, and yeah, I’m “Agency calonkat” on lots of zoom calls in part because my first name is apparently unusual outside of our family and I’m the only one at my agency with this name, so it’s easily enough to find me with a search.

        If the company is fine with it, then I think it’s just something to wrap your head around. If the group overall has an issue, that will become obvious and change may happen.

        I do get why abrupt answers feel, well, abrupt. It’s probably a communication difference, what I’ve had luck with is “Please answer these two questions/points: 1) BRIEF explanation 2) BRIEF explanation.” Most of the time I get at least 1) Yes 2) No, or something else useful as a reply.

      6. borealis*

        OP4, I don’t know if you saw the link posted by Loredena above, to an article about common myths about names. The problem addressed in that article is to do with data bases that won’t accept a person’s legal name because it doesn’t fit into the “usual” American naming scheme with first name – middle name – last name, and that’s not the exact same situation, but I’d recommend reading through it (it’s a quick read!) just to get a little more insight in how very different naming customs are! I have four first/given names, where the first one is not the name I go by, and that’s not outside the norm here. In fact, any official form you are asked to fill out will ask you to state your given name(s), and to indicate which one of them is the one you go by (if you have more than one). However, I have no middle name, because in my legislation and culture, that term refers to an unusual kind of name: a former last name that a person chose to keep when they changed their surname, typically when they got married. (It was a confusing system because you could also keep your maiden/bachelor name as an actual last name, to create a double-barrelled surname! The naming law was changed a few years ago to remove the middle name option.)

        Again, that’s not the same situation you describe here, but maybe the feeling you have that “a work relationship starts with that” might change a little if you look at it from the perspective that “first name + last name” is not universal (not even in the US). The important thing in terms of accountability is that the person can be identified within the work context; as a colleague, you wouldn’t really know her any better if you knew what her initials stand for, when you think about it!

    20. lost academic*

      I wonder if the OP is coming from a service/call center experience at some point and equates the use of only first names with a level of anonymity and reduced accountability. I think it would be a little odd for only one person to display a first name, but I also don’t see it as a hill to die on unless you have a much larger company where it’s just going to be flat out confusing.

        1. Observer*

          The thing with that is that you probably need to re-calibrate your thinking. This has come up here more than one in similar contexts where people try to use a paradigm of one work type to manage a totally different type of work. It doesn’t really work.

          If you are really thinking about your team in terms similar to that of a call center, then that’s almost certainly the wrong mind set. Even if your thinking in terms of a GOOD call center that treats its staff reasonably well. Call center work just isn’t the same as app development.

    21. Curmudgeon in California*

      I have a foreign sounding last name that is 12 letters long. I also use my initials instead of my first name, because I’m non-binary but I have a very gendered wallet name.

      At my job, they set up my computer login with my full name. Ticked. Me. Off. I got it fixed on my email, but if I had a choice I would only use my initials in chat. I have recruiters and such using my wallet name all the time, even though my resume has my initials and last name.

      At my last job, there was a person who had gotten a divorce from the person with whom they had created a custom surname. The people in HR and all wouldn’t change it unless they legally changed it, and even then wanted to keep it as part of their login! I tried to help them out, but people would always pull “firstname” “lastname” as two separate fields, instead of the single field “preferredname”. We had lots of people like that.

      In chat, we used our logins or changed our display name to what people knew us by.

      I really have to take issue with the ”displaying last names communicates accountability” bit. It has absolutely zero to do with accountability, and everything to do with prejudice and conformity. The square peg will get ground down until they conform. Lol, no.

      I am pseudononymous on most social media, in part because my wallet name is unique, with less than 100 households using it in the US. I’m not opening myself up to stalkers. I had one once who couldn’t find me because he didn’t know my wallet name. I’m not going to be any more accountable as TJ Schimmelpennick than Jean Smith. What I say is true or not. Someone shouldn’t be able to harass me by doxxing me just because I have an opinion.

      At work, the display name in chat is how a person wants others to know them. Whether it’s as Timothy James Warblesworth, Tim W, TJW, or Warbler isn’t other people’s business. A person shouldn’t be forced into some bureaucratic conformity just to ease some nosy parker’s peccadillos or desire to force people into a mold.

      Whether a person uses first name, middle name, surname, initials, nickname or handle they are still a person on the other end of the chat. They are still accountable for what they say, but others may not be able to look them up online to harass them.

      1. ohpeafour*

        I fundamentally disagree with what you said about last names not having anything to do with accountability, but appreciate that you took the time to write this, and I have to admit that “nosy parker’s peccadillos” is a great turn of phrase and quite on-brand.

        This wasn’t just on Slack, but other platforms and tools we are using for the work. We are a team of SE Asians (with a lone American in a junior role), working for an American client. Culturally, there is definitely an element of ingrained conformity there. Prejudice – not so much, if only amongst ourselves. From potential clients toward us, maybe.

        I agree that I could have handled this better and allowed her a safe space for self-expression — up to a point. I’d love to live in a world where everyone just has accountability by default, but that is just not my experience.

        1. Observer*

          The thing is that you keep on talking about accountability, but nothing you have said actually supports that idea.

          People are still going to know that she is the one who said or did X, not someone else, on all of the tools and platforms you use, regardless of whether she goes by a first and last name, A, or a random number. And if the company needs to figure out which live person said it, the information is readily there. So what exactly is it that putting her name on slack etc. is going to add to accountability?

    22. Momma Bear*

      At a former company, we were first name/last initial on internal communication channels. We knew who we were and that kept us from being confused about Harry Smith vs Harry Jones. Whatever her reasons for wanting her last name to not be used, it doesn’t seem like a hill to die on. The way she said, “It’s a personal decision” sounds like there’s a history there she doesn’t (as a freelancer) want to get into with you. I’d let it go.

    23. Nanani*


      “Real full names = accountability” has been thoroughly disproven by the existence of Facebook. Requires full real names, AND is the black hole nexus of conspiracies and other garbage.

      The theory that only anonymous/pseudonymous people do shady things was not correct. See also: Every person ever harassed online by people using their full names and work emails, safe in the knowledge that they will not face a consequence because they’re ~great guys~ or somethingsomething if you don’t like it log off something.

      Plus, you already have her real full name for things where it matters like pay, right? Let her put her prefered name, which in this case isn’t even a pseudonym, in the dang group chat.

    24. Little My*

      I think this is unusual behavior that could come from a variety of sources (including a history of being stalked–or on the other hand could be a random aesthetic preference), but ultimately people get to decide what they want to be called socially. Stylizing yourself with a single name isn’t THAT categorically different than going by a nickname that’s not on your birth certificate, although it is certainly less common. It’s not like we need Cher to use “Sarkisian.”

  2. supertoasty*

    LW2… yeah. As an AMAB myself, it’s really, REALLY icky to see guys just, y’know, not wash their hands when leaving the restroom – *especially* after the oh-god-it’s-been-TWO-YEARS?!-what-the-actual-lord that we’ve been going through as a collective humanity. Like Alison said, the only place where this can be actually enforced is food work, and if you don’t work there, count your lucky stars and remain extra super vigilant with your own hands.

    1. Sparkles McFadden*

      I have been lucky enough to work in departments with guys who were hygiene conscious. They kept a running list entitled “Do not shake hands with the following people.” I added women to the list from my ladies room observations. My most frightening addition was a woman who came out of a stall, stuck her hand in her pocket to pull out a loose piece of floss, and began to floss her teeth with her unwashed hands. She walked out of the bathroom while still flossing. There’s no way to get people like that to wash their hands.

      1. Artemesia*

        You have to assume that there are ecoli on every surface, every computer keyboard etc. When we decided to wash hands the moment we came in to our home; or after getting off the bus going elsewhere and also trained ourselves not to touch our faces, our colds dropped — this before COVID. Of course COVID has trained us in more handwashing.

        But so many people don’t and the worst common bugs are fecal/oral that you need to assume your hands are vectors. It would also be nice if the office would do some sanitizing along with the usual vacuuming and waste basket emptying.

      2. Momma Bear*

        Someone put up a “wash your hands” sign in our ladies’ room…it’s not just men. I would assume that the door is gross and keep the bathroom supplied with cleaning wipes and/or use a paper towel to open the door. Our bathroom has a trash can by the door for disposal of said towels.

    2. Beth*

      I wash my hands thoroughly and avoid touching any common surfaces: doorknobs, light switches, handles, etc. I typically have a scarf or something I can drape over my hand when I have to open doors and such.

      Pre-pandemic, this made me look odd; now I can blame it on Covid. My company turned incredibly lax just as Delta got started, so I’m firmly planted in the assumption that everyone else is spreading germs and viruses, and all I can do is look after my own contact surfaces.

    3. Jora Malli*

      I work customer service and one of the service desks I staff is next to the public bathrooms. Our automatic toilets and sinks are very loud, and the number of people coming out of BOTH bathrooms without washing their hands makes me hesitant to touch anything at all in the customer area.

    4. Sara without an H*

      Hi, supertoasty — You’re right, but like the man said, against stupidity even the gods strive in vain. There’s a reason why basic health care advice has always been to wash your hands frequently and keep them out of your face. The number of supposedly smart people who just don’t get this is staggering.

      To LW#2, keep going with the hand sanitizer. I also recommend keeping a canister of disinfectant wipes in a conspicuous place on your desk.

    5. Elizabeth Bennett*

      Yes, wash your hands, but realize that the next surface you touch is covered in microbes too. The key is when you’ve touched something you may find gross (like an unwashed co-worker’s hand) is not to touch yourself before washing your hands. Don’t put your hands to your eyes, nose, mouth or cuts in your skin, eat food or use the bathroom without washing your hands first.

    6. Ann Nonymous*

      And it’s not just about touching others’ gross hands: realize that they’ve been touching everything: copiers, paper clips, papers, drawer handles, files, etc. Not only do you have to clean your own hands regularly, but be conscious about not touching your face/eyes/nose/mouth without sanitizing yourself first.

  3. Observer*

    #1 – Yes, do yourself a favor and nip this in the bud. Alison has given you some really good scripts. But also, feel free to just say no. You can fluff a bit, but be crystal clear and don’t make excuses or say anything that can be in any way shape or form taken as an opening to discuss or argue the case. So “I’m sorry, I can’t do that.” And continue on. No doubt you are not sorry, but it’s OK to say that if you want some softening. But, don’t elaborate WHY you “can’t” do whatever. You just can’t. Period.

    1. Raine Wynd*

      Seconded. It also needs to be delivered in the right tone or else people are going to focus on the apology part and not the “can’t do that anymore” part.

    2. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      I’d leave off the sorry. I’ve found a good substitute is “Oh, no, I can’t do that.” Somehow, the “Oh” makes it friendly but firm, where “I can’t do that” can sound rude (although it shouldn’t).

      1. Observer*

        I’m ok with leaving off the Sorry. But if the OP feeling uncomfortable with “flat out refusing” as she puts it, using “sorry” may make it easier. But I agree that your script works very nicely too.

        OP, the point here is that you should really feel free to be clear and non-apologetic. YOU are not the one making it “awkward”. The people asking you are doing that. ESPECIALLY the one who specifically waited for you.

    3. GammaGirl1908*

      This. They may need it done, but it doesn’t have to be by you, and you don’t have to be wildly sorry about it. You can just ship them off to the correct person and think nothing else about it. They will get used to it. It’s not an apology-level problem that they need to find the correct person and it isn’t you. “I’ve changed jobs! Maria is now the person who handles that,” is all you need to say. (Note: not that it costs you anything to say something apologetic as social lubricant. It doesn’t mean anything huge if you include the word “sorry” while you are politely redirecting them. But you CAN politely redirect them.)

      We have all had the minor inconvenience of asking someone for a service, and them saying, “oh, you need to ask Maria over there.” We generally all then trot over to ask Maria and thank Jenna, who sent us to Maria. You can just be Jenna.

      1. L1OP*

        L1OP here. I don’t know of it’s because I’m a typical Canadian or if it’s because I hate confrontation, but I know I tend to apologize and give in too much. I’ll have to put my foot down!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Keep in mind that you’re doing them a favor by letting them know about a work procedure that’s now different, rather than letting them believe something outdated still works. Think of it as similar to “oh, we’re supposed to use the copier down the hall now because this one keeps eating paper.”

          1. Anonym*

            Yes, most people wouldn’t want to be asking you these things with you being in a new job. Help us out and let us know so we can be the decent colleagues we want to be!

        2. dawbs*

          Sometimes it helps to remember you’re doing “Maria” (whoever your replacement is) a favor by sending it to her.

          If you do her job:
          1-the bosses might see her job as unnecessary to fill–and she’d get laid off. After all, they don’t need a llama receptionist if one person can be the llama receptionist AND the llama hoof polisher
          2-people will continue coming to you–and that often comes with the assumption she’s incompetent at her job
          3-she’ll never get to LEARN the job. So that incompetence becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy
          4-she may very well feel you’re undermining her–which, in a way you would be because you’re accidentally reinforcing the messaging that she’s not the llama receptionist.

          But I KNOW how hard it is. Says someone who is delaying creating a “ugh, please go talk to Fred in accounting. LIke I said last week” email right now.

