when an employee is too sick to call in sick

A reader writes:

My employee, Matt, is in poor health. Over the years, he’s taken time off for many serious medical issues, and recently took a few months off for cancer treatment. He had medical clearance to return to work, but his health seems to be worse than ever and declining.

Matt lives with his his daughter, Jane, who drives him to and from work. Sometimes he is too sick or tired to even be roused by Jane. Sometimes on these days, Jane calls me to let me know that Matt won’t be in … but sometimes she doesn’t. It’s the “sometimes she doesn’t” days that I don’t know how to deal with. Matt knows he can take basically unlimited sick days as long as he notifies me, but some of these days, there isn’t much he can do. Sometimes he wakes up after Jane has left, but his pain or meds make it impossible for him to operate a phone. (I don’t know why Jane doesn’t always call, but she isn’t my employee so I don’t think it would be appropriate to make her part of my solution.)

I am filled with compassion for Matt and my heart breaks to witness his suffering. If I won the lottery, I would give him a million dollars and throw him the best retirement party of all time. Yet I still need to know where my staff are at their scheduled start time! Sometimes Matt has meetings with customers and it’s hard to cover for him or reschedule without knowing if he’s running late, not coming in at all, out for the rest of the week, etc.

What we’re doing now isn’t working for me or the company. What is my best move here?

I answer this question — and three others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Asking a new hire to go by her last name
  • Job applications through social media
  • Should I warn a candidate that one of her references was bad?

{ 412 comments… read them below }

  1. Neurodivergentsaurus Rex*

    I am also taken aback by the idea that having an employee with the same name as their supervisor would be “nightmare”. At one point I had a case where the care coordinator, our support worker (who reported directly to the coordinator), and the client were all named “Jennifer.” The case was in fact a nightmare, but that was entirely unrelated to names. The names never caused more than a moment’s confusion, which could be very quickly clarified.

    I want a job where the most unimaginable nightmare is two people sharing a first name.

    1. curly sue*

      My mother once ran a department of ten where everyone had the same extremely common name (say, “Mike”) except for her. Somehow they managed!

      1. Indigo a la mode*

        For a while, we had a team comprised of Daniel, Danny, Other Daniel, and Not Daniel.

        1. CatPrance*

          We have a collection of Matts where I work. Keeps life interesting. “No, no, not YOU — the other Matt. Okay, the other other Matt.”

        2. Momma Bear*


          Last names are also good. We have a lot of repeats. For a while I was getting the other Momma Bear’s emails b/c the email system brings up addresses by first name and she was here first. It got sorted fairly quickly.

          1. Brain Floged*

            I have an unusual name, and we do have another person with the same name around. It’s frequent that we both receive emails that where intended to the other one. We simple forward then to the other. No hassle.

        3. Pizza Pizza*

          Our sales team are current Dan, Dan, and Danny.
          And for a while, our finance team was Ricky, Richard, and Rich.

          My own name is an unusual spelling of a common name, and recently we got a new colleague with the same name/spelling combination. It’s great because now there are two of us, we’re demonstrating that our rarer spelling should be the default, but we’ve had to get a speedy email forwarding process going for people who email me instead of the other person with my name!

          1. Esmae*

            I used to be the receptionist for a company whose CEO, CFO, and semi-retired founder were all named Richard. All went by Dick. All had difficult last names, so it was always fun when someone would try to avoid stumbling through the last name by just asking for “Richard”.

        4. Lab Boss*

          One summer our camp staff included Tim, Skinny Tim, Baby Tim, Knife Tim, Old Tim, and Timmy :D

          1. Alica*

            Yep, one camp we had a group of five male leaders, 4 were called Mark. Adding initials wouldn’t help cause we had two Mark D’s and two Mark T’s. The last lad was known as “honourary Mark”!

            1. Lab Boss*

              Probably less interesting than you’d think. It was a Boy Scout camp so we ALL had knives, and lots of us carried more than one, but Knife Tim usually had at least 4 or 5 on his person, kept more in his tent to switch out day to day, and whenever he had a down moment if he wasn’t carving on a piece of wood he was sharpening one of his knives. I wasn’t ever sure if he really had a creepy knife thing or if he was just an awkward kid leaning into something so he got some attention and a nickname.

          2. WhiskyTangoFoxtrot*

            In one of my hobbies, we have Maine Matthew, Yoga Matthew, Big Matthew, and Matthew-who-only-comes-out-on-Sundays.
            I once worked someplace that had four people with my same first name, and one of those had a very similar last name. I dropped one of the letters in my first name and have been using that the last 30 years. People are adaptable!

      2. Christina*

        One of my first jobs was as a receptionist in a department of 40 people – it was long ago. We had, and I’m not kidding, three guys all named “Mike Miller.” Directing phone calls was a nightmare, since you basically had to quiz the caller on which Mike Miller they wanted.

        1. Lina*

          My parents have the same initials and professional credentials. It was a great way to screen spam calls in the days before caller ID – “may I speak with Dr. Lastname please?” me: sure, which one do you want? “uh, Dr. L.M. Lastname?” me: that doesn’t help either. Man or woman? “…..ummmm….” me (in my head) thanks for telling me you don’t actually know either Dr. L.M. my mom, or Dr. L.M. my dad… goodbye.

        2. We Put the Fun in Dysfunctional*

          Once I picked up a call for Chris and asked if the called wanted the engineer, the accountant (Kris), the AutoCAD guy, or the technician.

          1. Raine Wynd*

            My current job, at one point, had five engineers named Chris. It was fun figuring out which engineer someone wanted!

            I’ve also worked at a place where we had two Seans, a Shaun, and Shawn.

            We figured it out – just made conversations interesting sometimes!

      3. Wendy Darling*

        I worked in a 4-person cube cluster with two teammates with the same first name as me. It’s not a name with any nicknames. The only time it was ever awkward was when someone who didn’t know us came by saying they were looking for Wendy, but we all worked on different things so we could easily figure out which one based on what they wanted.

        More recently I changed jobs and discovered one of my coworkers has the same name as my dog. Since this was during the pandemic and we were all working at home, we occasionally had humorous meeting situations like me accidentally saying “Nana, drop it!” off mute and then having to specify I meant Dog Nana, not Human Nana.

        1. LittleMarshmallow*

          Haha! I have a cat who shares a name with a coworker. I don’t work with her much but we were small talking before a call once and she was like oh what are your cats names? It was more awkward than I thought it would be to say Willow and… uhhh… Karen. (Names changed to protect identities. Haha!) she laughed and then we moved on.

          1. CatPrance*

            Years ago, I worked with Mrs. MacIntosh. A new coworker, Julie, came up and felt it was a great idea to tell her that their family dog was named MacIntosh. Didn’t like it a bit when Mrs. MacIntosh looked up and said, “Oh, yes? My dog’s named Julie.”

          2. Temperance*


            Can I just tell you that my neighbor’s dog has the same name as me, and I love it? They had her before they moved in, and they find it so shameful that they rarely say it around me. She’s cute though!

    2. Moozipan*

      Same here. In my wider team we have three heads of and they are all called Andrew! No confusions, everyone knows which Andrew you mean 99% of the time

      1. Marion Ravenwood*

        When I first started my current job, we had three Adams. Two of them had the same last initial and the same first syllable of their surnames (think Harman and Harvey), and the third had the same surname as another of our directors, whose first name was Andrew. There was the very occasional email that went to the wrong one, but 99 times out of 100 people knew who you meant.

        Similarly, we now have three Sarahs (including our CEO). They’re all universally referred to internally by their last names – Sarah A, Sarah B and Sarah C.

    3. TypityTypeType*

      I once worked at a smallish company where we had six Kevins in one department, and it was not a big deal (though I always secretly hoped they’d hire just one more). They were either referred to with their last names, or by their job — reporter Kevin, assistant Kevin, and so forth. Two Karas is nothing!

      People really do work these things out — I suspect that LW is something of a worrier :)

          1. Aggresuko*

            There’s a song called “27 Jennifers” out there….

            We have two people with the same name right now, but they are both spelling and pronouncing it differently, thank goodness. I’m one of the commonly named and well, you just get used to “Jennifer Who?” or last initial or hair color or whatever.

            1. Rainy*

              In an old friend group of mine, by the time I joined, there were already three people named Rainy and I made four. They’d already been sorted by hair colour, I was “Blue Rainy” and I remained Blue Rainy long after Green Rainy had gone blue and Red Rainy and I had gone back to our natural hair colours.

              1. Green rainy*

                Either I’m “Green Rainy” or there are multiple groups who sort by hair colour.

              2. Lynn*

                My motorcycle club, for a long time, had a glut of guys named Gary. So we had Harley Gary, Goldwing Gary, Other Gary, New Gary, Gary and Lastname. We have had a reduction in our Gary population. The only two we really see these days are Goldwing Gary and New Gary (now just known as Gary).

                If we were able to sort a bunch of generally similar middle aged bearded guys who ride motorcycles by what they ride and when they joined, I can’t see where keeping track of Boss Kara vs New Kara would be all that difficult.

            2. Also Cute and Fluffy!*

              I love love love that song! I first heard it on the podcast “Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child.”

              There’s also a song called “Four Boys Named Jordan.”

      1. Megabeth*

        Agreed, TTT. At a past job I worked on a team with five Chris’s. In fact, I was one of only two people on the team who weren’t named Chris! Usually they went by their last names, or (very occasionally) their first and last names all smushed up in one breath like “ChrisBumblesmith”. Having multiples of a name on a team is not a calamity, just a minor wrinkle to iron out.

        1. Anon all day*

          When bringing up my one coworkers to others, I still often use Firstname Lastname, even though the woman she shared a name with left the company three years ago.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            I think this is a great habit. You never know when you will end up working with people with the same first name again. Especially in a larger organization.

          2. Butterfly Counter*

            I wonder if that’s the situation in the movie Dune with Duncan Idaho. Every time they talk to or about him, they use his full name. I wonder if there was also a Duncan Nevada and they just use the full name out of a habit because they they’re making sure to distinguish the right Duncan.

            1. turquoisecow*

              LOL at Duncan Nevada. Now I’m imagining a bunch of Duncans with states’ names. Have to distinguish Duncan New Jersey from Duncan California!

            2. Rainy*

              In the new movie version, the temptation to refer to Duncan Idaho (behind his back, anyway) as Hot Duncan would be extremely strong.

          3. Forrest*

            I discovered four months into my current job that Jennifer Firth and Jennifer Frith were different people, which honestly cleared up a lot of issues I’d been having.

      2. Forrest*

        I kind of wonder whether it’s the result of being called a slightly-less-usual name like Kara and just being very inexperienced in Dealing With Other Karas? It’s not like being a early-90s Amy where you turn into Amy S on your first day at kindergarten and there are never less than three Amys in the room for the rest of your school and work life.

        1. Lizzo*

          Very valid point. Elizabeths have had similar life experiences, though we have the advantage of a multitude of nickname options, which Kara (in theory) does not.

        2. Tau*

          My name is moderately uncommon, and for the first time ever I’m working with another Tau (who told me it was the first time she’d even met another Tau). It took some getting used to, because neither of us are in any way used to hearing “Tau” in our vicinity and it not referring to us, or needing to use initials or surnames or the like to be uniquely determined.

        3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          I think this is a very valid point. I’m used to being the only “General” most people know, so it’s kind of unsettling to hear someone say “General” and not mean me. My name isn’t even unusual, it’s just that it isn’t Sarah/Rachel/Laura/Catherine like about 75% of my contemporaries.

        4. Nerfmobile*

          At one point, I in fact was part of an organization with three Amys (one was the grandboss of the other two, which happened through a reorganization). My team reported to one of the junior Amys, so we started referring to “Our Amy”, “Amy K.” (the grandboss), and “Other Amy.” Later the two junior Amys switched to using their last names and Amy K. got to be just “Amy”.

      3. Anon for this.*

        We were up to 6 Johns (or Jons, but they sound the same) out of like 45 at one point. They had their own mailing list.

        Some of those have left but we’re still on like (counts) 5 out of ~70

        1. Cassie*

          Back in middle school, we had 4 Jonathans that went by Jon and 1 John out of a class of ~180 kids. In my science class alone, there were 3 of them! Probably why some of them were often called by their last name.

      4. Esmae*

        Wow, and I thought three Kevins was a lot. (Although in our case, we were a small enough and female-heavy enough workplace that we only had one man *not* named Kevin).

    4. DC*

      Many years ago when I was a junior associate, I was staffed on a case with another junior associate with the same first name. In emails, the partners started addressing us by our initials (i.e. DC or DJ) so it was clear who was assigned to which task, and it was easier than writing out “Diana J.” Almost 15 years later I am still called by my initials at work and I have no problem with it.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        This is a much better solution than a jerk senior partner I used to work for who called all junior associates “Chris”, whether or not it was their actual name, until they made it through their second year and were definitely sticking around – apparently, then it was worth learning their actual name.

    5. Carrot cake*

      I agree, I was on a team where the lead shared her name with a member. It was never a problem, and we always clarified whom we were talking about if there was any confusion. Mostly didn’t come up though because it was clear from context whom we were referring to.

    6. not a doctor*

      I work with a pretty small group and we have multiple people with variations on “Samantha” (think Sam, Sammy, etc. as well as actual Samanthas), including two who go by the same variation and have the same last initial! We manage. Everyone manages.

    7. Sir Nose d'Voidoffunk*

      At my last job, we had three women in our small (~30-person) office who went by Jen when they were hired (all before me). The one with the longest tenure got to be Jen, the next one went by Jennifer, and the latest to be hired was Jenny.

      1. Aggresuko*

        Hahahaha, that is the preference ranking!

        We once had Christopher, Chris, and “C” at a job.

      2. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

        We had similar, except it was three of us out of maybe ten staff. And we all had the same role. In our case we ended up as Grey 1 (because I’d been there the longest), Grey 2, and Rocket (as she already had a nickname she was happy to use). It was a little confusing at first, but people really do adapt very quickly!

    8. Mockingjay*

      7.9 billion people on the planet. Everyone has someone else walking around with their duplicate name. I found mine (first and last names) in another country.

      It’s not hard to differentiate who to talk or respond to. First Name, Last Initial; First Name, Last Name (if same initials); Role or dept., “see Kara in Accounting;” and so on.

      1. Loredena Frisealach*

        Until Facebook I had reason to believe that my FN/LN combo was unique, and my mother’s even moreso. Still haven’t found a duplicate for her, but I have one! She’s in the Phillipines.

        1. marymoocow*

          I’m half Filipino with a completely white-sounding name (my dad is white so I got his last name). My white husband has a name twin in the Philippines, and we think it’s hilarious that his name is somehow more Filipino than mine.

        2. FrenchCusser*

          I used to google myself every once in a while, and thought I was the only FirstName LastName, until I found out I won a pentathlon.

          I have never won a pentathlon.

          The other me lives on the opposite coast from me.

          1. AGD*

            My last name is unusual, but it turns out I’m one of at least three Firstname Lastnames in my country alone!

            1. Dust Bunny*

              My name is very uncommon but there were two variants of us in the same year at college, in a school of 1200 kids. We also had vaguely-similar last names.

          2. Serenity*

            I have a duplicate First Middle Last (where first and middle are pretty coming but last is REALLY unusual). They were a swimmer, and apparently a pretty good one. I once had someone pretty angry with me who threatened that they “dug up real dirt” on me, which made me laugh SO hard. I’ve led an interesting enough, but completely non-scandalous, life. What on earth has Other Me done?

          3. Filosofickle*

            My last name is not common, and most people with my first name are substantially younger than me. For at least the first 10 years of mainstream internet, I was the only one with the combo. (I will own myname dot com til the end of time.) Then suddenly like 20 of me appeared! All younger. They aged into the internet about the time social media rose.

        3. LinuxSystemsGuy*

          I have a very stereotypically British (but not hugely common) first name and an (uncommon even in Poland) Polish last name. I genuinely thought I might be unique. I’ve never even seen someone on Facebook. For decades I’ve never found any other people with my name even in Google. And yet, and yet.

          I recently had to join Academia.edu to grab some papers for a class, and now I regularly get updates that I am being mentioned/cited in various papers. Since I haven’t contributed to a published paper in about 20 years, there must be a name twin out there. I can’t view my mentions (even their titles) without a paid membership, so I haven’t bothered to investigate, but it’s vaguely intriguing.

          1. Sharpie*

            Apparently there are one or fewer Sharpie Last names in the USA (I’m in the UK) and yet Academia.edu insists that I’m being mentioned or cited in various papers. And I, likewise, would need to pony up to see precisely what papers.

            I have only one ever run into someone else with my extremely uncommon first name, and everyone with my surname is related to me, even at a distance.

          2. CC*

            I get those notifications too, and I think they’re matching on first initial last name, since many papers only list that, not full first name. I’ve never published a paper, just have my name on a couple of patents and that’s it.

        4. Princex Of Hyrule*

          I thought my FN/LN combination was totally unique (weird spellings of uncommon names) until I started working at a library and looked my own profile up — and I had a name twin living two streets down from me.

        5. Environmental Compliance*

          Academia likes to let me know when my name twin has published a paper. Apparently she’s a very successful astrophysicist in I think Canada. Funnily enough, she married (it looks like) a person who has the same name as my father in law.

          Name duplicates are incredibly common, and we’ve just learned to work it out. Two Karas is so much not a big deal that it’s not even a deal at all. It only becomes an issue when you make it an issue.

        6. Susan Ivanova*

          Double first name with a spelling of the first half that was very rarely used for girls when I was born, and yet I have a name double in the same state who’s older than I am.

      2. ChimpCarer*

        There’s a site for it! It’s called How Many of Me . com It’s fascinating!

        It’s also why Genealogy is both equally fascinating and frustrating

        1. Rara Avis*

          Howmanyofme says I’m unique! My last name comes from another country so it’s possible I have a name twin outside the US though.

          1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

            Me, too! I’m sure it’s due to my very uncommon surname. My first name is definitely not unusual, but the site says there are only 524 people in the entire U.S. with the very rare surname I married into.

            Otoh, when I put my first name in with my maiden name, I have over 400 name twins (yikes). I’m not sure which would be preferable. As it is, I kind of stick out like a sore thumb on a Google search. I can definitely see a down side to that, lol.

        2. Trixie the Great and Pedantic*

          Supposedly there are 43 of me! And I think they’re undercounting, to be honest. I’m all kinds of people! At least two of me are lawyers, and somewhere my dad is happy.

      3. Aggresuko*

        The last time I checked in the 90’s, there were over 30 Aggretsuko Lastnames on the Internet. I’d be afraid to check again. Fortunately Lastname isn’t that common IRL and I’m the only one in my town.

      4. Nina*

        My first/last is unique now. I had a second cousin with the same combination (but different middle) but she died when I was four.

      5. Timortalla*

        I don’t because I assume when ancestors came to the US they messed up the spelling so there is literally only the people in my small family and my first name does not match the ethnicity of my last name AT ALL.
        Unfortunately this means when you search for me you absolutely pull up my 12 and under swim team records.

      6. The Cheese Stands Alone*

        Actually I am the only person with my name. I have an unusual spelling of my first name and a very unique last name that I married into. The combo has resulted with me being the only person with my name. But it is really uncommon!

      7. Phrogge*

        My FN/married LN is unique; my FN/birthLN has 5 others in the US, according to How Many of Me. As far as our family knows, anyone with the Married LN is a relative somewhere along the line; my birthLN is uncommon but not rare, and about half of us are a different race, with scatterings of a few others, which I had not known until recently, when I checked out mynamestate dot com /Last-Names. This site breaks it down by population and state, and also lists race and origin; very interesting.