          1. Robert in SF*

            I wish there was an upvote, thumbs up, or other way to highlight a great comment, because this one here resonates with me and really shows a level of professionalism I admire! Well done!

            It’s so well explained, comprehensive, yet succinct! I am jealous! :)

          2. Sara without an H*

            This is all true and well-stated. And please imagine poor “Maria” writing into AAM saying “I was hired to be the admin, but everybody keeps sending all my work to L1OP, what can I do???”

            L1OP, please adapt one of Alison’s scripts to suit your needs and tastes, but get after this quickly. You will actually be doing everybody a favor.

          3. DireRaven*

            5. Continuing to do your former job – now her job – takes time away from being able to do your current job, which means you may not have time to develop a higher level of competency.

            And the danger of #1 + #5 together: if there is a sharp uptick in busy-work for either or both positions, you could very easily find yourself overworked.

            I’ve been in the shoes of “Maria”. And it results in resentment on both sides of the table. “Maria” doesn’t have enough work to get through the day (because it isn’t getting to her) and you are overloaded (because Maria’s work is being routed to you in addition to your own.)

          4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            I always lean into politely redirecting the askers to the right person with a flavor of “I wouldn’t want so and so to think I don’t trust them/want the to feel like we’re undermining them” approach.

        3. Chinook*

          As a fellow Canadian who has gone from receptionist to admin assistant in the same company (so has had to do the firm redirect around “not my job”), you can still apologize without giving in. In my mind, I categorize it as more of a “sorry for the confusion, of course you don’t know about this change, here is a friendly reminder” apology. They key is to be mildly confused about why they are asking you when, of course, they mean to ask Maria.

          Their polite response should, of course, be to apologize and thank you for the new information. It may or may not be verbal.

    4. Trawna*

      I’d go for an explanation, but without a sorry or a redirect — “I can’t. I have a new role, now” Keeps walking.

    5. Librar**

      I’ve been in this situation and I agree that OP 1 needs to retrain her colleagues quickly and firmly!
      I had the most success acting as though people must have forgotten I had a new role because otherwise it would be ridiculous for them to ask me to do the task at hand. Those interactions looked something like this: “Hey, can you take these to the mailroom? They need to be stamped and sealed.” “Didn’t you get the update? I’m in Gertrude’s division now! Just heading to grab some coffee to get me through the rest of [task specific to new role].”
      If you do get repeat offenders over time, “That’s a blast from the past! I haven’t stamped anything for months!”
      This may seem extreme, but to fully get the point across, I had to start pretending that I had become a little clueless about admin things. “Order pens? Oh I don’t even know what supplier we’re using for that now.” If you’re the familiar and reliable resource on a certain area, people will keep using you as that resource, so it can be helpful to intentionally become less useful about that, as long as you can maintain a reputation for being competent at your actual job duties.

    6. Rolly*

      I think in this case the why is important – she has a different role, and they have to recognize that. At least once, the why should be stated very clearly. After that, it’s not needed.

      1. BuildMeUp*

        Yeah, some of these people may just not be aware of OP’s job change! And even if they are, giving an explanation one time takes away any plausible deniability.

    7. KarenK*

      Yes, this should be nipped in the bud. I went through something similar when I moved from admin support to a non-admin role (program manager in medical education). What made it more difficult is that one of my programs is in the department I used to support, and that I had worked in for over 20 years. I had a couple of “That’s not my job anymore” discussions, but eventually it got though.

      That being said, there are still tasks that I do that I really shouldn’t be doing anymore, but I’m hoping to unload those shortly. It’s only been six years in my new role, after all!

    8. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      I know one thing they’ve done periodically at my job is to send out an email reminder to folks about promotions, or when people leave and roles shift, where it’s like “hey, there’s been some shifting, so just so you know – if you need these things, here’s the person you should talk to about that.” And then there will be a list. This is most common with like HR type stuff – here’s what you do to request vacation, here’s who to contact about insurance issues, here’s who to contact for any interpersonal issues, etc. but this format could be EASILY adapted to “here’s who to contact about the llama grooming reports, here’s who to contact about copier jams, etc”

      Perhaps you could suggest to your old manager that this type of communication could be helpful. That way, if/when people slip up, you can say – oh, Celia handles that now, remember that email that Jane sent out last week?

    9. usernames are anonymous*

      Yes – just be matter of fact “that’s not my role anymore, talk to new person”. And then redirect them to your old manager if they still keep trying to give you work. I’m going through something similar in my dept, not helped by the fact that my replacement doesn’t do his job so people keep coming to me. I’ve had about a dozen conversations along the lines of “No – that is no longer my role, copy the manager if the work isn’t getting done”. It finally seems to be getting thru. But you have to stick with it and don’t give in just this once because someone’s begging you to do something or it’s someone you like.

    10. Momma Bear*

      Absolutely speak up! “I changed roles. X is the point of contact for that now.” No apology necessary.

    11. Free Meerkats*

      A chipper, “Not my job anymore!” and (this is the key) keep moving. Don’t stop, barely slow down, just keep on trucking and don’t look back.

      1. Observer*

        I think the keep moving bit is important. It’s not rude, but it sends a very clear message. Win / Win.

  4. Bulu Babi*

    #2, what about a sign saying “The walls are thin. We can hear if you washed your hands.” or “We know you know that you are exceptionally clean and don’t need to wash your hands, but can you let the water flow for a few seconds, for the sake of appearances? They can hear it from the outside.”

    1. The name I normally use*

      I know this doesn’t solve the actual problem, but maybe a white noise machine so you don’t have to listen to it happening? Maybe ask to move spaces? Hearing it all day would Drive me crazy.

      1. I'm just here for the cats.*

        I don’t think the LW is by the bathrooms. I thought that she is waiting for the bathroom and so can hear if someone flushes or not. A sound machine by a bathroom would be really odd.

    2. Trip fan*

      So… passive-aggressive pointless signs instead of just pointless ones? Yeah, that will definitely solve all the problems!

      1. Laney Boggs*

        An “employees must wash hands” is… not going to make anyone who doesn’t wash their hands wash. They’re not not doing it because they forgot

        Some social shaming though, might.

        1. Trip fan*

          It’s cute that you think so.

          It’s just going to look ridiculous AND be ineffectual.

        2. Coconutty*

          It absolutely will not.

          It’s gross that people might not be washing their hands. It’s out of this person’s control and she’ll ultimately be better served by putting her attention on her work than fixating on how much time passes between toilet flushing and door opening.

        3. Observer*

          Social shaming only works if you can identify people. Signs in the bathroom don’t do that.

      2. Lily*

        Yeah, passive-aggressive signs make me want to do the opposite of whatever is being ‘suggested’.

      3. Heffalump*

        I’m sorry to say that from about age 25 to age 50 I wasn’t very good about washing my hands. Then I read somewhere that regular hand-washing is one of the best things you can do to stop the spread of disease, and I got back with the program. This was pre-COVID.

        1. Artemesia*

          When we got obsessive about it after riding the bus, or coming in from outside or whatever and when arriving AT the restaurant etc etc, we cut our colds by about two thirds — pre-COVID.

    3. John Smith*

      I’m reminded of a scene in Boston Legal where James Spader’s character, being challenged on not washing his hands after peeing, says something like “I maintain a very clean penis”. Problem is, not everything else is clean.

      I put a sign up in a toilet asking people to flush it after use to no avail. You’d think, with all the messages about washing hands during the pandemic (remember that?), that it would be second nature (should be anyway), but no.

      You just have to accept that some people (and, btw, women are guilty of this too) are dirty little buggers and act accordingly. No, it shouldn’t be like this, yes it is unacceptable and as much as I’d like it to be a hanging offence, it never will be.

      1. Kippy*

        I always think of Newsradio. Jimmy James, after the teacher he’s trying to date asks his mini me if he washed his hands after using the bathroom and has been told no, “Did you pee on your hands, Billy?”

    4. JSPA*

      There’s a series of literary posters used by various health departments. I don’t think they are copyrighted?

      Will try to link below.

      1. JSPA*

        can’t find the originals, but these are similar. I…am not entirely comfortable with the source material, but you surely can find a typeface and familiar source that works for your location and audience.


        It probably won’t make people wash after peeing. But there are very few infections that’ll be spread that way, given drying time, two sets of hands, and a couple of surfaces in between. It should get better compliance after pooping, which is the big one, in terms of spreading infections.


        A 1997 survey found 67 percent of women and 50 percent of men washed hands with soap and water in restrooms displaying the posters, compared to 52 percent and 20 percent respectively in restrooms with no posters. […] The health department suspects some people think using water and no soap is good enough […] For that reason, the posters released in 2002 read “…please wash your hands with soap and water.”

    5. MicroManagered*

      I hope you’re kidding. I definitely wash my hands in the bathroom, and I’d be first in line to graffiti an infantilizing sign like this.

    6. Curious*

      Is it just me, or does this monitoring of what someone is doing in the bathroom seem somewhat intrusive? If the walls are thin, what else can you hear? Gas? Noises of distress due to abdominal illness?

      1. JSPA*

        It would be rude to admit those essential bodily functions into one’s consciousness (or conversation).

        “Not washing one’s hands” is not an essential bodily function. It’s making a choice that 30 seconds of one’s time is more important than people’s health.

        Alco gel is not effective against a significant subset of GI bugs.

        It shouldn’t take a HepA outbreak or other trace-fecally- communicated disease to wash traces of, “my hands have been in contact with my junk and/or bunghole” off your hands, every time.

      2. MicroManagered*

        It’s not just you. It’s intrusive and creepy. Don’t worry about what someone else is doing in the bathroom unless it sounds like they need an ambulance.

        Wash your own hands and MYOB.

        1. lilsheba*

          I’d be way more grossed out and concerned about people not flushing personally. That is just damn nasty.

    7. BethDH*

      I have anecdotal evidence that a hand sanitizer dispenser by the door will be used by at least some of the people who are too lazy to wash their hands. It’s not the same as washing and it won’t catch them all, but if your office management are open to suggestions it’s a pretty easy thing to implement.

    8. Nancy*

      I hate those signs. They are not going to make anyone wash their hands either.

      Stick a simple “wash hands” sign up and stop listening to others in the restroom.

    9. Betty*

      Yes, this a GREAT idea, I’m sure her boss (who the LW identified as one of the people not washing their hands) would be really impressed, and not personally offended at a bizarrely antagonistic sign implying that she is listening and judging! /s

      I’d be extremely grossed out like the LW is, but I would really advise against posting signs like this. I like the other suggestions of printing off a poster from a health department in your area, if that isn’t against copyright laws or something. That would probably be more effective.

    10. Bernice Clifton*

      I disagree with this approach. My apartment building puts up signs in common areas to this effect in regards to not picking up dog waste and it makes the building management look more passive-aggressive and unprofessional than it makes the offending dog owners look gross.

    11. Anonymo*

      Yeah, social shame is probably not going to change the people who already know they *should* be washing their hands but choose not to. Stick up a normal “wash hands” sign, wash your own hands regularly, and quit listening to other people’s toilet time before you get a reputation as the pee whisperer. Also, something I haven’t seen mentioned yet is that some people may do what I’ll call the wash-flush-sprint… especially if your unisex bathrooms are single stall without enough space to stand far enough away to avoid the 6ft radius spray of aerosolized E. coli that issues from high-pressure workplace toilets. You wash your hands, use the paper towel to handle any door knobs or handles, flush, and then flee the microbial mushroom cloud.

    12. fhqwhgads*

      No. Not a few seconds. The people who don’t ever attempt to wash their hands are one kind of gross. The people who think washing their hands for 5 seconds are another. But they both have dirty hands when they leave the room. Asking people who don’t consider handwashing important enough to do it at all to instead PRETEND to wash their hands halfassedly instead of what they’re doing now does not in any way make the situation better.
      20 second handwashing isn’t a pandemic specific thing. It’s a general hygiene thing. Everyone just gets reminded of it constantly because of the pandemic.

  5. Julia*

    I’m sure more commenters will point this out, but as I happen to be early to commenting this time: Some people, especially some women, don’t like to use their last names because of a difficult relationship with their fathers. Or because in this culture we as women often have to choose between taking our father’s or our husband’s last name and that can feel too steeped in patriarchal culture for some people. I think it’s important to be sensitive to that fact – how you choose to identify yourself is incredibly personal. Plus, any other name preference she had would be respected (spelling, pronunciation), so it makes sense to extend that courtesy to this situation as well.

    1. Chili pepper Attitude*

      This. I know the OP asked without asking for details but there is no way to answer that without giving details. Except for the way she already answered this question, it’s my preference!

    2. Green great dragon*

      Yes, or husbands. A friend of mine is divorcing from her second marriage, doesn’t want to keep the name, reverting to her previous ex-husband’s would be weird, going right back to her maiden name from 30 years ago also weird, may marry again shortly but doesn’t feel right to anticipate… and that’s without any abuse/estrangement in the mix.

      OP, this is an excellent opportunity to support someone who may be navigating tricky personal issues you don’t know about, make them feel appreciated, and build morale, with virtually no effort. Or you can do the opposite.