        1. Phrogge*

          Missed adding that my FN is also somewhat uncommon, though not so much in a different ethnicity; I was in one group in which there were 3 of us, and a few others in which there were two. It also appears to be growing in popularity since my early years.

      8. LimePie*

        When I was creating my website I googled myself to see if it came up, and what came up was a police report of my name-duplicate committing armed assault and kidnapping, wielding a machete. My name is unusual with an unusual spelling, and mum was really upset to find out her carefully crafted name wasn’t unique. I believe name-duplicate has recently gotten out of prison because I keep getting receipts for makeup in my name from deep south America … I’m on the other side of the planet!

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          My grandad was once shocked to read in a newspaper that my uncle’s name duplicate had murdered his wife.

      9. Sara (not my actual name)*

        My firstname lastname combo is unique on the internet. Even at +7 billion people it can happen. My lastname is very british but also spelled in a very odd way (everyone with my lastname is a (sometimes very distant) relative). My firstname is rare but not out of the ordinary. As a result I’ve always been extremely careful about what I put online in my real name because I know there’s no way I could do anything even close to plausible deniability about who exactly posted a thing with my name on it.

    9. Chris*

      Seriously. There are 3 people on my team with the same name and two of them also have very similar last names. This is not a problem.

    10. Loredena Frisealach*

      The cofounder of a consulting company I used to work for went by the first syllable of his last name and his cofounder went by his last name – because they both had the same first name (let’s go with Mike) as did the first few people they hired. And this is a company where clients needed to know which Mike they were working with! It’s just not that hard people.

    11. Amber Rose*

      My coworker and I are looking at hiring someone who has the same name as her but spelled slightly different. Say her name is Sarah and the prospective hire is Sera.

      Literally nobody thinks this is anything other than funny. We have two other sets of same-name people and we just use their last initial or a nickname or something.

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        And it is funny. In a similarly small-ish office, there were two of us with the same first name, and it is a name that’s not exactly common. In-office, we typically went by middle names (those WERE different) or initials. What added to the hilarity is when someone called and needed to talk to one of us, but managed to get patched to the other of us, and they were convinced we were lying when we transferred the call to the correct person. And its not like either of us could cover for the other – departments as different as llamas and teapots are.

    12. Megabeth*

      Not at a job, but I lived down the street from a person with the same first and last name as me. The mail carrier hated us.

      1. Jay*

        My husband grew up on the same block as someone who had the same first and last name – and who went to the same university we did.

        1. Aggresuko*

          In my job I see people with the same name/class/program. Ughhhhhh can’t imagine dealing with that in person.

          1. Retired (but not really)*

            When my eldest was in elementary school there were 3 of “him” in the same classroom! Very common last name and same first name. So one was David, one was Dave and one was Davey. In high school there were two with the same initials but different middle names, with the other one being called his middle name throughout his school years. Only occasionally caused confusion.

      2. Katie*

        Lived exactly one floor below my name-twin in the freshman dorms. Only difference in mailing address was #314 vs #214. We met up once a week to exchange mail.

        1. GammaGirl1908*

          Ha, I have a friend who has an uncommon name that most people think is a typo, so she bumps into name neighbors. Say her name is Fanielle Smith. She invariably has to make friends with Danielle Smith to exchange mail.

      3. Jennifer*

        There’s someone with the same first and last name as me who lives two streets away from me at the same street number (e.g. I live at 123 Sesame Street and she lives at 123 Poppyseed Street). We get prescriptions from the same pharmacy on the same schedule.

        Once (only once!) the pharmacy handed me her prescription. I noticed immediately that it was different (packaging was a different colour), checked the label, and discovered the problem immediately. Now the pharmacy makes me proactively tell them my address and date of birth before they’ll hand over a prescription!

        (I still regret not remembering the name of her prescription. To this day I’m curious what medication I could have walked out of there with.)

        1. Yay I'm a llama again*

          I went to university with someone with my same name, first middle last! We were in the same year and had one class together, a small one with 20 or so people. We ended up going by our residence hall names, so I was Sally Smith Darrow and she was Sally Smith McDonald.

        2. BubbleTea*

          Twice now, the pharmacy have tried to give me my ex-wife’s prescription. We don’t have the same address any more and our first names are different but they still think maybe I’m her. Oddly I have to specifically ask them to check for anything for my son, despite the fact we do have the same address and he is usually with me. Then again, our pharmacy is pretty terrible and we get quite a few prescriptions that arrive randomly, so it isn’t straightforward.

      4. Me*

        One time my dad was trying to call his first cousin Howie F but didn’t know the number, so he called the operator…and got connected to his second cousin Howie F. Honestly, my dad’s family is terrible for name repetition, and my mom’s isn’t much better. I have three cousins named David, as well as two Uncle Daves. It’s a little nuts.

    13. StressedButOkay*

      We have several folks with the same name at work. The MOST confusion that stems is either a mistyped email/Teams @ or a “Oh hey, do you mean ‘Jennifer’ X?”

      The employee probably felt awkward at being asked (I would be!) and wanted to appease the new boss and agreed, thinking it wasn’t a big deal – because it’s not! OP1, let this go, this has been happening for decades and it’s NOT that big of a deal. No one is going to really get that confused.

      1. Jay*

        The coordinator for my team is (let’s say) Jenny Smith. There’s a woman in our company with a different job in a different state who is Jenette Smith. Outlook being Outlook, they are forever getting each other’s Email.

        1. Leela*

          I am forever getting e-mail for someone with a name that’s similar, but i would think obviously different enough, from mine.

          Think something like “Amy Johnson” getting mail for “Amos Jefferson” all the time. People really can’t seem to ensure they’ve got the right one! I’m not sure if our proverbial Kara going by Miller would resolve this issue as people would still be clicking without looking too closely and ensuring they have the right person, truly I don’t know why it’s such a frequent issue when we don’t even have the same name!

        2. Cedrus Libani*

          I work with someone whose email is “jin.li.12 at HugeCorp” – fortunately, one of her name-twins was in IT, so the number-free email was repurposed as a mailing list that they’re all subscribed to.

      2. LittleMarshmallow*

        The power dynamics of asking an interviewee if they’d be cool with using a different name because you want to be the only Kara are awkward. It’s naive to think you got a real answer.

    14. Nesprin*

      My dog, my grandboss, my coworker and my intern all share a name. It’s not a problem. I did once have 6 Stephanie Nguyens in a class… that complicated grading homework but we muddled through anyways.

    15. CG*

      Yes!! This seems to come up in letters to AAM on a semi-regular basis, and I don’t get it at all. I have a super common name, and it’s… just not that big of deal.

    16. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

      Yeah, this is so weird to me. Two previous bosses of mine had the same name as me, and we just went by First Name, Last Initial with literally zero drama.

      Our names start with L, so my last boss and I leaned into it and referred our collective selves as “L squared”. When we occasionally worked with another person on an adjacent team with the same name, we used “L cubed”.

    17. Chauncy Gardener*

      Oh geez. At one company I worked for the majority of men had one of three very common names.

    18. Jay*

      The alto section in choir my freshman year of college consisted of three Jennys, three Sharons, and two Michelles.

      1. Susan Ivanova*

        If you shout out “Chris, Mark, Paul” in my choir you’ve got the attention of nearly all the mens’ sections.

    19. CY*

      For the past year (until one of them recently transferred elsewhere), I had a manager and assistant manager with the same first name, even spelled the same way (like, let’s say they were both Sara rather than Sarah). We all sort of leaned into it and would say things like “have you run that by the Saras?” or “is either Sara in today?”. And obviously if there was any confusion it was easy to clarify that you meant Sara G. or Sara Y.

      1. Not Your Sweetheart*

        At old job, 2 of my direct managers had the same first name, same last initial. They had similar job titles and over lapping responsibilities. Figuring out which John S. to transfer calls to was interesting. “The manager, John” “Yes, but which John?”

    20. A Penguin!*

      I’ve had four coworkers share my first AND last name. One of whom shared my middle initial. We managed just fine.

    21. Doctors Whom*

      Yeah, this isn’t hard.

      I work in a division where until recently, there were more men named James, John, and Robert than there were… women. We had a bunch of guys with the same basic guy name, like Kevin. Everyone started using the last names of all the Kevins. One of them has a last name that is also a common first name. So, like Kevin Michael.

      FF several years and most of the other Kevins are retired or moved on. Everyone still calls Kevin Michael, Kevin Michael. A new hire asked me if it was a hyphenated or combination name like Mary Anne. Nope, we just still all call him Kevin Michael to differentiate him from all the past and future potential Kevins.

      I have a moderately uncommon name that is also common enough that most people have known one in their lifetime and can spell and pronounce it. Let’s say I’m Svetlana. In the nearly 2 decades I have worked here in various divisions, there have always been exactly 3 Svetlanas. If one retires or moves on, somehow another Svetlana is hired in a different department. Always 3-Svetlana equilibrium. Once every 6 months or so one of the Svetlanas gets an email meant for another Svetlana, and we chuckle and pass it along. Some people refer to us as “accounting Svetlana” and “media Svetlana” or “teapot engineering Svetlana.”

      But here IS a nightmare:
      We have a father-son duo who work in different divisions. John Fergus Stevenson Jr and his son, John Francis Stevenson. The dad has been here nearly 20 years, the son about 7. Entirely different jobs, teams, and work. People are CONSTANTLY getting the wrong one in accounting systems, email, publications & contact info on our website. Whoever set up the son’s user ID/email address made it a superset that wholly contains the dad’s user ID. And the fact that Dad is a Junior constantly flummoxes people who can’t imagine that a Junior would have a kid who is not a III, or assume that a Junior is always the younger of a pair. They both use their middle names in all our directories. I am CONSTANTLY sending email saying “you invited the wrong John Stevenson to that meeting” or “Please check that you have John FERGUS and not John FRANCIS.” Luckily we have our badge photos for avatars on most of our internal systems. I am constantly reminding people that if you are not sure you have the right John Stevenson, please LOOK AT THE PICTURE. The Johns Stevenson try to be good sports but it’s so frustrating for the both that it happens so much. They both ALWAYS caution people when they meet them or trade email with them for the first time.