    3. Green great dragon*

      Yes, or husbands. A friend of mine is divorcing from her second marriage, doesn’t want to keep the name, reverting to her previous ex-husband’s would be weird, going right back to her maiden name from 30 years ago also weird, may marry again shortly but doesn’t feel right to anticipate… and that’s without any abuse/estrangement in the mix.

      OP, this is an excellent opportunity to support someone who may be navigating tricky personal issues you don’t know about, make them feel appreciated, and build morale, with virtually no effort. Or you can do the opposite.

    4. Dutchie*

      A less common scenario might also be that the person shares a last name with someone who got written a bunch of news articles about them for something less than amazing. I can imagine not wanting to have ten conversations about how you are not that Ted Bundy or, possibly worse, less than ten conversation but people actually thinking you are that Ted Bundy (because they did google you but never brought it up).

      Or maybe ten years ago the person themselves did something not great which ended up in the news and they don’t feel like rehashing with all their colleagues, because they turned their life around. Which would also be a valid choice.

      1. Momma Bear*

        Googling by coworkers came to mind – there may certainly be something she’s trying to distance herself from and not giving out more info is part of how she’s handling it.

      2. Rae*

        I’m thinking every Amy Cooper in the US would want to distance themselves from the name.

        Makes me think of Office Space:
        Michael Bolton: Yeah, well at least your name isn’t Michael Bolton.
        Samir: You know, there’s nothing wrong with that name.
        Michael Bolton: There was nothing wrong with it. Until I was about 12 years old and that no-talent ass clown became famous and started winning grammys.
        Samir: Well, if it bothers you that much, why don’t you just go by Mike; instead of Michael?
        Michael Bolton: No way. Why should I change? He’s the one who sucks.

    5. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      In some cultures lastnames include gender and marital status, which is something some people would not like to disclose in a work messaging platform.

      1. MK*

        Eh, do these cultures have no alternatives? My mother’s legal name is “Mary, wife of John Smith”, but in most formal settings she goes by Mary Smith, not the whole phrase.

        Also, keeping your gender and marital status undisclosed from your colleagues in a relatively small company is highly unusual. I get that people might have good reasons for this, but it’s uncommon.

        1. J.B.*

          I certainly have ambivalence about both the last names I have held in my life. If my husband and I divorce I absolutely will not go back to my father’s last name.

        2. Dino*

          Uh, it’s not highly unusual. Queer and trans people frequently do not disclose their gender and marital status at work. It’s fine for people to keep things private at work, and sometimes necessary.

          1. MK*

            Eh, people who can’t disclose their gender at work are unlikely to have made the change in their legal name surely? How would that even work? Same with queen people, if you haven’t disclosed your marriage to your workplace, you are probably still going by your single (maiden?) name there?

            1. Dino*

              You missed my point: it’s not uncommon to keep your gender and marital status private at work. Given that queer and trans people do it every day, the only way to say it’s “unusual” is if you’re erasing that reality. There is nothing wrong with or unusual about not sharing those things with coworkers, and coworkers aren’t owed the whole story of one’s life.

              1. MK*

                I haven’t missed your point, I just took it in the context of the letter, which is about what name appears in a company chat.

                I realize my phrasing wasn’t correct, but my meaning stands: in a small company, after you have been there a while, your colleagues will at least “think” they know your gender and marital status, if only because they will make assumptions based on your appearance and general conversation. Their assumptions may be wrong, and you might not choose to correct them because you don’t feel safe to do so, or, heck, because you don’t feel you owe them your life story, but the matter won’t be confidential. And if you are not out at work, most likely your name also reflects that assumption, so I don’t find it very likely that someone isn’t willing to have their surname in the company chat because it will give put their gender or marital status. It’s possible of course, but it would be an unusual situation.

                1. Dino*

                  But if someone doesn’t want to use part of their name, the reason very well could be gender or sexuality related. They should still have their preferences respected without having to come out.

        3. Nameless in Customer Service*

          Uncommon isn’t the same as impossible, though. I am an ordinary person but I’ve met some uncommon people including two chimeras, someone with a third nipple, and someone with naturally green hair. And that’s just what people have told/shown me. I think it’s not that uncommon to run into someone uncommon at some point in one’s life. Besides, how does the frequency of a situation affect how one should deal with it once it happens? The frequency can affect how much one should prepare beforehand, but once someone is in an uncommon situation such as having a nonstandard name presentation, I don’t think it makes much sense to say “your name presentation is too uncommon to respect and deal with, so we will force you into an arbitrary more common pattern for no good reason.”

    6. The OG Sleepless*

      I would happily go without my last name at work (except I can’t; that isn’t done in my field for several reasons, such as needing to easily verify someone’s licensing credentials). I took my married name to make my husband happy but I don’t like it. I detested my FIL and am not fond of the rest of his family, plus it’s a slightly silly-sounding name that people often make dumb jokes about.

    7. Ex-Dog Coor*

      I haven’t seen anyone else add this, but it could also have to do with gender identity. My sibling is nonbinary, and they go by my family’s last name. No first name or first initial. So for example, if their name was Alex Smith, my sibling goes by Smith in all contexts, including work. Maybe the person at OP4’s job is trying to figure out how they would like to be addressed. Doesn’t mean that they are necessarily queer or nonbinary, but perhaps they no longer feel like their first name is representative of them anymore.

      Or they could have a particularly feminine name in a male dominated industry! Sometimes it is easier to not lead with a clearly gendered name when that will result in unconscious (or conscious) basis! If I was “Samantha”, I would certainly go by Sam in my male dominated industry and avoid any instant assumptions.

      OP4 needs to let it go though. This is not a hill to die on!

        1. Ex-Dog Coor*

          Yes, that is understood, but what I was trying to illustrate is that some people go by one name only, regardless of if that is first or last name only. The example from my life happened to be about last name, but hopefully you can use context clues to see how a queer or nonbinary person may choose to use just one name or an initial, and how that is perfectly ok.

          1. Julia*

            The thing is, first names are gendered, not last names – so most of your comment becomes irrelevant when we are talking about last rather than first names. Particularly the part where you said “Doesn’t mean that they are necessarily queer or nonbinary, but perhaps they no longer feel like their first name is representative of them anymore. Or they could have a particularly feminine name in a male dominated industry!”

            I applaud your effort to be inclusive, but I just don’t think it really applies here.

  6. That-ptsd-chick*

    OP #4, please extend this person some grace! If there are safety or emotional reasons, it’s super hard to figure out your ‘privacy settings’ when you’re coming out of a rubbish situation or on new tech or a team. I specialise in tech-facilitated abuse and the top two reasons why the person is doing this are:
    1. They’re unsure what the perpetrator has access to – keystroke monitors can detect everything on your own devices

    2. You (or someone on your team) work in the same company as, or are in the same social/professional networks as an abusive person

    3. This person is unsure what tech is capable of in terms of hacking, jacking, cracking or tracking. It’s not unusual for this to be the case.

    In none of these situations is it easy to disclose problems, especially if she’s new. In situations #1 and #3, she looks like a paranoid nitwit who doesn’t understand computers. In situation #2, if you or your team know the abusive person, even telling you that she has privacy concerns is difficult.

    Trauma makes you clam up and shut down, especially on sharing unnecessary info. I don’t mean to diss you here, but from the tone of your letter, this doesn’t sound like a conversation in which I would’ve disclosed my safety concerns around what name I use either. You never know how people will respond, and when you start a new team, you want to be known as Jane the Job Title, not Jane The Tin Foil Hat or Jane with the Abusive Past.

  7. WoodswomanWrites*

    #3 – Clearly you are doing great work which is why you manager has empowered you to train the new employee. It’s good to remember that they trust you, and use their confidence in you as the basis for speaking to her about inappropriate behavior in her first job. She can’t know how to improve if she isn’t told. Alison’s script is great. If in fact she doesn’t respond to your feedback, it makes sense to ask your manager for help. You are a brand new trainer and your manager will no doubt want to support you however they can. Should it be necessary, I imagine that talking with your manager about the new employee’s problematic behavior and asking for guidance will be considered a positive. They will appreciate that you take your role as a trainer seriously, and that you prioritize good customer service. It’s okay to ask for help.

    1. BritChickaaa*

      I’m sorry but I can’t get over a 17/18yr old calling a 16yr old “a good kid.” They’re both kids!

      The 16 yr old will likely be fired soon but does it really matter? It’s a casual minimum wage supermarket gig for a child, during a time when casual gigs are everywhere, not a lifetime career. It’s pretty unfair to put pressure on a high school student to train children who likely will only be there a short time anyway.

      1. Lance*

        Unfair? They’re trying to help OP develop (and I imagine OP could’ve declined, but on the contrary, they seem excited for the opportunity), and besides that, kids can call each other kids; that’s really not that uncommon, in my experience.

        All in all, it seems like a good learning experience for OP in terms of interpersonal type issues, though I would suggest OP leave behind the idea of ‘but I don’t want to get her in trouble’. She is getting herself into trouble through her behaviors, OP; it’s still on her if it needs to be reported, not on the person reporting it.

      2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        The LW is 17/18 years old and therefore may be months away from entering the workforce full time. Wanting to move from the $10/hour staff job to the $12/hour assistant manager job makes complete sense. Your comment sounds a little bit like those of people who think a living wage is not necessary because “unskilled” jobs aren’t “real” jobs, they’re jobs for HS students.

      3. Colette*

        It’s unfair to give a teenager the opportunity to develop new skills? Have you met teenagers? Many of them are very capable.

        1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

          Nor is unfair to expect reasonable competence and decent behavior from the 16 year old. She’s not a toddler!

          Also, I’m pretty sure no teenager ever has though of themselves as a child. I know I didn’t. Yes, legally speaking they are, but they are very much learning how to be an adult.

          Also also, if it doesn’t really matter, that’s the perfect time to give something a first go! That way when it doesn’t go great, you can learn for next time. OP is going to go into her adult jobs with this practice under her belt and it will probably serve her well when she has a similar problem. And it might even be a good talking point during interviews.

      4. LadyJ*

        I really do not like when people use casual jobs as in it isn’t that important. At what point do they learn those life skills? Also, the slightly older teen has shown themselves to be responsible and trustworthy. In my career, I have worked with many teens for who that casual job was a lifeline.

      5. Marzipan Shepherdess*

        LW3 identified their age as 19 – a year into legal adulthood. More telling, though, was their thoughtfulness, responsibility and maturity; they wanted to balance exercising their authority with not getting the 16 year old in trouble, and of course, they wanted to be seen as carrying out THEIR job responsibilities well.

        The 16 year old on her first job is definitely in need of some serious training in workplace behavior before an annoyed customer complains to the manager about that foul-mouthed employee given to making obscene gestures, and before she goes on to a job in which the stakes will be even higher. Providing that clear, firm guidance now is doing her a favor, albeit one that she won’t appreciate right now. But it will pay off for everyone – the OP, their manager and the young girl – in the long run.

        1. Artemesia*

          And the OP needs some ideas and support for being assertive in this and had the good sense to come here. It is hard to know how to do these things when you are young — she will be a formidable professional by and by.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      There’s lots of things you can tell the trainee.
      I bet there are cameras all over the store. One store I worked at, security was able to follow a customer through the whole store navigating from camera to camera. Those same cameras can also watch employees. She could be caught on camera flippin’ the bird.

      Another thing you can point out is all it takes is ONE customer complaint. Maybe not at your store, but at some stores one complaint leads to dismissal.

      You can also talk about how it is important to find and follow group norms. Try to fit in – others are not cussing and flipping for reasons. She makes herself stand out but not a good way. Using yourself as an example you can talk about copying the habits of the excellent employees, so you too can be an excellent employee.

      I will say and this is kind of a point in her corner- grocery is a male dominated arena and women can be experiencing things that Should Not Be Happening. Talk about things that are considered inappropriate in the workplace. You can also talk to her about what to do if someone is inappropriate with her. This holds the door open for the possibility that she is mirroring how she is being treated and you do not see. I worked in one grocery story where women were just plain not safe on night shift. It was well known and nothing was done.

      She may or may not receive and accept your message. When you deliver the message make sure you speak clearly. If she fails to follow along, then you can go to your boss and say, “Here is what I have tried so far…..”
      It could be that the boss assigns another trainer. Don’t be discouraged. I have seen this happen as step 1 in moving toward letting the person go. Sometimes managers will try a different trainer to see if the results change and if there’s no change then the person is let go.

    3. Momma Bear*

      I agree. If speaking to the trainee (who might see a near-aged peer as a friend vs supervisor) doesn’t work, OP should bring it up to their boss for further guidance. Asking for help when you need it is not a bad thing. Letting things roll too long instead of asking can cause bigger problems.

    4. Little My*

      My main reaction to Letter #3 is that you sound like a great young person and I’m really impressed with you! Rooting for you to get your promotion.

  8. Radical Edward*

    #2: I am cringing in horrified sympathy. My stories (and past illnesses) are legion. Best piece of advice I can give you is, invest in a few packs of super duper disinfectant wipes, stash them in your desk and anywhere else that makes sense, and use them on your keyboard/desk/drawer handles daily… and maybe on the bathroom door handle/touchplate if it’s ever unattended. Kitchen surfaces too if applicable. I had to do this in a previous office job, where I made it my personal mission to wipe down the department’s iPads daily. It sucks but sometimes the best way to protect ourselves is to just take the extra steps. (I absolutely hold grudges about it though, and will cheerfully throw the germ culprits under the bus if opportunity ever arises.)