      1. KCMC*

        We had a Diane equilibrium at one place I worked. A new Diane always happened to come in right as another was leaving. I think it was 5 Dianes across the organization with less than 200 people. It was more funny than confusing. We had Accounting Diane, 3rd floor Diane, DianeInSales, and the others were DianeLastname.
        And a poor solitary Diana who was probably never called by her actual name.

      2. Environmental Compliance*

        ” Nope, we just still all call him Kevin Michael to differentiate him from all the past and future potential Kevins.”

        I cannot quite explain why, but this absolutely sent me into a fit of giggles for “future potential Kevins”.

      3. londonedit*

        My sister and I have (unrelated) friends who used to share a last name. Say John Warbleworth and Rachel Warbleworth. They ended up getting married on the same day – Rachel took her new husband’s name, so we were one Warbleworth down, but John’s new wife took his name. We joked that there must be a Warbleworth equilibrium that has to be maintained at all times – one out, one in!

    22. FlyingAce*

      We used to have a HR coordinator, say her name was Jane R. Jane R left, and her replacement was also Jane R (different last name but the same initial). The second Jane R went on maternity leave, and Jane M was hired to cover for her. The company was growing, so by the time Jane R came back, both positions were needed so the two Janes kept on working in HR.

      Some time later, the HR manager left and was replaced by a Mary Jane – so the department of 3 was now Jane R, Jane M and Mary Jane! At one point I asked one of them if being named Jane was one of the requirements for applying to HR :D

      Mary Jane is still the manager, but the two coordinators have since left. One of them was replaced by a Mary, and the other also shares a first initial with them (say Mary Jane, Mary and Monica)!

    23. Eye roll*

      I worked for a very large government employer, where, for a period, there were two of us: same first name, same middle initial, same last name, same job title. We both handled similar, but slightly different, confidential information. Unless someone delved deep into the address book to figure out which Ann A. Smith (not the real name or job title) Lead Accountant, was in which region, things would go astray. It happened regularly. Given the type of info we handled, it became a real PROBLEM at least twice before the other Ann Smith left. So, I can envision a possible nightmare scenario from the same names. But same first name, different jobs? As OP described, this is not even close to an issue here.

      1. Rara Avis*

        My employer uses frstnamelastinitial for email addresses. (After my 10th or 11th complaint, I was told “If it works for BigTechCo across town, it works for us.). I am not the first RaraA, so I’m RaraAv. RaraA is not client-facing, so clients don’t know about her. Since they tend to assume addresses on the pattern instead of using a directory, she gets a lot of email meant for me. Although not legally confidential, some of it is sensitive, and not necessarily stuff you’d want to share with a stranger. She also doesn’t have a desk job, so it doesn’t get forwarded to me regularly. And HR has more than once set me up with the wrong username on an app. Stupidest naming convention ever.

    24. Jen MaHRtini*

      I’m MARRIED to someone who has the same first name I do, and it doesn’t cause anywhere close to the issues this letter writer is concerned about.

    25. Jennifer*

      Yep. We have half a dozen Jennifers in our organization, all in the same role. (e.g. we’re a teapot company, and all the Jennifers are teapot makers.) We get wrong Jennifer emails from time to time, and it takes approximately 2 seconds to correct.

    26. Sara without an H*

      At my last job, I was one of five Saras (some with and some without Hs), two Vickies, and three Mikes. No nightmares ensued.

      I realize that this is an old letter, but if this is the toughest case the OP ever has to face as a manager, she’s incredibly lucky.

    27. workswitholdstuff*

      There’s a running joke in our service that we like to recruit people with similar names. It’s not uncommon (and esp if you also include key partner orgs we work with) have the same name. We normally just clarify by using an inital afterwards.

      When that doesn’t work (they share the same first intial of surname – which has happened twice so far!), we just use their name followed by department instead, and so far it’s worked out fine!

      1. Alex*

        Yeah, people figure this sort of thing out and it never really causes a problem. The only slight issue I’ve ever experienced with it was when we largely decided upon ‘nice Ben’ and ‘arsehole Ben’ to describe one pair of colleagues as long as ‘arsehole Ben’ or the top manager wasn’t listening (the rest of management happily joined in) although this was quickly resolved by ‘arsehole Ben’ being fired within a month of starting so it’s pretty clear that it was a suitable name.

      2. BubbleTea*

        We are recruiting and I joked that the new person will have to either have a name starting with J or a name that rhymes with, let’s say “ten”. We have at least 75% of the team named either a J name, or Ben/Ken/Wren/Jen (in that last case, both categories are satisfied – and very pleasingly she is the team lead).

    28. Butterfly Counter*

      My soccer team in college my freshman year had five variations of Rebecca: 3 Beckys, 1 Becca, and 1 Rebecca. There were a minimum of 3 of them on the field at any given time. And this is a sport where you often yell a name to the person you’re passing to. Still not a nightmare and we figured it out pretty easily.

    29. SaffyTaffy*

      Right this minute I am 1 in a department of 3, and the other 2 have the same name. When we were interviewing for a 4th, one of the candidates even had that name, and we all just said, “we’ll make it work.” It’s such a non-issue.

    30. Canadian Librarian #72*

      Yeah, same here. A few jobs ago, my team had two people named (let’s say) Adrienne on it – it was never an issue; we just specified Adrienne N. or Adrienne O.

      In any organization over like 30 people, you’re guaranteed to have multiple James, Jennifers, Pauls, Amys, and so on, especially with names like those that are really common (or whatever the equivalent common names are in a given area). Even names that are less common because they’re not English-language names can have duplicates. You just add the surname initial when necessary, and double check the “to:” field in your email. It’s not hard.

      1. Raine Wynd*

        Agreed. It’s just funny (in a two-second laugh kind of way) when you’re working at a company with less than 100 people and wind up with a triplicate of names.
        That said, I’ve always felt bad for the folks who have seriously common names, like John Smith, and wind up working somewhere with another John Smith.

    31. Ruby*

      I was on a team with five Jeffs.
      More Jeffs than women, actually, but that’s another story.

      1. Totes anon for this!*

        This is going to narrow me down to fewer than about 5 people if anyone else who knows this story ever sees it, but for a while my dad’s department had “more Davids than Italians, and more Italians than women”. This was said like a joke but it’s not actually terribly funny. Especially since we’re in the UK, where Italian means ‘born in Italy’, rather than the American ‘has an ancestor from Italy’.

        I now work for the same organisation, and a member of that department (who didn’t know my relationship to Dad) once said, when I checked which department I was talking to, “yes, I know it’s hard to be sure since there are women here, and none of us are called David”.

    32. Beth*

      I had one workplace with a Lisa, a Lise, a Liza, a Louise, and an Elise. We just made sure that the person was clarified in any conversation. Not a big deal; it makes fodder for humour.

      1. sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

        Yep. Years ago, it was Marie, Marie-France, Marie-Anne, Marie-Andree, Marie-Josee, Maria (three of them) and one Mary. And all calls had to be transferred (no direct lines or Teams #s). We managed.

    33. in the strange land known as academia*

      For a while, our department included (names changed but pattern kept) Jane Smith, Jane Miller, *and* Jane Smith-Miller. Somehow we coped!

    34. Koalafied*

      Yeah, this has come up in other letters before and it always surprises me, if for no other reason than surely everyone must have had the experience of two coworkers with the same first name, two classmates with the same first name, two friends in your circle with the same first name?

      Currently we have two people whose names are the equivalent of Steve Piper and Steve Piping – same first name and same first couple of letters for the last name. We do write out/say the full name or just the lasts when we’re talking about work assignments and it’s not clear from context who’s being referred to, but neither of them “go by” their full name or only their last name. They still introduce themselves to others as “Steve” and people still say “Good morning, Steve!” to greet them, etc. We don’t need them to be only-first-name or only-last-name all the time. They can be normal first name only when it works, more information supplied when necessary for clarity.

      (And of course, someone can always ask, “do you mean Steve Piping or Steve Piper?” if they’re uncertain, or if someone accidentally sends something to Steve Piper he can always forward it on to Steve Piping with a note that, “Actually, Steve Piping will be handling this one,” neither of which would be a big deal or nightmare – but surprisingly, neither of those things come up very often. People are generally pretty good judges of when they need to give the full or last name to avoid confusion. I can think of almost no incidents of someone giving a first name only and having another person need to specifically ask for clarification, or assume the wrong one.)

    35. EventPlannerGal*

      My company does a lot of business in the Middle East. One of my colleagues told me about being in a meeting once where every single person in the meeting (from both our company and the client company) was called Mohammed, but each person was spelled differently.

      1. Ridiculous Penguin*

        I teach a lot of international students, and it’s not unusual to have several Muhammads in a class; however, they usually have multiple names and frequently choose to go by what we would consider one of their “middle” names.

    36. Margaretmary*

      My first name is extremely common and seems to be particularly so in my profession for some reason. At the moment, the other two people in my job with the same name use variants, but at school and college, I usually had at least two other people with the same name in my class. It’s never been confusing. People generally use full names if they want to make it clear.

    37. SomehowIManage*

      Well, nightmare might be excessive but it can lead to embarrassing situations.

      I worked for an IT company in the US and worked via WebEx with 2 colleagues in India with the same long, but fairly common, South Indian first and last names (think Ramachandran Bhojaraja). One worked on Cloud solutions and the other in Internet of Things, both parts of the emerging technologies team.

      Due to time differences, we never had cameras on—and we met as part of group conversations (but never on the same calls). It took me at least a month to realize that these were two different men! I was mortified and had to play back the conversations in my brain to make sure I didn’t say anything that had revealed my confusion.

    38. Ace in the Hole*

      Same here.

      I once worked on a team of six with Alexander, Aleksandr, and Alex Alexander… so even last names wouldn’t have helped anything. We managed just fine.

    39. North Wind*

      Yes, it’s so puzzling as to how this is a big problem.

      I worked for years with a manager who shared my first name, and our department worked very closely with another department with two people there that also shared our first name – so four of us with the same name routinely on the same project! If the context of a conversation didn’t clearly identify which of us folks were being referenced, people would just ask. Or the person speaking would proactively add the last name or initial. There was never any confusion or mix-up of responsibilities, communications, or roles.

    40. kittymommy*

      I mean I work on a daily level with four Jared and it’s fine. Heck, in a previous department I had two guys with the exact same first and last names and it was fine.

    41. PhyllisB*

      I have a sister-in-law with the same first name as me. When Mr. B and I married, she was still single so we had the same full name. We live in a small town so that caused mucho confusion, (She’d order pizza and it was delivered to us, getting each other’s phone calls, ect.)
      In the family we solved it by me being First and Middle Name. I was never so thrilled to attend someone’s wedding as I was hers!!

      1. turquoisecow*

        My former boss’s wife and twin sister ended up with the same first and last name once they got married. It became annoying when sister had financial difficulties and creditors started calling his wife but day to day it wasn’t a concern.

        In my family we had two Joes – one is my aunt’s son and another was a different aunt’s husband (he passed away). There wasn’t usually any confusion because of the age difference but when there was we’d just say (aunt)’s Joe or (other aunt’s) Joe?

      2. Me*

        I have stepbrother Dan and brother-in-law Dan, which is how I refer to them, or as “A’s Dan” and “R’s Dan”. (One time, we were in a large family group, and the five men who were there were Dan, Dan, Danny, Dan’s Dad, and Dan’s Dad. It was amusing.)

        And if you think yours is bad, I’m “the other [my name]” on my dad’s side, since my great-aunt was the first one with my name (she was born in the 1920s or 1930s, I was born in the 1980s, I cede seniority here). I was identified as “My first name, my mom’s last name, my last name” on at least one wedding seating chart so I wouldn’t be confused with my aunt, since we shared a middle name as well! And let me tell you, going to the funeral of “my full name” was one of the weirdest experiences I’ve ever had in my life. “We’re gathered together here to remember My Name.” Me: “I’m not dead, thanks.”

    42. Forrest*

      My grandboss used to be Ella, and my great-grandboss was ALSO Ella. Once in a team meeting I said something like, “We’ll have to see what Ella says— not our Ella, Extra-Ella”— and everyone not only knew exactly what I meant but immediately picked it up and started using it!

      1. Tierrainney*

        My child’s soccer team added a new player mid-season who had the same name as an existing player, so they were also called Extra-firstname.

      2. Destroyer of Typos*

        In our friend group years ago, we had two Gregs with the same last initial. We called the original Greg “Greg” and the second Greg “Greg Also”…

        1. Retired (but not really)*

          In our larger group we have more Mike/Michael/Mikey’s than we can keep up with. The most recent addition somehow ended up with the nickname 2.0!

    43. Chilipepper Attitude*

      There are two Chilipeppers where I work. Everyone manages just fine except one person keeps trying to get us to rename ourselves. We never talked about it but both of us just deflect when she brings it up. At one point she suggested old Chilipepper and new Chilipepper. Uh. No.

    44. Lisa*

      I wonder in the case of the Kara’s if the issue was that it was a less common name. Maybe they were both so used to being the only Kara around, whereas women named Jennifer or Jessica have been dealing with this their whole lives.

      And initials don’t always work. I knew two women who worked in the same department for many years who not only had the same first name but the same first initial. Finally one of them changed from using her birth name to her married name at work, partially just to get around the issue. Oh, and their first name wasn’t especially common either. It wasn’t in the top 20 for our age range, and even less common for younger women.

      I’ve also worked where two men in the same department had the same first name, nickname, and the first TWO letters of their last names were the same… and then a vendor brought someone on to our account who did as well… think Tom Gordon, Tom Goodkind, Tom Gonzalez. We ended up just using their full names, there wasn’t really a better option.

      I did once ask the men with a very common first name to all use their last names for a complex inter-departmental project when we had five people with the same first name and often three or four of them attending the same audio-only conference calls. But it was all or nothing, no one got to “win” the name.

      So many versions of this situation. It’s just incredibly common.

      1. The other Dave*

        My director (in charge of my manager’s manager) shares his uncommon Turkish name (like, unlikely to be a duplicate there) Turkish name with an entry level employee. He just laughs and jokes about not taking credit for his namesake’s work. The namesake answers obvious references to the director in teams chat to troll newbies.

    45. NotAnotherManager!*

      I basically have no patience with people who are dramatic about sharing a name with someone. At one point, my team at work had four people with the same name, and two of them had the same last initial. It very rarely cause any confusion at all, and no one had to resort to being called by anything other than their preferred first name. (Now we’re on to rhyming names – Sheryl, Carol, and Merrill cause more confusion than the multiple same-names.)

      I worked at a small company once where the majority of the people there were named James or Robert. There were two Jims, a James, and a Jamie, but the Roberts were all Robert except for one Bob. And my current job has a plethora of Katherines/Kathryns.

    46. Tiger Snake*

      My first name is relatively uncommon. When I was two years into my last job – so established enough everyone knew me, but still low on the totem pole – we got a new capital-B-Big Boss who had the same name as me. Think Tiger Cat vs Tiger Snake. Her first week in, she wanted to have a meeting to tell everyone what to expect from the transition.

      So her assistant sent out a meeting to the entire branch that just said “Tiger to present to department”

      Multiple people rejected the meeting because anything I could have needed to everyone, could just been an email (which was true). I got many more messages and people at my desk asking what the heck I needed to talk to everyone about.

      Our Big Boss started the meeting with the question with “so who is Tiger Snake?”, and then moved on.

      Nothing more was ever said, and it was never a problem again for the entire duration of my time there. One early-on mix up was hardly a nightmare.

    47. Jessica*

      I’ve been numbered twice, because there were two Jessicas in the same sphere so we became Jessica1 and Jessica2. One was at school long ago, but the other I’m still friends with and we address each other as J1 and J2 to this day.

      I have a friend whose last name is something that can also be a common first name–say her name is Lisa Stacy. Lisa Stacy once shared an apartment with two roommates, one named Lisa and one named Stacy. And this was back in pre-cell-phone days when your dwelling had a single landline, so they had some confusing times answering the phone.

      My college dorm at one point had three people (2M and 1F ) with a first name that’s common for either sex, so they became known as Pat the Elder, Pat the Younger, and Pat the Female.

    48. Tiger Snake*

      My first name is relatively uncommon. When I was two years into my last job – so established enough everyone knew me, but still low on the totem pole – we got a new capital-B-Big Boss who had the same name as me. Think Tiger Stripe vs Tiger Snake. Her first week in, she wanted to have a meeting to tell everyone what to expect from the transition.

      So her assistant sent out a meeting to the entire branch that just said “Tiger to present to department”

      Multiple people rejected the meeting because anything I could have needed to everyone, could just been an email (which was true). I got many more messages and people at my desk asking what the heck I needed to talk to everyone about.

      Our Big Boss started the meeting with the question with “so who is Tiger Snake?”, and then moved on.

      Nothing more was ever said, and it was never a problem again for the entire duration of my time there. We just became Tiger S (the boss) and Tiger-without-a-surname-mentioned (me). One early-on mix up was hardly a nightmare.

    49. Christmas Cactus*

      I worked in a department of approximately 13 employees and, for years, four of us had variations of the same name. Two of us (doing the same job in different parts of the country) used the same sounding name as shortened versions of our different first names and we were often distinguished by initials. Another ad the same first name as the person with the same short name as mine but spelled differently; that person always used the full version of her name. The fourth person had the same name as mine with and “a” at the end, not “e” like me and always went by her full name. There were no problems.

    50. Eight8*

      My name isn’t quite rare, but was much more common in…another era. In my first job, I was the most junior employee in a department that usually went by initials, like AB. I shared my name with the Executive Vice President of an adjacent department, AC. It was generally fine, but occasionally I would call people and hear their panic that they were receiving a call from “Edna from AC” (who was known to be strict), and I had to emphasize that I was Junior Associate Edna from AB, someone who no one was worried about. Even that was mostly just funny.

    51. LittleMarshmallow*

      I have no idea why this letter gets my back up but it does and I really hope the LW lets it go. It is so incredibly common to have same first and sometimes even last names that the fact that this even came up makes me think this person is very insecure and is worried that people will mix them up and think she isn’t the boss.

      At my current job we have two people with the same last name… one reports to the other and literally no one cares (they technically have same first name middle initial too but they go by different first name nicknames. I also once had a crew of all Jim’s. Was it confusing… sometimes… was it a nightmare… No. In a different department our team lead shared the same first name and last initial with one of his direct reports and literally no one cared. It was a running joke because we had a third person with same first name too (also reporting to team lead). That same department also had like 4 Mikes.

      Let your report use her name and put away your weird insecurities. Normal people naturally just use some other clarifying thing like and initial or which dept they belong to or something. You don’t have to make it weird.

    52. BritChickaaa*

      I’m sorry but I find “please go by your surname” to be super weird, especially if your surname isn’t a name that sounds like be a first name. If someone asked me “please go by your surname” I’d assume that meant “please use your surname as well as your first name when you introduce yourself, so people don’t get us confused.” It would honestly never occur to me in a month of Sundays that the person literally wanted me to change my name from Kara to Miller. I mean, can you imagine? “Hi Miller, did you have a good weekend?” “Want to join us for lunch Miller?” It’s like you’re a pupil at an English boarding school.

    53. Fanny Price*

      I have two stories related to this, that I’ll put in separate comments.