  9. John Smith*

    Alison, with regards LW1, what if the comeback is that there’s an expectation that this is part of her role (for whatever reason, even if it isn’t or shouldn’t be.) – what would a good answer be then? I’m in a similar situation where I’ve refused to do a particular thing because that was part of my old role and not my new role, but the comeback is that it’s within my abilities and experience, so it’s expected of me (but not, apparently, anyone else including the person in that role).

    1. Lance*

      As a thought, I feel like that would be a good time to have a chat with your manager and get them looped in on all this; if pushback from you alone isn’t working, pushback from them should help (barring the possibility of having a manager who doesn’t care/will tell you to do this stuff anyway, of course).

      1. Momma Bear*

        Agreed. If that’s no longer your role but the expectation is you do it b/c you know it, then the person in that role needs to be trained. I don’t mind still being backup but if I’ve passed along a task to someone else, they own it going forward.

      2. Observer*

        Alison, with regards LW1, what if the comeback is that there’s an expectation that this is part of her role (for whatever reason, even if it isn’t or shouldn’t be.)

        The OP can feel free to ignore that. The only one who has the standing to tell the OP that they are expected to keep on doing their old job is their current supervisor (and their bosses). Anyone else is either ignored or given a cheerful “Nope. Not part of my job anymore.”

      3. Observer*

        Alison, with regards LW1, what if the comeback is that there’s an expectation that this is part of her role (for whatever reason, even if it isn’t or shouldn’t be.)

        The OP can feel free to ignore that. The only one who has the standing to tell the OP that they are expected to keep on doing their old job is their current supervisor (and their bosses). Anyone else is either ignored or given a cheerful “Nope. Not part of my job anymore.”

        Sorry for the duplicate posting – somehow I managed to do it in the wrong place the first time.

        1. Observer*

          There is something weird with the nesting – This is supposed to be a response to the top level comment.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      If the expectation is not coming from the boss then you can loop the boss in that people expect you to do X when that is no longer in your job description.

    3. Nikki*

      It sounds like these requests are coming from people who are not involved in the letter writer’s current role. In that case, it’s pretty easy to just keep using the scripts Alison provided if there’s pushback. If the requests are coming from her direct manager, she would handle that by having a conversation with her manager about how continuing to do tasks from the previous role is impacting her current role. If she’s being asked to spend two hours sorting mail, she won’t have time to complete the Anderson report today. Making the impact clear to the manager will hopefully make them realize it makes more sense to have someone else do those tasks.

    4. anonymous73*

      You need to go to your boss if you haven’t already. It doesn’t matter if you have the capability to do your old job, you’ve moved on, and someone insisting because you CAN is rude and unreasonable.

      I’ve had several different roles – I started as a developer, then was a Business Analyst, Tier 2 Support and now a Project Manager. Nobody expected me to write code after I stopped being a developer or asked me to work a ticket once I became a Project Manager. I may have been asked questions based on possible knowledge from past jobs, but nobody ever insisted that I perform former job duties once I’ve moved on, especially if someone had replaced me in my former role.

    5. Critical Rolls*

      Can != should. Can != supposed to. C-suite dwellers are (one presumes) perfectly capable of sealing and stamping envelopes, but that isn’t part of their duties and is part of someone else’s.

      If this pushback is coming from a peer, you’d be within your rights to simply tell them they’re mistaken, that the expectation is that the person in X role will still be performing Y task, and that isn’t you anymore. If the pushback is coming from higher levels, your boss needs to go to bat for you. You have a job to do, and your former duties aren’t part of it!

    6. EMP*

      If your boss is telling you your old duties are still expected of you then I think at best you can present it as an issue of priority. “As you know now that I’m in X role my tasks Y and Z take priority, and I can’t always drop these to do Old Job Task B”, but if they think you should find time for it anyway, not much you can do.
      If it’s just your old coworkers trying to foist old job tasks on you, then same thing but don’t do the task! And if boss is on your side on this, and coworkers complain, your boss should understand when you explain you just don’t have time with the excellent work you’re doing on Y and Z.

    7. Artemesia*

      If there is a gender component, bring this up to a manager who expects this. Make clear that you sought this promotion and expect to be able to do the new job and not be assigned women’s work in addition. If it is not a gender component and your conversation with the boss doesn’t change this demand then it is time to start searching for a new job and move when you get a good opportunity. Sometimes you cannot move on in a place as your ‘old you’ blights your new role.

  10. just a random teacher*

    For #4, think about whether you need an additional identifier, and if so if it needs to match their last name in other systems. For example, my school lets students edit their Display names in Canvas (our LMS, which they’ll typically send us messages through), and we ask them to keep the last name we have in our records, or at least the last initial, since the Canvas gradebook is alphabetized by that last name no matter what they put in so it makes them much easier to locate in that part of the system and various other systems we’re likely to need access to in order to answer their questions. Giving them a reason usually helps with getting them to do it, and it means I don’t have to figure out if the “Madiye” who just emailed me is, gradebook-wise, Madison A., Madeline D., Maddysen H., or Joaquin M., since I at least know which part of the grade book to scroll to before starting to click and check display names for.

    1. ohpeafour*

      The boss for the company we’re freelancing for definitely needs help organizing the administrative side of his companies, and I thought that establishing structure even for just this project can help with maintaining things in the long-term.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Dictating to someone else how they should be identified should not be part of establishing structure.

        Their display name is not your business.

      2. Kal*

        Question – did the boss ask for you help doing the organizing of the administrative side? Did they give you permission and authority to dictate things to this level? Or are you just “helpfully” deciding that the boss isn’t doing a good enough job and you’ll take on that power for yourself without any actual authority?

        If its the former, you really need to spend time actually thinking of dictating name conventions is the hill you want to die on and whether your relationship with your coworker (and possibly other coworkers who think the way many of us commenters do) is something you’re willing to sacrifice in the name of “but last names!”.

        If its the latter you need to back waaaaaaaaaaay the heck off.

  11. The Face*

    This is pure speculation, but the surname could have cultural implications that would open the employee up to discrimination. It could identify their caste, for example. And the employee might not want to go into that, assuming that OP4 would not understand. Or simply not wanting to take on the weight of explaining it.

    1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      Also marital status and gender. Names are weird sometimes.

      1. Hawk*

        My husband’s last name (acquired in immigration and not at all related to the name now lost to history) is a slur for a national origin. That’s partly the reason why I haven’t changed my name (I work with the public). Names have weight and are weird.

    2. ohpeafour*

      Hi! All of us are pretty much the same nationality (SE Asians) with one lone American who is in a junior role, so discrimination isn’t a big deal, I don’t think.

      1. Observer*

        I don’t think.

        Don’t make assumptions. I’m sure you are aware discrimination is not just about white Americans discriminating against Asians. There is plenty inter-group discrimination, especially because the group really is so diverse. I’m not saying that this is her issue, but it’s hard to say that it’s not.

  12. Myrin*

    I love the letters when teenagers write in!
    #3, you already sound like a great employee and a wonderful mentor. Your management clearly values you and seems to want to groom you for a position more higher-up, so unless they’re easily influenced and not very good at assessing their employees’ capabilities, I don’t think they’re going to think less of you for not being able to all by yourself rein in this 16-year-old who clearly knows you’re not her boss.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Very much agree. Any manager who has a little experience knows that once in a while an employee is not salvageable- they are not teachable. I was in my late 20s and mentoring a new employee. I have never seen anything like this. She would arrive at work, assume a spot in the store and remain in that spot for the duration of her shift. She never moved, same spot for HOURS. I asked her to do things and tried to show her things and she would not move from her chosen spot. I told my boss I was having difficulty. My boss fired back at me that it was my fault somehow. (Skip the fact that I had successfully trained 10 people previously.) I said, “Okay, maybe she just doesn’t like me. Someone else should try and see if the results are different.” So my boss tried. I don’t think the woman even worked the entire shift- she was fired before the night was over.

      I should have gone to the boss sooner. Do set a time frame for improvement. And don’t be afraid to keep to that time frame. People who want their jobs beef up their game in short order. I have seen this over and over, they take the correction and they make the necessary changes.

    2. Dork_in_training*

      I find that I’ve had to explain to my son (16 yo) that what he sees in movies and TV really isn’t how it works in the work place. The behaviors shown in movies/TV just wouldn’t fly. Fun to watch and pretend but not reality. Let’s hope that the co-worker realizes that soon.

      1. Artemesia*

        The dramatic self indulgent speech doesn’t work for relationships e.g. the very public proposal nor in the workplace and is a staple of TV shows.

  13. Not hungry, thanks!*

    OP2. I feel your pain. My roommate doesn’t wash his hands. My bedroom is beside the bathroom, and I’m often in my room studying. I get so disgusted when I hear the door open immediately after a flush. To make matters worse, he also likes to cook meals for us from scratch (think, lots of food handling), but I can’t eat any of it because of what I know. I always say that I’m not hungry. One of our roommates mentioned the handwashing to him, and things changed for about a week and then when back to normal. Sigh! Why can’t people just wash their hands!?

    1. Hello From NY*

      Someone only talked to this roommate once? If I were you, I would be on this person’s case every week. Yikes! At the very least, don’t lie about not being hungry. “No thanks Rupert. We’ve had the discussion about you not washing your hands. I don’t feel comfortable with eating this food.”

    2. Nameless in Customer Service*

      Put up a handwashing sign in the bathroom with a pair of realistic looking eyes on it. The idea of being “watched”, even by a picture of eyes, can influence people’s behavior.

      (and good luck surviving that disgusting roommate, eesh)

  14. Hello From NY*

    LW #2: Have you tried saying something directly to these individuals? I know it’s a bit awkward, but I find that it’s best to direct with people. When someone exits the restroom, give them a puzzled/disgusted look and say, “Ummm…Dan… did you wash your hands?” If anything, it calls them out and social pressure can be effective. I understand that it’s complicated by the fact that you are a women vs these men. They may think that you are “mothering” them. But anyone over the age of 4 who doesn’t wash their hands after using the toilet wholeheartedly deserves to be treated like a child.

    1. Hazel*

      But probably not at work, though! I liked the idea of the roommate from the comment above telling their roomie to wash his hands, but that’s at home.

  15. Virginia Plain*

    I don’t know, all these reasons being suggested by commenters for why the colleague doesn’t want to use her last name strike me more as reasons to change their last name according to their choice. Just dropping a last name all together comes across more like they are a fan of Cher. Or want to be a celebrity just like Cheryl Tweedy/Cole/Fernandes-Versini/___ It reminds me of Just Jack *jazz hands* in Will and Grace. I can see why it might not come across well although for slightly different reasons than op.
    In my office saying “my surname is Stanton-Lacey now” would raise no eyebrows but “I am only Matilda now, no surname” – eyes would be rolling.

    1. Allonge*

      This, thank you. Yes, there are good reasons people don’t want to use a specific last name, but then pick another one instead of ‘my last name is seeeekrit, for good reasons TM’.

      Asking for a last name in a work context of a newly building team is not at all strange.

      1. MsM*

        But who gets to decide what is a “good reason” and what isn’t? Personally, I don’t think “it’ll make me take you less seriously for reasons that reflect my own biases more than anything else” is a good reason *not* to say yes. Let alone make someone disclose their personal trauma even in vague terms – because let’s face it, would OP really have dropped this if the answer to “is it a privacy thing?” was “yes” and nothing more?

        1. Pocket Mouse*

          Even if OP had dropped it after a ‘yes’, that ‘yes’ carries a LOT of information that A is entitled to keep private!

        2. Allonge*

          Above I was talking about changing one’s own name, sorry of that was not clear.

          So if A thinks that A has a good enough reason to hate/not use their last name, A will change it. Or for the purposes of a random freelance Slack channel, pick a temporary one. The reason, just as the unpreferred name, does not need to be shared at all.

          1. Mercie*

            But wouldn’t a fake last name cause even more of accountability that the OP is concerned about? If the last name doesn’t matter, then by that logic it also doesn’t matter if that spot is blank.

          2. Nameless in Customer Service*

            “Name changes cost from $100 to over $500 depending on the state” and that’s just in the US. They may also require inconvenient paperwork such as a birth certificate.

            And really, why must someone change their name in order for their desires to be respected?

      2. NoviceManagerGuy*

        Yes, if it’s to duck a certain kind of attention, just pick a display last name. Not having one is much more attention-getting.

        1. just another bureaucrat*

          It’s standing on a table screaming “I DO NOT WANT ATTENTION.”

          I mean, ok you can do it and technically you’re telling people you don’t want it but you’re doing it in a way that draws attention. OK.

          1. Mercie*

            …it’s just not including a last name on work platforms. I wouldn’t bat an eye at it. Why would y’all even spend time getting worked up over your coworkers screen name?

            1. Paris Geller*

              +1. I am trying really hard to follow the comment rules and be kind but some of these replies are BONKERS. I had no idea this was a sore subject for me (especially because I do go by my legal name at work so it’s not personal) but I just cannot phantom caring about this AT ALL. How does it affect your job in any way???? (disclaimer: I get it, there are always exceptions, you work on a 100 person team with 3 Janes, etc., but that’s clearly not the case for this LW).