      Some years ago (before texting was common), I worked with an attorney with a mildly unusual name (not one that would not be unfamiliar to most Americans, just not a common one to hear nowadays) – let’s call her Belinda. Coincidentally, her secretary was also named Belinda. Her secretary answered her phone when attorney-Belinda was not able to pick it up for some reason, and could not be stopped from answering both her own and the attorney line with “This is Belinda.” One day, she picked up a call and answered that way, and the woman on the other end said, “Belinda, this is your aunt Laura. I wanted to let you know that Grandma is very ill and you should call Uncle Bob and talk about when you want to fly up here.” Secretary-Belinda answered, “I don’t have an aunt Laura,” and hung up the call! Fortunately, the reason she had answered the phone was that attorney-Belinda was in the hallway, not in her office, so attorney-Belinda overheard and was able to interrogate her about the call and then call her aunt to find out what was up.

      That’s not even the dumbest secretary-Belinda story I have about that one!

    54. Fanny Price*

      And a more recent story – this one takes place at my husband’s office (where I now work, too, but I didn’t at the time of the story). He is the CTO and his name is Mike. (It isn’t really, but it’s a name of similar frequency.) Mike is also the name of one of the engineers, one of the consultants, and the company’s patent lawyer. They asked the engineer if he would be willing to go by Michael to cut down on confusion in the office, and the engineer agreed. Then they hired another engineer, and realized that the best candidate was also named Mike (and had the same last initial as my husband). When they made the offer, they told him that they had so many Mikes on the small team (there were less than ten people in the office at that point) that they would like to call him MJ unless he had a serious objection. I was horrified, but the new engineer agreed and has gone by MJ at work for the last seven years or so, although I believe that he still goes by Mike at his main extracurricular activity. I will admit that it is convenient having everyone use different names, but I still find it crazy that my own husband made someone change his name when he hired him.

      1. Elle*

        We used to have four Johns, and when we recruited a fifth one, who had the same last name as one of the four, he proactively suggested he go by Johnny at work – it caused mass confusion at his wedding, where literally everyone else knew him as ‘John’ and couldn’t understand why we were calling him ‘Johnny’!

    55. RedFraggle*

      In college, we had a significant number of Daves – I think we hit 7 at one point. My current job, we’ve had 4 people who share my first name. It was easiest to treat each person as if their first and last names were all one word – RedFraggle, RedMonster, etc. The only time it became an issue was with new employees who hadn’t learned all of us yet.

    56. Em*

      “I want a job where the most unimaginable nightmare is two people sharing a first name.”


      I share a first name with a coworker, and the “nightmares” that have resulted are as follows:

      1. Sometimes we get each other’s emails and have to take a second to forward them to the correct person.
      2. Sometimes people call and ask for one of us, and our receptionist has to ask them “Which Emily?”

      End of list.

      Maybe it’s just because my name is so common, but I find it really bizarre when people act like sharing a name is going to be some sort of world-ending scenario because no one can figure out these are two different people. They can. Really. Chill.

    57. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      At our local pizzeria, the barman, cook and waiter are all called Jamel. They manage to work together just fine.

    58. Flare*

      Right? I mean, there are entire social groups that name people the same thing as a custom! I am thinking about Mary T. Meagher, the American swimmer who was known as Mary T because one of her siblings was also Mary (Mary G), or the zillions of people who name children after siblings who were also named after uncles and great-grandfathers or something, so there are 4 Anthonys and 3 Josephs at the barbecue. And heck, some of those same very tradition-oriented families also tend to all work in the same company, and so you have Bob Sr., Bobby, Young Bob, Big Bob, and Bobbie Lynn or something.

      (Also, what is she going to do if they hire a Karen, Kira, or Kari? Those are also going to get conflated. What if Kara gives in to being called Miller and then there also ends up being a new hire Nate Miller, who reports to Nate Jones? NOW THERE ARE TWO MILLERS! CATASTROPHE!)

  2. Corrvin (they/them)*

    Why not just have the employee call on mornings that they are going to be in? If you don’t get a call, you can assume they will be out and proceed accordingly. If they are well enough to come to work, they should always be able to make a brief “Coming in today” call/text/email as part of their morning routine.

    1. Yvette*

      You hit the nail on the head. I remember the original letter and the update and that was exactly the solution they went with. Basically the employee would call in “well” and if not he would be assumed absent and the business could plan accordingly.

    2. kiki*

      Yes! I think a lot of employees wouldn’t want to propose this solution because they don’t want it to seem as if they are sick more often than they are well or want to disrupt folks with an early daily call/email/ or text, but it would definitely work better for all involved!!

    3. Pocket Mouse*

      Yes, this—particularly with a deadline, such as if Matt starts his day at 9am, call/email by 9:15 or 9:30, and never ever schedule Matt for meetings before 10am (to give OP time to prepare when the call/email doesn’t come).

    4. beach read*

      This solution is like that old story about the truck stuck in the tunnel and nobody can figure out how to get the truck un-stuck and the little kid says to take the air out of the tires. Great idea!

    5. TinaTurner*

      But, I volunteered at a health crisis center doing healing massage, people read about all the professional volunteers and made an appointment w/the one they wanted.
      And after 2 years I gave up, because of so many no-shows. I was told maybe they “couldn’t call” but these were often breast cancer survivors and they were not currently ill.
      It was sad that there was a waiting list yet people ghosted us; it wasn’t just me.

      Picture volunteering your pricey skills learned from hard study, and they stand you up and don’t let others on the list get the appointment.

  3. What's in a name?*

    I hope the person with social media application at least notified people that they were not being moved forward. I also hope to win the lottery, and I feel that hope is more likely to be realized.

    1. Wisteria*

      I’m pretty taken aback by the whole “it’s totes ok to post jobs and ignore the people who apply!” advice, but I guess that is the management position.

        1. WindmillArms*

          I think Wisteria might mean the management’s advice to the hiring manager/OP rather than Alison’s advice

      1. Wisteria*

        I believe they were *hoping* (their word) the Social Media LW would send a rejection for all the usual reasons that people hope a hiring manager will send a rejection but especially bc those applicants applied in good faith, believing that the “apply now” button was the way to apply, and not returning their good faith is an even bigger jerk move than the usual jerk move of letting applications vanish into the ether.

        1. LessonLearned*

          Last year did a Facebook post letting people know of open positions w/ a picture and link to our website. Facebook automatically added the apply now button and it has been a literal nightmare, we tried delete it and it was still showing up for people.

          Also many people submitted a form that seemed to have populated directly from their FB account, so we didn’t get peoples real names or locations. I also suspect that some of the “information” we received had been added a long while back. (“Current city: Uranus” “current position: Intern at Vandelay Industries”)

          We ended up messaging everyone with instructions on how to actually apply and slightly extended the deadline for those applicants. We ended up hiring a great person who probably would not have come across the posting otherwise. He was also the only FB applicant that responded to our message.

        2. anonymous73*

          That’s not my point. I’ve never gotten a rejection for simply applying to a job. I usually get a confirmation email stating that they have received my application and someone will reach out if they’re interested in moving forward. I think anyone expecting or even “hoping” for any further response from submitting an application is setting themselves up for a lot of disappointment. This being a bogus “apply now” button on social media doesn’t change that. Ghosting a candidate after reaching out to interview is a “jerk move”. Not responding to an application if is not.

      2. Metadata minion*

        I don’t really expect it anymore, but given that most companies these days use some sort of HR software to do hiring, it’s usually a matter of a few clicks to batch-reject candidates. It would be a kindness to at least send me a form notice that lets me check off that position as one I’m definitely not in the running for.

    1. Sarah L*

      As another Sarah I agree! In fact I’m pretty surprised that it might ever be considered a problem.

      1. not a doctor*

        My best friend growing up was a Sarah, and we went to a super tiny elementary school. Our entire grade was 28 kids, and SEVEN of them were Saras or Sarahs. Literally 1/4 of the entire class. At least two shared her last initial, too.

        1. Jay*

          There were 84 kids in my HS graduating class. Four were named Richard. They were easily distinguished: there was Rick, Ricky, Rich, and Richie.

    2. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

      I’ve also been a Sarah my whole life where I’ve never not worked with or been in class with at least two others…

    3. Sara H*

      I’m a Sara and it’s definitely not a problem. I’ve even worked somewhere where there was another Sara with the same last name as me…still wasn’t a problem, though it helped that we didn’t work in the same department.

      1. Sara H*

        Also my brother Will shared his full name with another kid at our high school. That one did occasionally cause some hijinks like getting the wrong Will’s report card in the mail or getting attendance calls for the wrong Will, but it never took more than 30 seconds to figure out what had gone wrong.

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          My cousin’s a Sarah, and my aunt once got a call from her summer job in a supermarket asking why she hadn’t shown up. She’d set off for work as normal, so my aunt called my uncle in a panic, he came home and was going to retrace her route while my aunt waited in case she came home. Before he set off, they called the supermarket back to make sure she hadn’t turned up…”Oh, sorry. We got the wrong Sarah.”

      1. Another OTHER Alison*

        We have 2 guys, on the same 10 person team, with the same name! Think John Fernandes and John Fernandez. We call them “John S” and “John Z.” Still confusing. We also have a “Terry and Jerry” along with 2 other guys with matching initials (which we use in our ticketing system.) Never a guarantee the right equipment will get to the right requestor!

        1. TK*

          For a while we had 2 women in the same unit (of like 8 people) who were both named Stephanie J. Ha____. We too have a system that requires initials, and the one who started later had to become SJH2 in it, as both were SJH. Also they were around the same age and both pregnant at the same time (and both with their second child). Their babies were born about a month apart. They were different races and looked totally different, though.

          That same unit (before the dual Stephanies) had 2 Carls and a Karl. Neither of the Carls are here anymore, but as a remnant their boss still refers to Karl as Karl Lastname and I think probably will as long as he’s here.