              1. MsM*

                I mean, I’m discovering *I* care to a surprising degree, but I used to work for an organization whose advocacy issues included getting tech platforms to recognize that the FirstName LastName model doesn’t work for everyone online, so…

          2. Nameless in Customer Service*

            Dang, my last comment vanished. I think this attitude is really unfair. Just because something about a person draws one’s attention does not mean that 1) that’s the reason they did it 2) you have an excuse to disrespect their preferences and treat them however badly you like.

            The other day a woman with pink hair walked past me. Her hair was beautiful and obviously deliberately colored. Attention getting. But that wouldn’t’ve entitled me to follow her down the street, run up to her and ask her a bunch of intrusive questions, or decide that because she dyed her hair she must be a showoff and therefore a bad coworker.

      3. Jora Malli*

        The problem is that legal name changes aren’t instantaneous or free. So even if this employee would like to change her name, she might not be able to right now. It would be kind if the OP could say “we do need to assign you a last name in our communication tools, but if you’re not comfortable using your legal one, I’m happy to use something else.”

      4. SchuylerSeestra*

        Honestly as someone who works for a remote company with employees nationwide, I’m surprised at the pushback on listing your last name. Especially as someone with a very common first name.

        There definitely is a business case for being able to properly ID which person you are communicating with.

    2. MK*

      The issue is that it’s unusual enough that it draws attention to this person in a way they probably don’t want. I agree with the advice that the OP should let this go, but I wonder if the employee has thought it through: if the rest of the 10-20 people in the chat are Mary Smith, Jane Jones, Alex Baker, Bob Taylor, etc, and she signs in as Melinda, she is going to really stand out.

      1. JM60*

        I doubt this would draw attention. I’m sure I wouldn’t notice. When I initially read the post, I thought that my employer only had first names displayed on Slack by default. I checked, and I realized I was wrong.

      2. Avril Ludgateau*

        Strike “detail oriented” from my resume, if you must, but I probably wouldn’t notice Melinda in that scenario. Or if I did, I might go “huh. That’s something.” and carry on about my day.

    3. Loredena*

      But not everyone even has a surname and she might not want to have that discussion

      Because I’m lazy today this it from the monomyns page in Wikipedia

      Many Afghans have no surname;[2] it is also common to have no surname in Bhutan, Indonesia, Myanmar, and the south of India.

      1. pinot*

        They would generally explain that, not treat it like an uncomfortable secret.

        This comment section likes to bend over backwards to come up with increasingly unlikely explanations but every time a letter writer comes in and gives more details, the explanation is always far more mundane than any of the speculation has been.

      2. MK*

        If you don’t have a surname, not wanting one to appear in the company chat isn’t a “personal decision”.

    4. ohpeafour*

      OP4 here! Thank you for this.

      Tbh, I don’t really mind it on Slack, and I can just recommend a different convention for the team to just show first names if needed. My issue is more with the other tools and channels we’re using (e.g., a project management platform, email threads with the client, etc.).

      1. River Otter*

        Do you really need a single convention that everybody follows in Slack? That is a genuine question. What problem would arise if some people used last names, some people did not use last names, some people used only initials, etc?

    5. I'm just here for the cats.*

      It can be extremly difficult to change a last name. Different states may have different rules but I think in my state you have to put a notice in the paper in every town that you’ve lived in the last 7 -10 years, that you have changed your name. (something to do with creditors being able to find you).

      That can be time consuming and expensive. On top of the costs to change the name. Also, if you are a man changing the last name is even more difficult than it is for a woman.

      ** I am going by what my older friend had to do to change her name after she divorced. This was 15+ years ago so it may be easier now. But it can still be complicated.

      1. Allonge*

        And asking every employer for the rest of your life to take it for granted that you don’t have one, well you do but not telling them, and they certainly don’t get to use it is easier or faster?

        1. Nameless in Customer Service*

          LW #4 isn’t the employer, though, or someone in HR, but a peer of the person under discussion. It is possible for people to give HR information that they don’t have to give to their coworkers — imagine if it were not and we were required to discuss our medical issues and EAP visits with everyone in the company.

  16. Ina Lummick*

    #1 I recently changed roles (started in Dec ’21) in my company – think customer service to IT adjacent. Things that’ve have really helped me not get sucked into my old job duties are:

    Remove myself (or get IT to do it if I can’t) from any shared drives/group inboxes/chats that I don’t need for my new role.

    Have the support from your new manager/team to push back on people asking you to do your old job duties. My new manager (and my previous one) are very supportive now I’m fully in my role. In my case the team I left were all very new, so I had set ‘office hours’ where they could ask questions.

    Often if I get someone asking me to do something that’s not me anymore I’ll just say something like…
    “Thanks for getting in touch! I’m not sure on the answer, but the Sales Team will know. Sales (who are cc’d) can you help on this teapot spout design question?”

  17. KR*

    #2… Now I think people should wash their hands when they’re in the bathroom. I’m not defending these people or suggesting that this is a replacement for hand washing. But I’ve noticed sometimes people who don’t wash their hands are more inclined to use hand sanitizer. I think it’s something about getting their hands wet seems like a big deal? Placing some right by the bathroom door so they can sanitize on their way out might mitigate some of the migrating germs in your office.

    1. Spicy Tuna*

      I am a hand washer! Not only do I wash hands, I use the paper towel to open the bathroom door when I depart. If there is a hand sanitizer dispenser near the bathroom, I will then sanitize. Sanitizing stations near the bathroom are an all around excellent idea!

    2. dawbs*

      I have an autistic kid who hates hates (HATES. There aren’t enough hates here. 1000 burning suns isn’t enough) the slightly damp feeling of her fingers after washing her hands. It borders on physically painful for her.

      We make judicious use of hand sanitizers (with rules about when soap and water are, reluctantly, required. They come with special towel instructions to help deal with it). She carries her own sanitizer most of the time, but having extra ones around, so she sees it (if she sees it, she’ll use it. probably) when I”m not there to give her the “mom looks” and shame her into using washing, is always appreciated

      1. Artemesia*

        It is better than not to have gel sanitizers. And it will kill cold and flu virus — but not stomach flu i.e. norovirus.

  18. Asenath*

    #1 – yeah, stop this in the bud. Some people will always go the path of least resistance, and if they can get you to do something instead of doing it themselves or figuring out who they should really ask, that’s what they’ll do.

  19. Me*

    Regarding LW4:
    Out of the blue, I recently got a series of letters and phone calls from my credit card company saying there was an issue with my account from a woman who never gave her last name and has an extremely common first name (think “Jessica”). I’m getting these very official and serious letters in the mail that are signed “Jessica,” with no last name to be found anywhere. It seemed like a scam, because who at a financial institution is writing official scary documents but doesn’t sign them with their last name? So I ignored them.

    As it turns out, it was legit. But I still find it strange. Is the LW’s co-worker saying that she never wants to use a last name with any of her co-workers or clients? Depending on the company culture and her responsibilities, that may seem odd.

    1. Guin*

      I got a legitimate email from a company who wanted me to call and set up an appointment for an interview. The message was signed “Alyssa” and the email address was generic (ie, I called the phone number and asked for Alyssa, and the first question was “Which Alyssa?” Seriously. Use a last name or some other individual identifier!

    2. Casper Lives*

      Woah! I’d also think that’s a scam. I hope everything worked out.

      My company’s IM (not Slack) displays first and last names. I don’t know anyone who has asked to change it but I’m curious what the answer would be.

      1. Me*

        I don’t think it was a scam, because she gave me an email address in the letter that ended in (which is the way that company’s email addresses end), and she responded to that when I sent her a message.

        But in the back of my mind, I still wonder whether there was something scammy about it because I still find it so strange that someone would be investigating fraud and never use their last name with customers.

        The email address was a generic “” . I now wonder whether she was deliberately hiding her last name for whatever reason.

        1. Observer*

          The email address was a generic “” . I now wonder whether she was deliberately hiding her last name for whatever reason.

          I could see a fraud investigator hiding their actual identity. Some people who commit fraud are not to be taken lightly. On the other hand, it could also be that they were using a shared mailbox for any number of reasons.

    3. I'm just here for the cats.*

      FYI for calls: many call centers do not want/allow their employees to give last names. It can cause issues with security. Once call center I worked at we were not allowed to give our location. We could say we are in Wisconsin but we couldn’t say what city. People would get ticked off because they would escalate and want everyone they talked too’s first and last name and employee number. We couldn’t do that
      1. If you get enough info you can do phishing emails
      2. security risk for building. I did hear there was a threat made to a call center at one time.
      3. employee numbers were treated like SSNs. They could be used to log in to the systems.

      So I can understand why you thought it was a scam. Always call the number for the company. Look it up don’t use whats on the documents being sent or what they tell you over the phone.

      1. Me*

        That was part of the challenge. The company is one of the biggest financial institutions in the world, and the only information I had was “Jessica” and the phone number that’s in the letter and on her phone messages.

        I understand completely what you and Observer are saying about how there are good reasons why Jessica doesn’t want me to know her last name, but the whole thing could not have better designed to raise red flags in the customer’s mind. Although I agree with Observer’s implication that if it had been a scam, they would have given me a phony last name to go along with the phony first name.

    4. Observer*

      The problem here is not the lack of last name, though. The problem is that your CC is not communicating with you properly to start with. I do get that it’s weird that the letter was only signed Jessica. But I would have worried that it’s a scam even if it were signed “Jessica Fardiner”.

  20. Product Person*

    Re: Washing hands in the bathroom. I studied behavioral science, and based on experiments in other areas, I believe a sign may help persuade at least some people to start doing the right thing.

    I’m thinking something on these lines (written using some statistics from research papers):

    “Studies have shown that people who wash their hands after using the bathroom at work are 5 times less likely to catch a cold.”

    No need to ask for the desired behavior. It’s still their choice; only now it’s clear which behavior is more beneficial to *them*.

    1. Beehoppy*

      I admire your optimism, but if two years of COVID warnings and cutesy songs and had washing demonstrations have not worked, nothing will. This is an ingrained habit of 20+ years that the individuals are not self motivated to change.

    2. Be kind, rewind*

      Yeah, I don’t see any harm in trying for the sign. It may not convince everyone, but it should be enough to sway some people.

  21. Dennis Feinstein*

    Re LW4
    The past 2 years have been tough on musicians. Sounds like Madonna’s had to take a temp job…

    1. ohpeafour*

      I mentioned this in another comment, but to rehash the point – it likely says something about me that I would have felt comfortable with it if she was indeed a theatrical persona building her brand. We let celebrities get away with too much!

  22. Spicy Tuna*

    I very much dislike my name – both first and last, although my last name bothers me far more than my first. I always, always, ALWAYS try to never use my last name as it causes me grave embarrassment, which sets an awkward tone for nearly any interaction that follows. In other words, I will spend the entire meeting distracted by thinking people are judging me for my last name.

    I am usually the only person with my first name in an organization (although not always; it’s somewhat old fashioned). I once had a job where every time I called a co-worker in my department of about 12 people she would pretend to not know which Spicy I was (I was the ONLY Spicy in the office) and force me to tell her my first and last names. EVERY.TIME. I.CALLED.HER. even if I called her, say, twice in an hour.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      Removed. Please take this down a notch. This is not hostile work environment.

    2. Nameless in Customer Service*

      That sounds deeply annoying of that coworker. I never would have thought someone would think such behavior was reasonable until I read this discussion.

  23. Pocket Mouse*

    #4, like Alison said, there may be valid reasons to require A to give more identifying information (which may be a last name, last initial, middle name, title, current photo, or even a consistent pseudonym) but when you asked about privacy concerns or emotional tension, you were asking her to divulge information you aren’t entitled to and that she may very much want to keep out of her workplace. If I were in her shoes, and the answer to either of those options was yes, just that ‘yes’ would more than I would want to share with you. For all you know, she may have already worked out accommodations to protect her privacy with HR. Assume she has solid reasons that you would respect if you knew them, and move forward accordingly.

    1. ohpeafour*

      Thank you for this. You have definitely given me a lot to think about!

      There’s…no HR in this company we’re freelancing for. It’s a very informal setup at the moment. We don’t even have contracts yet. My intent was to establish more structure, but I also recognize that I may have pushed too far.

  24. Maybe not*

    People use last names at work. That’s just normal practice. Is this person using their last name, but refusing to use it on the message program? Or is their last name a secret? If it’s the former, it’s weird but not a big deal. If it’s the latter, I think that is problematic.

    1. ohpeafour*

      She’s using only her initials on email threads, and just her single-letter nickname (“A”) on our project management tools. As I mentioned in a different thread, I actually don’t mind it on Slack as much, but for other platforms where stuff is documented, I’m more comfortable being able to see a last name.

  25. Let me clear my schedule for you*

    LW1 needs to stop announcing where she’s going. The requests will also likely stop.

    LW4: Maybe she has a weird last name, like it is really long or no one can pronounce it, or her last name is also interchangeable with her first name? I have a man’s first name as a last name and I get called Charles more than Lynn.

    1. ohpeafour*

      Hi! I actually know her last name and it’s not complicated or potentially confusing in any way.

  26. anonymous73*

    #1 you need to re-train them, so speak up now. They’re used to coming to you out of habit, and if they haven’t replaced you yet, they don’t want to be inconvenienced trying to figure out how to handle the tasks now. So go with one of Alison’s scripts and say no. It’s not rude, it’s necessary. You have a new job now and need to focus on those duties.

    When I worked in support, I created all of the knowledge base articles (KBAs) for our outsourced help desk. Instead of looking at the KBAs, the team leads would constantly IM me and ask a question. I could have easily answered their question, but the KBAs were created for that very reason. So my first question was always “What does the KBA say?” Eventually they stopped coming to me unless the answer wasn’t in a KBA or they didn’t understand something that was written. I just needed to get them to form new habits that followed the processes put into place.

    1. Mockingjay*

      I call this technique: “don’t accept, redirect.” You’re still being helpful; it’s just that the solution isn’t you anymore.

      1. Boba Feta*

        This is my go-to tactic when students ask me things like “when is this paper due?,” “what do I have to do for next class?”, or ANYTHING ELSE that is a literal, factual response already clearly communicated in the syllabus or assignment instructions. I become intensely ignorant of all such minutiae and suggest they seek out the answer themselves, but in the most upbeat and helpful way possible.

    2. Hazel*

      I just have to say THANK YOU for saying “KBAs”! I write KBAs, and this is what I’ve always called them. But at my last two jobs, people looked puzzled every time I used the term even after I told them what it means. So I started saying “KB articles” or “knowledgebase articles” because I thought I was the weirdo, but not this time! I mean seriously, there’s an acronym for it!

      Your comment has cemented my resolve to return to calling them KBAs!

      1. anonymous73*

        You’re very welcome. I’m all for abbreviations and it takes less time to say KBA so I’m all for it. Although I will admit that very few people outside of that job know what I’m talking about.

        1. Hazel*

          I’m in IT, so there’s really no excuse! I guess maybe the people on my team who don’t work directly with our ticket tracking (and KBA hosting) software can get a pass.

  27. Anonymous Koala*

    OP4, I know you meant well, but I would be incredibly uncomfortable if my boss asked me if there was some sort of emotional trauma impacting my ability to do a particular task at work. I appreciate that you wanted to be sympathetic and flexible, but employees’ personal emotional struggles are just not something to discuss in most work places unless they’re initiated by the employee in question.

    For the last name, could you compromise by having her leave her full name in her email signature, but change the display names so they say something like “Jane D” instead of “Jane Doe”?

    1. Be kind, rewind*

      I was also a little alarmed that OP flat out asked that. It would be less intrusive to just ask about it more generally and let the emoyee divulge as much as they want/don’t want.

      1. ohpeafour*

        Thank you both for this! I am realizing this now after reading through the post replies. Definitely a learning experience for me.

        I don’t know if I want to ask anyone to edit their email signatures – I feel like that’s the bigger ask, so I tried to just keep it to the tools/platforms we were already using.

  28. anonymous73*

    #2 – if they don’t wash their hands, a sign isn’t going to change that. If I’ve learned anything over the last 2 years it’s that I can only do what I need to do to protect myself because you’re not going to be able to rely on others to keep you safe. Yes it’s gross, but it happens…everywhere…even before the pandemic. Is it grosser to you because you know them and you see it? Because unless you’re someone who NEVER uses a public bathroom, this is something you’ve been dealing with your whole life.
    #5 – I was skeptical about rehire by the fact that he jumped ship for a bigger paycheck after only 5 months, and then found out that the grass isn’t always greener. This tells me that they’re motivated only by dollar signs and didn’t do any research/trust their instincts about the other company. Then you mentioned that 2 of the issues in the short time they were there were reliability and deadlines. Those are a big deal. I wouldn’t risk giving them a second chance if I were you.

    1. Rolly*

      ” they’re motivated only by dollar signs”

      So annoying when workers be like that.

    2. urguncle*

      “This tells me that they’re motivated only by dollar signs” as opposed to an employer motivated by altruism and good vibes only?

      1. anonymous73*

        Wow, literal much? So you would choose to work for a terrible company where you were miserable all the time just because they paid you more? You do you, but it’s not always about the money.

    3. VanLH*

      Well, since you think employees should not have money as a primary incentive I am sure you act the same way. So, if you were the LW you would match the salary and take a pay cut of your own if necessary to make this happen. After all you are not motivated by money, correct?

      1. anonymous73*

        If you’re willing to work for a toxic company that treats you like crap just because they pay more, go for it. But it’s not all about the salary if you want to be happy at the place you spend a large majority of your life.

  29. ZSD*

    #3 I just want to say how impressed I am with you! You’ve clearly achieved a lot already in your professional life, and you’re displaying more maturity than we see from some letter writers in their forties. I see great things in your future!

  30. Rusty Shackelford*

    #1 – Mr. S was in a similar situation. While in graduate school, he worked as a grad assistant in a particular office. After graduating, he became full-time staff in that office, but people still came to him asking for grad assistant help. When he politely told them “I’m not a grad assistant any more, I’m a coordinator just like you,” they looked at him blankly and said “Okay, but will you make my copies?” And it never stopped while he stayed in that job. I hope you have better luck, but be prepared to need to enforce your boundaries for a LONG time.

    1. Workerbee*

      Yeah, there are a lot of folks who, unless you respond with “Yes,” just won’t hear you even if you dispense with all the politeness and say a flat “No.” It’s like their brains can’t or won’t reset beyond what they think is their all-encompassing, more-important-than-you need. The blank stare is a very real thing. Which means it’s on you to repeat ad-nauseum while continuing to not-do what they want you to do.

  31. Dust Bunny*

    OP3 I know you’re, what, 17?, but this isn’t as ambiguous as it feels: You need to tell her.

    Her behavior reflects badly on her, but not addressing it is what will reflect badly on you. You’ve been assigned to train her, so telling her bluntly that her “humor” and antics don’t fly in the work world is part of your job, and not doing that means that you’re not doing part of what you’ve been asked to do.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      ugh, posted too fast.

      However . . . you can’t fix what she’s not willing to fix, and if she’s not willing to change this then she is not as good a worker as you want to think she is. Getting fired is the natural and expected outcome of being a smart-*ss and flipping people off on the sales floor–if she doesn’t listen to you about this, then what happens to her employment is nobody’s fault but her own. Getting wrapped up in someone’s potential versus the self they’re deploying in real life is very often a mistake, and her behavior is so out-of-line that there aren’t really any hairs to split.

      1. dawbs*

        ^This is excellent.

        And I’d add that at some point the “bosses hate surprises” rule comes into effect. Meaning, you don’t have to rush and tell your boss this immediately. BUT. If you address it with her, explain it, give her a chance to fix it and she blows you off, it’s much better for you to tell your boss “hey, This person is not seeming to pick up what I”m saying. How would you like me to proceed” is going to come off far better than the boss coming onto the sales floor and seeing her flip someone off (and then expect her to throw you under the bus. Because “OP knew I did this, and since they’re my trainer and didn’t tell me not to, I assumed it was OK”)

        1. Dust Bunny*

          So much this! Try to handle it yourself first but if she doesn’t listen, you’ve done your job and you have a responsibility to bring it to your boss. What you don’t want is for your boss to find out about it from another employee or a customer, or to witness it first-hand, and either think you didn’t address it or find out that you tried but when Employee didn’t listen, you didn’t escalate it. Your employers don’t want customers to think they’re OK with her behavior. It needs to be handled, full stop.

          Your hope that you can mold her is admirable but there is a limit to how much you can effect it, and not accepting that will put your own job in jeopardy.

  32. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    LW4, in your shoes I would simply pass the last-name decision up the chain of command and enforce whatever decision they come to impartially. I’d be doubly more inclined to do so as a freelancer, and until a decision comes back down the chain of command, I would simply ignore the missing last name.

  33. Hiring Mgr*

    On #2, can you sit somewhere else? It doesn’t seem like anyone’s desk should be in a place where you can hear everyone using the bathroom all day to the extent that you know what they’re doing in there..

    1. I'm just here for the cats.*

      The OP doesn’t state that her desk is next to the bathroom. I think that they are unisex bathrooms so one stall each and she is probably waiting outside the door for the person who is in the bathroom to finish up. She hears the flush but the door immediately opens.

  34. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

    Last Name

    The “accountability” could just mean a way to contact the person. My workplace isn’t small but I imagine any reasonable size workplace has phone and e-mail directories. If I have a Zoom and have a question for “John”, I can’t just search John and find him. Knowing his face doesn’t help. I’d have to search “John Smith” to get his contact info like office number 333-333-3333. And there could be multiple Johns.

    I suppose a compromise could be her Zoom name is “Mary” but seems like that would defeat her point if they use typical email assignment conventions at her job.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      Slack has an ability to put the display name, phone number and email in the profile. It doesn’t require a first name last name to do that. Zoom has an ability to add stuff to your profile too. If her preferred display name is A.D. on Zoom, then she can just add her email to that.

      Also, if it’s a large company, “John Smith” could easily garner five different name matches, so that wouldn’t even help.

  35. bee*

    For #4 it really depends for me on the extent of “other platforms” — if A is just A on Slack, that’s no big deal, and you should let this go. But if A’s email is just a @ company dot com, and her email signature is just A, and you’re fully remote and I’ve never met A or seen her on a call then yeah I would feel a little weird as a coworker. I’m not sure I would even believe A is a real person, honestly! If that’s the case, I do understand OP’s consternation, and I think I might at least push for the email signature to have a full name, if nowhere else does.

    (This is more tangential, but idk if I agree with the idea that a name is personal information? By definition, what to call you is public information, no? Deciding what that name is is personal, but not the name itself. I know we’re not giving advice to A here, but if she has some kind of issue around her last name (as hypothesized in many comments above), surely picking a professional pseudonym would be much easier than just trying to not have a last name at all, which is going to raise questions.)

    1. ohpeafour*

      We’re using a couple of project management tools, Figma, and she’s also occasionally client-facing. Only her initials appear on email threads, and her profile picture is her wearing a hat and a face mask. She doesn’t have an email signature. I have met her on a call, though, but she hasn’t met everyone yet.

      The company we’re freelancing for didn’t really have a lot of structure until I came along. My intent was to establish more of that, but I understand the effect may have been less than ideal!

      1. linger*

        I think you might need to reconsider what a meaningful “structure” is for the objectives of your team. Details of names seem a very small component of that, especially for internal work; about the only place where I can see possible relevance of a full name for app dev work is when you come to name the dev team in documentation for clients.
        Even there, one solution is to name the team, and give contact details for a nominated spokesperson, e.g. the team lead.

    2. Curmudgeon in California*

      Ah, but then if she picked a pseudonym and the LW found out they would probably get all ticked off that they were “lied to” about the person’s “real name”.

      If I tell you to call me TW, and you dig around and find out that my wallet name is Timothy Warblesworth, Jr. then start insisting that I can only go by that I’m going to be really ticked.

      IMO there is very little that is more irritating than someone else telling me what my name “has” to be, or how I “must” be called. It’s bad when government officials do it, and it’s bad when coworkers do it.

    3. Plain Jane*

      I think this is where I’m at, too. I will fully admit I’m biased because where I work we are required to use legal names. I don’t think it matters in slack or for internal communications, but if A is using a vague or non- professional sounding email address for outside communications, I do think this can reflect poorly on a group of freelancers. It would also visually flag to me as spam if I got an email from something where I couldn’t verify that this was a legit coworker or professional contact.

  36. My Brain Is Exploding*

    #4…so you know her last name and no one else does? I can think of a few valid reasons someone would not want everyone to know their last name: they are being/have been stalked; they know someone on your team and don’t want them to know who they are; they have a last name with some kind of connotation that causes others to talk about them/ask nosy questions/treat them differently (such as a very ethnic-sounding last name or the unusual name of a convicted criminal) and that’s just off the top of my head. If you feel like everyone “needs” to have a last name on the slack channel, then just…let them pick something random?

    1. ohpeafour*

      Hi! A couple people on the team know her last name. I’m not as concerned about Slack, but the way she set up her other accounts on the other tools we’re using shows that she wanted to keep the same convention across all of them. Her nickname is just her initial. So, just “A.”

      I didn’t even consider asking for a consistent pseudonym – that’s a great idea! I wish I thought of that at the time.

    2. ohpeafour*

      After reading through the threads, I realize that asking for a consistent pseudonym would have been the perfect compromise.

  37. Khatul Madame*

    LW5 maybe the new company saw this guy’s faults a lot faster than you and he is about to be let go.
    Regardless, he has no qualms screwing 2 companies in a row: yours, by leaving after only 5 months, and the other company, even faster. He also is not very reliable and not very good with deadlines.
    Bottom line – he is a selfish, unethical, and unapologetic flake.
    Don’t hire him back. Even in this labor market you can do better.

    1. EPLawyer*

      THIS. This is a guy who jumped from you after 5 months to another company found out the new company isn’t perfect and now wants to jump back. In a mere 5 months you found out he can’t be depended on for deadlines. Why do you want him back? Being a nice guy and the fact you parted ways amicably are not enough reasons.