      2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        Ditto, only I’m a Jennifer, born about a decade before the enormous wave of the early 70s. (And my sister is a Sarah-with-an-aitch. And once I worked with a pair of sisters who were, you guessed it, Sarah and Jennifer.)

        1. Sarah F*

          Lol, my best friend since childhood is named Rebecca. She married a man whose sisters are named Sarah and Rebecca.

        2. Staja*

          Ha! I’m Sarah Jennifer :)

          I was lucky in elementary & high school to be the only Sarah in my classes, but when I got to college, there was another with the same (not especially common) surname, so the Bursar’s office used to always ask if I was the Sarah from MA or AZ.

      3. Sara without an H*

        I, too, am an older Sara, and for years the only one in my classes at school. Then the name came back into fashion. Now I know lots of Sara(h)s, but they’re all about half my age.

      4. SarahKay*

        I am an older-ish Sarah, just one school year ahead of the wave of Sarahs, so the first time the multitude of Sarahs affected me was when I started in my current company and had a younger Sarah in our team of six. At some point in my first week I was asked if I had a middle name people could use instead. I said No, I did not, since (a) I don’t like being called by me middle name and (b) it’s the same as the first name of someone else on the team so we’re no further ahead.
        Turns out two Sarahs was fine, last initials are useful, all good.

    4. MicroManagered*

      It’s not a real issue.

      My manager and I have the same very common last name (think Smith). Occasionally there are mixups where she gets an email meant for me and vice versa, but people adjust.

      Two of my direct reposts have names that rhyme, like Dora and Laura. People also do just fine with this.

    5. Sarah #7726624*

      Also a Sarah. I work with another Sarah on my team who is of equal standing but different duties so it’s confusing, but only ever that.

    6. This Old House*

      As a Katie, I have to imagine that the name in question is not, in fact Kara, but that Hepzibah is facing down the prospect of not being the only Hepzibah in the room for the first time ever and cannot – CANNOT – imagine how this could possibly work, because as far as she’s aware it has never ever happened before.

      I wonder if there was ever an update. I’m super curious about the possibility that they work in some particularly niche industry where shared names actually could be a disaster.

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        That’s a thought. I have a very unusual name…. the one time I was in a group where someone else had the same name, we were both fine with it but everyone else got completely confused. They just could not comprehend having TWO Hepzibahs in the same room – surely there must be some mistake and there is only ONE Hepzibah! The same group had no issue keeping track of the two Sarahs and three Mikes.

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          My cousin’s husband is Richard, and a few years back he went on a business trip to New York with a coworker who happened to be also Richard. The guy they were meeting could not get his head around the fact that they had the same name, and said to my cousin’s husband “Y’know, you don’t look like a Richard. I’m gonna call you Marvin.” and then proceeded to address him as Marv for the rest of the trip.

      2. Grace Poole*

        Also a Katie (there are dozens of us!) I don’t think I’ve ever been in a work or school situation where I’m the only one.

        We have a situation in my workplace where there are now three people with the same unisex name (think Dana) and I imagine it might be their first time being one of many.

    7. Julie #4*

      Exactly. As one of four Julies on my school dance team, and someone who currently has a teammate, a grandboss, and a great-grandboss with the same name, it’s gonna be fine.

      1. AnotherSarah*

        YUP. I lived with two other Sarahs once–no issues! And now I work in a department with another Sarah with the same last initial–also no big deal! Once in a while someone addresses an email to the wrong one. That’s it.

    8. Camellia*

      The only time I’ve known this to be a problem was with my daughter – first name Sarah, unique middle name, common last name. When we switched from her pediatrician to our family doctor, our insurance was charged for a visit to the doctor that we did not make. That’s when we found out that there was another girl with, not only the exact same first/middle/last name, but also the exact same birthdate as our daughter. In our small town. Everything from insurance to (as she got older) bank accounts got mixed up. Constant vigilance was required.

    9. sara*

      Agreed. I worked somewhere with 3-4 Sara(h)s, 3 Nicole/Nicolas and 2 Adams. Plus Erin and Aaron. We had to call each other over radio/walky-talky all the time and it was completely fine. The worst that happens is you realize after 30s you’re talking to the wrong person. Or both answer. Anything written used last initials.

      As a result, though, if someone calls my name (like when I’m out walking etc) I usually ignore them and assume they’re calling a different Sara…

  4. Madison*

    As someone who once worked in an office with three different sets of name twins who all functioned perfectly well together, I can confirm it is WAY weirder to ask someone to go by their last name than it is to just use initials.

    1. Jennifer*

      I have to wonder if when the boss asked the new staff person to go by their last name, the other person was assuming it was like “Kara Miller” and then LW went around introducing her like she’s living on Broadchurch.

      1. Pocket Mouse*

        Or, more hilariously, if the LW is trying to get her attention like she’s living in Broadchurch!

      2. Rainy*

        My husband has an extremely common name in his age group, and half the couple who owns the company he works at as well as several other employees at different locations have the same name. The owner goes by the name and everyone else is their last name, which so far has worked out fine.

        His parents, both of whom have names that were extremely popular in their age group, hadn’t known any of his name growing up, and only discovered when Mr Rainy hit kindergarten age that half the boys in his class had the same name.

        1. Rainy*

          Oh, AND–I’ve told this story before, but Mr Rainy’s high school girlfriend was a Rainie, short for the more usual Rainbow (where mine is just Rainy, because my government name is Rasputina and I absolutely CANNOT), and when I met Mr Rainy’s parents the first time, his dad got mad that my name is Rainy and demanded to call me something else because he hated Rainie so much and he was mad that I’m also a Rainy. I don’t know what my face looked like but I was like “I mean, I have two middle names so take your pick I guess????” before my MIL, in the only time she’s ever been a decent human being in my presence, told her husband to STFU and use my name.

      3. Underrated Pear*

        Yes, me too. I would 100% think, were I in her shoes, that my boss was asking if I was ok with being known as “Kara Miller” when necessary to avoid confusion, NOT if I would start going around introducing myself as “Miller” (cracking up now because I can only hear this being yelled by David Tennant thanks to your comment).

        As someone who frequently shares a name with other team members or higher-ups, I can confirm that like 80% of the time, people will know which Kara you’re referring to, and the other 20% of the time, they’ll automatically default to “Kara Miller,” “Kara M,” or something like “manager-Kara.”

    2. WindmillArms*

      All of the project managers at my work have the same first name. All. Of. Them. It’s fine! Last initials or whole last names solves it.

  5. NVHEng*

    At my employer, names seem to go in waves. Right now I have three sets of people with the same name on my 13 person team (2 x Ale, Carlos and Dave), and I still remember with great fondness I worked within 30 feet in any direction of 7 different Jasons. People will figure out through context and the use of last names or last initials which “Kara” is being referred to.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      I worked at a place with names like Bob Jensen and a Bob Jepsen. And we figured it out.

      1. Phony Genius*

        We have employees whose names match EXACTLY. It’s not usually a problem in personal interaction, but e-mails occasionally are sent to the wrong one. This can be an issue with confidential information.

        1. Not a cat*

          Former employer had three guys with the same first/last name AND they worked in the same department and held the same functional title. They numbered themselves by hire date, First/Last Name 1.0, and so on.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            I love this! Although, if I got a promotion, I’d let people know that I am now ThursdaysGeek 2.1, instead of ThursdaysGeek 2.0.

        2. quill*

          JSmith1 and JSmith2, where one is the finance director and the other is actually a spy from your rival company…

          I won’t write this story, but someone might!

        3. curly sue*

          An old workplace of mine did run into that issue – one ‘John Smith’ was operations manager… and the other was a gynecology professor.

            1. curly sue*

              John-at-Ops learned to be very, very careful when checking his email in public. And turned images off.

        4. Wisteria*

          We handle that by adding a number to their email addresses, which I am sure still lets a number of misdirected emails go through if you don’t know whether to email eleanor.p1.shellstrop or eleanor.p2.shellstrop to reach the Eleanor in shipping or whatever. I used to work with a guy who went by P1 and changed his email display name to P1 rather than sort out which Richard P. Shellstrop he was.

          1. Doctors Whom*

            Ah see that is explicitly NOT in our policy.

            What happened is that under long ago policy your userID defaulted to your initials, so John Fergus jfs.

            At some point in the last decade, because combinatorics, they changed the rule to first initial + middle initial + lastname. John Francis is jfstevenson.

            And when John Francis was hired, John Fergus WENT TO OUR IT DEPARTMENT and said “I know the user ID assignment rule but I really, really think you need to do something different in this special case. It will cause problems. How about johnstevenson? Or jfrancisstevenson? Or johnfrancis?”

            Reader, they did not listen. What did he know? He may have had a PhD in advanced teapot particles, but he was not a Maker of IT Policy (TM).

            So even if you know the username and are trying to send mail to jfs, for some reason the address book *defaults* to jfstevenson as the first pick.

        5. EvilQueenRegina*

          My old job had that where one of the “Bob Smiths” was in HR, and our Bob was always getting his emails about things like people’s sick leave. The other one was displayed in Outlook as “Smith, Bob (HR)”, but because initially our one was first with nothing afterwards, people would see him first and automatically click on him to send emails. Eventually, HR Bob went to IT and asked them to change our Bob’s to “Smith, Bob (Llama Grooming)”. That helped.

        6. LZ*

          I work at a North American company with more than 24,000 people. Not only do we have 3 people named Mohamed Mohamed, there are two people with the same semi-uncommon first and last French names (similar to Hubert Desrosiers). Can confirm that I almost emailed the wrong Hubert and had to check title/location in Outlook before I hit send.

    2. londonedit*

      Yeah, people just naturally start saying ‘Steve Jones’ and ‘Steve Smith’, or ‘Kara-in-Accounts’ or whatever. I don’t think I’ve ever worked anywhere where there hasn’t been more than one person with the same name, and it’s fine. Either the context makes it clear who you’re talking about (‘I was just speaking to Jennifer about the sales figures’) or people clarify with a surname or department or initial or whatever.