  38. Not_Me*

    LW3, you’re the same age as my son. Good for you for standing up for what’s right and you will go far in your career with that type of attitude. Some other kids your age may try to tell you to stop being that way, “cmon, it’s just a joke”. But you’re doing the right thing, you’re very mature, keep doing what you’re doing. Whether you decide to stay at the supermarket and move up or if you decide to do something else, you will go far.

    LW4, why does she need to use her last name? I don’t understand the rationale here. It wasn’t very clear (to me) from your letter, but are outside people also going to see her name at some point? Or is it only internal? It could be a safety reason. I have an ex husband who found out my new married last name. He called my job and tried to get me fired by saying I’m sleeping with a married male subordinate. He found me because my first and last name and picture was on the company site….very easy to find me. Thank goodness my boss was knowledgeable with these types of things and told me about it instead of just firing me. She also made sure my info came down and now there’s no way to find me. If your job isn’t one where last names are necessary, then don’t require it. Just because you may not have experienced safety concerns, doesn’t mean other people haven’t.

  39. fish*

    Hey LW 1 – just wanted to add another perspective, that your coworkers may not actually be quite clear!

    This just happened in my office – our admin just transferred to a more technical job. However, there was never an office-wide announcement, and never a clean cutoff point.

    As a result, I did exactly what you’re describing, because I knew “Oh, Jane is moving over at some point,” but I was never quite clear on when that was. A simple, matter-of-fact news update would have been very helpful!

  40. Whatever I am today*

    I’m gonna disagree with the Slack channel. As someone who has the same name as someone else on my small team, I don’t like it when the other person doesn’t at least use a last initial. I’ve been accosted by a misguided colleague who wanted to blame me for the other person saying they would do something and then dropping the ball. Since we’re 100% remote, that person didn’t realize it wasn’t me.

  41. Tani*

    I was stalked in my early 20’s and it took about 2 decades before I felt comfortable even offering a physical address to my employers. There is no reason in this situation that the person writing needs her to post her last name other than it is something she wants. Control issue. You should def think about allllll the reasons someone might not be comfortable sharing information

  42. WindmillArms*

    LW4, I work on a fully remote team. One person on our team of 30-40 doesn’t use a last name anywhere that I’ve seen (just a last initial). I guess I just assumed their last name was maybe long or complicated or had some other reason for not wanting to share it. It’s fine! No one has ever worried about it. Everyone else’s email address/Slack name/login is firstname.lastname, and this one coworker is firstname.x

    Give this person the flexibility they want.

  43. The Assistant*

    The washing hands thing grosses me out. Especially as I got a nasty flu once that just went through the office like wildfire for four weeks. I got it because I stopped washing my silverware before I used it. I had for a month and thought the dishwasher would do, but no.

    I would just say to them, “Oh, I can’t take that pen because you didn’t wash your hands.” Or if I took the pen or anything really, I’d make a big show of using alcohol wipes on it because “people here don’t wash their hands so you never know.” I’d never let anyone borrow my pen, etc.

    People know I’m a stickler about it. I got it from my mom. If someone sneezes I make a wide circle around them, etc. I can’t change their behavior. But I can control mine. They can think I’m just paranoid, I don’t care. Even at in-person lunches, I help unwrap sandwiches, when serving myself I handle serving spoons with a napkin. I have mostly worked with women but not all wash their hands properly either.

    One co-worker always turned the faucet off with her bare hands after washing hers. Another did the same saying, ‘Well, my hands are clean now.” Yes, but assuming everyone who touched that faucet had equally clean hands is a bit assumption.

    Do people really not understand about germs? Or do they just not want to bother?

    1. Khatul Madame*

      It must be very hard for you to function around people if you judge them for… turning off the faucet with bare hands after washing?
      Think about it: people only touch the faucet before washing (dirty hands) and after (clean hands). If you encounter a faucet that is not running, it is fairly safe to assume someone turned it off after washing their hands. The only other scenario for a person touching a faucet is maliciously smearing their filthy paws all over it, but not turning water all and off. I have never encountered this behavior and have no reason to think it’s common.
      Lighten up.

      1. Artemesia*

        I got in the habit at work of soaping the faucet when I washed my hands, so it was clean when I turned it off.

      1. Mona-Lisa Saperstein*

        Yeeeaaahhh…I’m even more bothered by “Oh, I can’t take that pen because you didn’t wash your hands.” It would seriously freak me out if a coworker said that to me. I’d wonder why they were scrutinizing me in the bathroom so closely.

        1. Goldenrod*

          “I’d wonder why they were scrutinizing me in the bathroom so closely.”


    2. Mona-Lisa Saperstein*

      “Do people really not understand about germs? Or do they just not want to bother?”

      I thought it was fairly common knowledge that excessive cleaning/sanitizing is actually harmful to the adult microbiome, and it impairs the immune systems of children and adolescents.

      From the first hit in my Google search:

      “We are getting far too sterile,” adds Kiran Krishnan, a microbiologist and chief scientific officer for Microbiome Labs, based in St. Augustine, Florida. “Exposure to microbes is an essential part of being human. Most of our immune system is comprised of tissue that requires activation by the microbes we’re exposed to. The immune system requires the presence of friendly bacteria to regulate its functions. Think of the immune system as an army, with tanks and missiles but no general to lead them. That’s the role friendly microbes play in your body; they’re the general.” The vast majority of microbes, 97% to 99%, are benign or beneficial, and they are the best protection to fight pathogenic microorganisms, Krishnan says.

      Carpenter and Krishnan say they aren’t against good hygiene. Instead, they say that modern society has gone overboard with deploying antibacterial soap and germ-killing cleaning products, which indiscriminately kill germs – including good bacteria that help maintain a strong and diverse microbiome. Everyone has a microbiome, a collection of more than 100 trillion microbes that live on and in our body, the majority in our large intestine. “The more diverse your microbiome is, the healthier you are,” Krishnan says.

      A study published in 2015 in Occupational & Environmental Medicine, an international peer-reviewed journal, studied the effects of the use of bleach – effective in killing germs – in the homes of more than 9,000 kids ages 6 to 12 in Spain, the Netherlands and Finland. The incidence of infections such as the flu, tonsillitis, sinusitis, bronchitis and pneumonia was more prevalent in the homes where bleach was used, the study found.

      1. Rolly*

        “I thought it was fairly common knowledge that excessive cleaning/sanitizing is actually harmful to the adult microbiome, and it impairs the immune systems of children and adolescents. ”


        1. Goldenrod*

          I’d like to add to this that you don’t REALLY know how clean someone is just based on this. A friend of mine noticed that her boss started making really pointed comments about hand-cleaning that were obviously targeted at her. (Her boss was pretty abusive anyway – this just escalated it.)

          I know my friend. She is a very clean person. She told me that she finally realized that there had been an incident where she used the bathroom, walked out without washing her hands, and her boss glared at her. But my friend had gone back to her desk and immediately used Purell. (I know, it’s not as good but….come on.)

          So….Maybe people should calm down a little and realize they don’t always know the facts before they judge!! I think a little less looking and judging would improve most work cultures.

      2. quill*

        Hand-washing is probably not getting into “too sterile” zones unless you’re using antimicrobial soaps. (Don’t use those.)

        If you pooped, it’s preventing fecally transmitted germs from transmitting to everything you touch in more than negligible numbers. If you peed? Well, societally we are not comfortable with even second degree interactions with someone else’s urogenital area, so probably at least rinse, lest you gross the rest of the office out knowing that you just shook hands with them but don’t wash. (And the vast majority of people who observe someone not washing after they pee are probably assuming they don’t wash, or don’t wash well, after you poop.)

        1. Mona-Lisa Saperstein*

          The commenter’s behavior goes way beyond hand-washing, though. She won’t handle a spoon that has been through the dishwasher without using a napkin to cover it. She won’t let anyone borrow a pen under any circumstances, and if they tried, she would “make a show” out of liberally wiping it down with a disinfectant wipe. She claims to have contracted the flu from a utensil that had already been through a dishwasher. That definitely qualifies as extreme behavior.

          1. quill*

            Yeah, you’re more likely to get the flu from the air in your office from someone’s sneeze particles than you are from a spoon that had been washed since the last time it was in someone’s mouth.

    3. Curmudgeon in California*

      I got pneumonia in one crowded open plan office because most people didn’t wash their hands after using the bathroom. First time in my life. People came in when they were sick and I know that 75% of the people I saw in the bathroom skipped the sink entirely.

      I used to not be a stickler about it. Now I am.

      1. Rolly*

        “People came in when they were sick and I know that 75% of the people I saw in the bathroom skipped the sink entirely.”

        If flu spread that way? I know a variety of stomach/intestinal illnesses are, and not washing hands after defecating is nasty, but if you were around a bunch of people with flu I’m doubtful the bathroom/dirty hands has the vector.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Lots of diseases are spread by surface contamination, as well as airborne. I did not mention the flu at all.

          People would blow their noses in the bathroom too, and infrequent hand washing plus coming in sick meant I ended up out for three weeks, unpaid, because other people were vectors, including by not washing their hands. I hadn’t had the problem in 30 plus years before that. Crowded open plan plus lack of handwashing plus coming in sick meant I got pneumonia. Was handwashing the only problem? No, but the combo made me sick.

          1. Observer*

            The comments about flue are true of pneumonia as well. Bathroom hygiene is pretty irrelevant to the spread of either disease.

        2. Artemesia*

          it wasn’t the hand washing probably and bathroom hygiene has nothing to do with flu — it is the sneezing and sneezing on hands and touching door nobs — but flu is mostly airborne.

      2. Observer*

        got pneumonia in one crowded open plan office because most people didn’t wash their hands after using the bathroom. First time in my life. People came in when they were sick and I know that 75% of the people I saw in the bathroom skipped the sink entirely.

        Actually, you probably got sick because you were sitting in an open plan office with a bunch of sick people (who were probably coughing their heads off.)

        Don’t get me wrong. Regular hand washing with regular soap is a GOOD THING. It definitely helps reduce the spread of many diseases. But in general it’s pretty hard to know what specific thing caused you to get an illness. In a case like this, the odds are HEAVILY in favor of your having breathed it in. Second most likely is you touched something right after someone sneeze / coughed near it.

    4. Observer*

      I got it because I stopped washing my silverware before I used it. I had for a month and thought the dishwasher would do, but no.

      Sorry, that’s baloney. In general, fomite transmission (where you pick up a bug from a surface) is not all that common for most bugs including the flu. It’s EXTREMELY unlikely (I don’t want to say impossible, but that could be correct) that you would have picked up a germ from silverware that had been washed in a dishwasher and then sitting in a drawer or rack. Even if someone else had touched it.

      Some people know about germs, some don’t seem to. I have to say that you sound like one of the people who actually don’t know much about germs. You are not a “stickler”, you are simply acting out non-reality based anxiety about germs and getting sick.

      1. The Assistant*

        I can admit, I don’t know how I got that flu. Maybe it wasn’t the spoons, but I sat in a open office plan office everyday with windows that didn’t open for four weeks and I didn’t get it. 3/4 of the staff went out with it at various times and were finally back and presumed not contagious anymore. (Though hey, maybe a few were. I don’t know.) I stopped washing my silverware before using because I didn’t do that usually only because of that flu. Management hiring a cleaning crew to clean every surface. Which I thought was overkill myself, but so many people kept getting sick. Maybe these measures are extreme but when people are sick for weeks, you try to think of what you can do, even if science doesn’t bear it out that it’s effective.

        So maybe it wasn’t the spoon but that’s the only thing I changed and then I got sick. Or maybe it was just my turn. Who knows. My next job had fewer people and I just used whatever was in the drawer. I worked there for five years before getting the flu, that time was from a guy on the bus who was coughing. I remember inhaling his menthol cough drops.

        I don’t use Lysol or antibacterial soaps because I’m allergic. The things I said I’d do aren’t things I do regularly, just what I was suggesting to the OP because they were so grossed out that they wrote in to Alison. I do sometime use a napkin on serving spoons. Sometimes there isn’t a napkin. So I wash my hands before eating the sandwich.

        I don’t feel anxious about washing my hands before I eat but okay I can see how if you don’t know me you could think that. I was just saying what I’d do if I strongly suspected 15 people in the office didn’t regularly wash their hands after whatever bathroom things. Which probably means they don’t wash their hands regularly as far as OP knows. I have never been in that situation (that I know) but was just giving the OP suggestions since they were grossed out.

        If I wiped myself in the bathroom after urinating and then came out and shook someone’s hand most people I know would be grossed out by knowing that, even if scientifically no germs were passed. Maybe it’s just a social behavior thing, but I can ask my friends at my next in-person dinner party. That I serve. :-)

  44. Don't kneel in front of me*

    OP1: I worked at a ~100 person company and we had roughly 15 people that handled HR/marketing/proofreading/general office admin. The company reorganized that area of staffing several times over my tenure. Added departments and managers, removed managers and consolidated, hired and fired staff, added scope, removed scope, etc. Frankly, I couldn’t be bothered to try to remember who did what and who didn’t do what. I would just ask the nearest person that I thought was in that general area of the company and then they would direct me to the person in charge of the task.
    My point is that its possible your coworkers simply don’t know who is responsible for the tasks at hand.

  45. Spearmint*

    LW2 – Ok, I know this may be an unpopular opinion, and I will say that I personally always wash my hands after using the bathroom, but I don’t actually think it’s a huge deal if men don’t wash their hands IF they are only peeing AND the toilets flush automatically (no gross handle to touch). Without going into too much detail, they’re only touching normal skin which is probably cleaner than their hands (which have been all over door knobs, keyboards, etc.), and no urine will get on their hands.

    If they’re not washing after pooping, though, that is definitely gross.

        1. Mona-Lisa Saperstein*

          Rolly, I gotta admit, it really made me laugh. You’re right — I never would have thought I’d see that on AAM!

    1. Yep*

      This is pretty much where I fall as well. I’m far more worried about hands touching door knobs and shared fixtures.

    2. Mona-Lisa Saperstein*

      Same. I don’t have one of those organs, and I do always wash my hands, but the scenario you’re describing doesn’t seem like a big deal to me.

      1. Anonymo*

        I’m sorry. Working in medical research definitely skews my acceptability goalposts when it comes to talking about biology outside of a lab. Without going into specifics, there are a lot of reasons why it’s not a fair comparison to say that that skin is cleaner than your hands. If you’re comparing germ quantity, it may be less relevant to health considerations than germ type. There are still plenty of germs there that can make you very sick, especially if you then touch your face. Regularly washing your hands after using the bathroom in any fashion is important to avoid spreading those germs to yourself or others. I’m glad to hear several people here say they still do wash their hands, but misconceptions around hand washing are unfortunately common with very serious consequences—only 39% of healthcare employees properly follow the WHO’s hand hygiene protocols, and it’s a leading cause of serious healthcare associated infections.

        1. Nameless in Customer Service*

          FWIW I thought your first response was an excellent counterpoint to a thread encouraging men to fondle themselves and then put those same unwashed hands all over everyone and everything.

          1. Anonymo*

            It’s pretty confusing to me that so many men have apparently been socialized to think it’s a-okay not to wash their hands after peeing when so many LWs have written in asking how to navigate a coworker/manager having called them unclean or debauched for being in possession of sterile period products or for having said products in view (in a bathroom, and once in the LW’s own car). One of those things has a chance to actually make somebody sick, while the other is an effort to stay properly hygienic and healthy. And yes, too many women also do not wash their hands after using the bathroom, but as previous comments have pointed out, these lapses in hand hygiene are significantly more common among men.

    3. Elsajeni*

      Yeah, I think the strongest reasons to wash your hands after peeing are mostly not “there might be pee on your hands,” but rather
      1. because you spend all day touching stuff with your hands, washing them at least OCCASIONALLY throughout the day is a good way to avoid spreading germs, and right after peeing you are conveniently close by a sink, soap, and paper towels
      2. also, other people will think you are gross if you don’t

      1. Anonymo*

        The pee is possibly the least germy part of that equation honestly, as far as bodily fluids go. The germiest part is the skin, which is not like the skin of your hands or your arm. The regional differences in microbiome are crucial here. There is a whole world germs on that skin, with some species living healthily there that you do not want spreading to other parts of your body, or to other people, because those germs can make you sick if they spread to your eyes, nose, mouth, or any wounds. It’s not just that people will *think* it’s gross—it’s honestly just gross if you don’t wash your hands after holding onto your parts to pee, especially considering that you will then go on to transfer those germs by touching surfaces that other people will touch, passing items to your coworkers, or shaking someone’s hand.

  46. AMW*

    Oh LW2, I am so sorry. In a shared apartment my room was next to the bathroom so every time my male roommates went in, I had to hear that dreadful flush followed immediately by door opening. And the splashing and mess…good gravy. I have the germaphobic type of OCD so I very much understand wanting to shake people and ask them what on earth they think they’re doing. But, remember you can only control what you can control…wipe down your stuff, use a paper towel to open the door, wash your hands often. The world (and the office, unfortunately) is a germy place.

    1. Pobody’s Nerfect*

      We can also control whether or not we ever want to shake random peoples’ hands anymore – I’m in the Firmly No camp on that one. After the past two years and threads like this one, I don’t trust anyone and will not be shaking hands as a normal proactive post-Covid era. I’ll be polite but I get to choose who touches me and who doesn’t.

  47. Sleepless KJ*

    LW 4 – I don’t understand the need for a last name either, but I’d you feel like she can’t just be “Jane” why not tag her as “Jane the Freelancer” and leave it at that? A lighthearted solution for a non-problem.

  48. anon4this*

    For OP #2:
    ” You’re better off assuming germs and other gross things are everywhere (because they are) and proceeding accordingly.”
    I mean, yeah. We need germs to stimulate our immune system. Also…aren’t there germs on the faucet handle, the bathroom door handle, the flush handle, etc.? Like, there not disappearing because someone mixed some water water and foam soap on their fingers (fun fact: most people who do wash their hands do so incorrectly).

    I think you’re better off leaving an economy size hand sanitizer on the counter in the bathroom. Some might actually use it and you wouldn’t hear it, so you can pretend that their hands might be clean.

    1. Workerbee*

      This. And as another commenter said, it seems to be more the known culprits that are bugging OP versus the scads of unknowns she could be encountering anywhere else she goes out in the world.

    2. quill*

      I mean, even incorrect hand washing is more effective than not washing (dislodges less germs but does dislodge some.)

  49. Allison*

    I remember a time where I was asked to do something outside the scope of my role, and I’d learned that one should never say “that’s not my job” so I tried to roll with it, and it didn’t go well. Got stressed out, didn’t know what I was doing, was running up against my usual hard-stop and worried I couldn’t finish the task on time, and my colleague was like “oh no, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize this would be so hard for you, I’ll take over.” Turns out, she had forgotten that we had someone on the team who was basically there to handle that exact task – I’d assumed he was either out, or swamped with work, and that’s why she’d asked me, but she hadn’t even thought to ask him, since I was
    “always soooo helpful” (doing the actual job I’m supposed to be doing) that surely I’d be able to help her with this. To this day, I think of this and can’t determine whether this was an honest brain fart on her end, or a weird power move.

    In hindsight, while “that’s not my job” is frowned upon, it is a good idea to redirect people to the proper team member. I should’ve said “have you asked Stan about this? This is really more his area of expertise.”

  50. No Dumb Blonde*

    LW #2 — Don’t you wish you could stock your shared bathroom with soap from that off-color toiletries brand (I forget the brand name)? A friend once gave us a bottle called “Maybe You Touched Your P*nis.” It would be perfect, if your office environment allowed for that kind of humor.

    It reminded me also of a conversation back when I worked for a large corporation. There were about 120 employees in our local office, and most of us were well-educated staff in technical roles. The men’s and women’s bathrooms each several stalls and sinks, so running into coworkers there was common. One female coworker was infamous for being a “non-hand washer,” based on such encounters. One day she stepped out of a meeting to use the bathroom. When she came back, she said to our group with a laugh, “You know when you’re in such a hurry that you leave the bathroom before you’ve even finished buttoning up your pants-?! Haha!” I said, “Hmmm, let’s see… by the time I’ve washed my hands, I’ve zipped up already… so, no, that’s never happened to me! Haha!” I don’t think she picked up on my subtle hint.

    1. Nameless in Customer Service*

      A friend once gave us a bottle called “Maybe You Touched Your P*nis.”

      Judging by a thread upstream apparently even this wouldn’t work on some people. *shudders*

  51. What She Said*

    #3 I have been in my job for 20+ years. I am not in management nor do I want to be. I have a lot of knowledge of the inner workings of this place which means many people come to me with questions and I still have to ask my boss to step in on occasion. Some people simply only respond to bosses. Point being, no matter your age, it’s not unprofessional to ask for help. With a good manager asking for help would be the professional thing to do. I agree with Allison. Try talking to her once and then let her boss know if it continues.

  52. Hazel*

    I just have to say THANK YOU for saying “KBAs”! I write KBAs, and this is what I’ve always called them. But at my last two jobs, people looked puzzled every time I used the term even after I told them what it means. So I started saying “KB articles” or “knowledgebase articles” because I thought I was the weirdo, but not this time! I mean seriously, there’s an acronym for it!

    Your comment has cemented my resolve to return to calling them KBAs!

  53. Mamma Llama Drama*

    #1: definitely nip it in the bud. plus I think you’re in a good place to redirect to who does that task now and have a good reason to redirect – you just said you’re going down to get coffee/break/etc. so of course you don’t have time/are taking a break right now. So you can indicate that you can’t do it because you’re going to get coffee and if you want you can add that so-and-so does it now. I’m also going to take a guess that there may be some gender bias in who this person is waiting for to drop off these letters. I’m also amazed at the audacity of the request – drop something in the mail bin that you’re going to be walking right past, sure. but to go through the process of also adding the postage and all that? please. (in my head I would be screaming: hello, i said i was getting COFFEE. not mailing your stupid letters.)

    #3: I think this as the person’s trainer you should bring up the items that you mentioned. I would also hope that your management would be open to helping you if this trainee is difficult. Not only are you and the trainee relatively close in age (i’m assuming) but being a high school senior you are learning the ins and outs of training and managing. They should recognize this and be open to helping you and hopefully not just dumping a difficult problem in your lap or using it as some kind of test for you to move up in the company.

    (For clarity sake – regarding the age gap: I know that when we get to the workforce in our 20’s and older we end up training people of all ages, so we have to be comfortable with that. While I know LW and trainee aren’t children they are younger than 20’s and still in high school. Its similar to the idea of not babysitting someone in age who’s too close in age to you. Like sometimes it can be hard to get the 10 year to listen to you if you’re a 12 year old babysitter because you’re almost/practically the same age (or at least that’s how the 10 year old sees it).)

  54. It's Me*

    For LW #2, some small comfort—it could be that at least some of the folks you’re hearing are washing their hands *before* flushing and using a paper towel or their foot to push the lever and then whisk out the door. Since lidless toilets spray particulates up to six feet away from the bowl when flushed, some folks (myself included) like to get out of the range of fire as quickly as possible.

    1. lilsheba*

      People using their foot to flush are really gross, and those of us that are disabled can’t use our foot for that purpose so we have to use our hands on those flushers. Please keep feet off of those!

  55. Stacy*

    I knew someone who dreaded introducing themselves at work because they had been the victim of a VERY publicized crime of a sensitive nature. They did not want all of their coworkers to connect them to the crime and either have that change the way people interacted with them or ask them about it.

    Obviously this may not be something common, but maybe we should give people more grace in these respects. Someone is paying them and has their full information in a worst case scenario, right?

  56. all3ct0*

    LW3 – if your trainee is trying to be funny and is expecting others to laugh along, letting her know that she’s not funny can be super-effective. Saying “Seriously?” or “Can you knock that off?” or similar in the moment (especially if she’s making inappropriate remarks about your boss, eww) can be a good way to stop the behaviour without having to have a big talk. Making it clear that she is coming across as “the one with no idea how to behave” NOT “the fun wacky one” can go a long way

  57. Tali*

    OP4: I think as long as your full names are somewhere on the project–on the bio/CV you give to clients to introduce yourselves, or the official project list of members, or anything for HR–it doesn’t really matter which name(s) you use on communications like Slack, as long as (1) it’s consistent throughout (2) you still have enough info to contact them (ie their email or mailing address or whatever you need) and (3) you don’t have anyone with the same name.

  58. Evvie*

    I have only one name on our in-office chat. I’m not sure how it happened. I was trying to set it up to show a nickname and instead it shows ONLY the nickname, probably because it IS my last name.

    No one has died or been confused about who I am, and we have over 100 employees. If they ask, I just laugh and tell them what happened.

    But, I also was in an abusive relationship with a person who attempted (and failed, thankfully) to work in the same field as me. If he had succeeded, I’d kind of hate it if he was able to figure out details of my life because of a mutual acquaintance who didn’t know better. I’ve blocked him across the internet as much as possible but have reasonable expectations for what that means–where I work is hard to find but not impossible, for instance. He does NOT need to know I work from home full time or when I am home sick, and he’s manipulative enough to get people to tell him stuff like that.

    If someone is being shifty about why they won’t use their full name, there could be something deeper going on.

  59. Liu1845*

    #3 Most of the grocery stores I’ve been in have multiple cameras. I would remind her also that when she is on the floor, she is probably on camera. Managers do not take kindly to their customers being mocked. As for the profanity, you never know who is listening. You may not see someone, but it does not mean you are not being overheard.
    Is she this way with other co-workers? Could she be trying, ineptly, to impress you?

    #4 You might consider prominently using your team’s title ( ex. Project Midas Team) and list all the team members by first name and last initial. Check with your freelancer and see if she would object to this. Our teams also used our photo as an avatar next to our names. My company was very large and felt this helped others connect and identify with team members.

  60. Off My Lawn, You Must Get*

    OK, I -HAVE- to ask: Alison, did you intentionally position the “number two” question in position #2?

  61. A Fellow Hand Washer*

    #2 – Ummm…..sorry to have to tell you this, but I used to work in food packaging and the number of people I worked with who touched the food packaging and did not wash the hands after using the restroom was, well….Yikes!

    Anyway, sorry to say, but like Alison said, this is not that uncommon.

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