  6. Darsynia*

    I don’t know if it’s because I have an *incredibly* common first name or what, but ‘I’m the boss so I have the only dibs on this first name* feels like the same kind of misuse of power as expecting your employees to give you gifts for holidays.

    People… don’t choose their own names, most of the time. Even when they do, it’s not a ‘fault’ thing, and being unable to work with the fact that no one has a unique name should be elementary, as in, in elementary school, I, Jessica, had to deal with the vast numbers of girls also named Jessica in the 1980’s. I’m glad LW1 wrote in about this because sometimes we don’t realize what our ‘first instinct’ looks like to other people, and any form of ‘you SAID you weren’t going to go by Kara’ is really offputting and aggressive, even though it’s the truth. I think it’s as simple as New Employee Kara not realizing how important it was to you, and also simply wanting to be known as herself.

    I agree with Alison that revisiting it as ‘oops, I think we’ll want to rethink our approach here, what can we do so we’re both comfortable and it’s not confusing for those that work with us?’ will feel welcoming and not accusatory. After all, if you step back and look at the situation, ‘how dare you use your first name’ (which, even though that’s harsh language, is… kind of what this is) just doesn’t play well. With anyone. Even having to explain ‘oh, I’m sorry, the boss doesn’t want me to use my first name’ will reflect poorly on LW1 in that situation, even if NEK isn’t trying to do that.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      The thing is that LW2 the manager cares A LOT about it. She’s trying to play cool, but she cares so much they discussed it during the interview process (unnecessarily IMO because this barely a problem and certainly not a nightmare) as an obsticle to overcome. LW2 is making a much bigger deal about it it warrents.

      However if she wants to stick to the half-heartedly agreed to plan (and IMO it is an overreach to “claim” Kara and force the new hire to use a different name), just have a conversation with Kara Miller and ask her if she wants to go by Miller or something else other than Kara.

      Bur really LW2 should just let it go and deal with whatever minor confusion will come up. it will only be minor, I’m sure.

      1. Everything Bagel*

        I agree. I don’t even think they should have a conversation about it at this point. I think LW should just start referring to her employee as Kara M or Kara Miller. Everyone else is probably already doing this. I doubt it is something that needs to be discussed further.

      2. workerbee*

        There is a similar letter that had an update where the new person asked to be called “First Name Last Initial” – but after a few weeks of people still calling them “First Name” and the confusion with the other employee, they ended up choosing a new nickname, and it all worked out well in the end. It may seem a silly thing to us that it could be a big deal – but in that case, it was the truth.

        I too think it’s kind of ridiculous that it could be such a big deal, but even I and my Same Name both ended up nicknaming ourselves to save the hassle it had become. So I am more open to it than I would have been!

    2. Lps*

      “I’m the boss so I have the only dibs on this first name.”

      I also got the same vibes from this letter. Even if this is not her intent this is most likely the perception.

      I didn’t think my name was that common but once I started working for a very large organization I was running into people with the same first name (even one with the same first AND last) and it’s never been an issue. Especially, if you have different roles like in this situation where one is a supervisor.

      As a leader, I would want to make my new employee feel comfortable, and that would include calling them by their preferred name.

    3. Alexis Rosay*

      Yeah, I’ve heard some people with fairly uncommon first names mention that they’re very uncomfortable when they encounter someone else with the same name as it’s such a novel experience for them. Just means time for them to realize what those of us with common names realized a long time ago: that’s life and no one owns a name.

      (Of course there is a big difference between being uncomfortable and acting on it in this way, which most would not do.)

    4. Liz Lemon*

      I work with a couple Jessicas, and we use initials when context doesn’t make it obvious. Any confusion is short lived!

  7. Eye roll*

    Regarding the social media applications, the “principle” they are standing on appears to be one of only hiring people who come across the job in the “right” way, which feels icky to me. The other decision-makers are excluding people who used social media to find a job and believed the “apply now” button allowed them to, you know, apply now. While you never have to consider certain people, this feels weirdly exclusionary, as though only people who knew to look in the “right” place are acceptable candidates.

    And for the future, I hope you will not post on social media if you don’t actually want to find people that way.

    1. Antilles*

      The other decision-makers are excluding people who used social media to find a job and believed the “apply now” button allowed them to, you know, apply now.
      Especially when the “apply now” button opened up an form which then explicitly said it was sending in the application. Of course people assumed that they were actually applying when you directly told them that!

    2. moonstone*

      Yeah, especially since recruitment channels are a DEI consideration in hiring. Most conventional applications channels are already exclusionary to some extent.

    3. Filosofickle*

      And I’ll note that on LinkedIn jobs I was using the “apply now” button liberally until I discovered (here most likely) that many of those applications were going into a black hole because the job poster didn’t realize this feature was enabled. Unless the ad specified where to apply, why wouldn’t I use the easy button? I am not young or a bonehead.

      1. DisgruntledPelican*

        Quite frankly, sounds to me like the boneheads in these situations are the employers who don’t know how their job postings work.

        1. MistOrMister*

          I can understand the people not realizing the FB applications were going somewhere specific. But to ding people for applying exactly as they were told is beyond dumb. Unless the FB post told people to go to the conpany website to apply and people weren’t catching that, it seems really odd to think people are dumb and shouldn’t be considered for not going where the posted job listing didn’t specify they needed to go. They don’t sound like people I would want to work under.

          1. Rocket*

            Sure, I can absolutely understand an employer not realizing that, but that’s still a mistake on their part, not the applicants.

      2. K.*

        I have a question about this! I generally apply for jobs at the website given for job postings on Indeed, but increasingly, they are all “easy apply” and you use the “apply now” button. Are you saying those applications go into a black hole? Should I always try to find the company website and see if there is a way to apply there instead? Or, if the only option given is the easy apply on Indeed, should I apply there? TIA!

        1. lizard*

          It’s not always a black hole, but it’s much more likely to be. And it never hurts to check the site to see if the job is even still available; a lot of employers are really bad at deleting job postings and much worse at it on recruiting sites than their own websites.

      3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I have had people calling me further to applications through LinkedIn. I think it’s great, they have all my info on my profile, no need to include a CV.

  8. Ness*

    My supervisor Michael has an employee named Michael and it is…not a big deal at all. Usually it’s clear from context which Michael someone is referring to, but if not, you just add last names.

    I also used to have a coworker with my same name, and there were a few mix-ups (partly because our name isn’t super common, so it didn’t occur to people that there might be two people with that name in the same division), but again, not a major problem. That manager is making way too big a deal of it.

    1. Another Michael*

      My experience has been that Michaels in particular are immune to annoyance over multiple names. I can only think of a few circumstances where I was the only Michael in a setting. In a very statistically unlikely turn of events I was the only Michael in my fraternity chapter for all three years I was a collegiate member!

      1. DarthVelma*

        Can confirm Michaels travel in packs and are chill about being part of a Flock of Mikes. My brother is a Michael. I don’t know that he’s ever been in a public setting – school, church, golf foursome – where there wasn’t at least one more Michael. Heck, the last time we checked, there were seven other Michael’s with his same last name in our hometown of only 25,000 people.

      2. turquoisecow*

        I had only about 50 people in my high school graduating class and 5 were named Michael. They were mostly referred to by their last names, except one Michael whose last name sounded like another boy’s first name, so he was always referred to by first and last name. I have also come across probably another dozen Michaels in my life, some of whom worked together and for each other, or are members of the same family, or neighbors. The Michaels of the world probably laugh at this letter so hard.

    2. Random Bystander*

      Agreed–I have a supervisor and had a co-workers (still have same supervisor but the co-workers went to other jobs, unrelated to all this). While these aren’t the real names they show the similarity: we had Anne Robert (the supervisor), Anne Robertson (a report to Anne Robert), and also an Ann Jones (who also reported to Anne Robert). That’s not to mention the plethora of Cathy/Kathy and Jennifer variants, such that at one time, half the department had one of those three names. Never had a major issue, and when any of these people requested faxes be sent to them, they just advised that the to: field needed to be first name + last name (or initial).

  9. qtipqueen*

    I have an pretty common name (Jennifers of the world, unite!), it is never* an issue.

    *Except in 2nd grade there were two of us and the other Jennifer got to be called Jenny and I was called Jenn and I was incredibly disapointed I didn’t get to be Jenny…even though I had never gone by that name and still don’t. Plus she stole my markers once.

    1. Jay*

      My daughter’s name is Emma. She was born in 2000 and of course has gone through life with a plethora of Emmas. She only seemed distressed about this once when there was an Emma in her dance program who was a year ahead of her. “She’s really mean, Mom. And she’s not a good dancer. She does not deserve to be named Emma.”

    2. WomEngineer*

      My name is common enough to be on keychains, but I didn’t know anyone else with my name (besides family) until I started working. It was kind of weird (to me) at first… but not worth using a nickname.

    3. JenJenJenJen*

      As a Jennifer I don’t think I’ve ever had a job where I was the only one and it’s been fine. I also do not like the Jen/Jenny/Jennifer hierarchy however. My department has 4 Jennifer’s and we’re all “Jen” and it’s fine. We’re all probably within a 5 year age span of course.

    4. Pepperbar*

      Jennifers of the world, we Jessicas see you.

      Seriously. My step-sister is named Jessica. My grade 10 home room had three Jessicas. I worked at a company with 15 employees and there were three Jessicas. Bizarely, the next company I worked with had 500 employees and I was the sole Jessica.

      And people who forget my name always call me Jennifer.

    1. Writer Claire*

      Or like the Romans, who had far too many Julias, Agrippas, etc., one could be Kara the Elder and the other Kara the Younger. Or if that might cause problems, Kara the Major and Kara the Minor. (Though I’d not recommend the “-illa” suffix that was sometimes used.)

  10. Zephy*

    I remember the “two Karas” letter and still wonder why LW didn’t just…introduce the new hire as Kara Miller, the new [job title] for [department]? Like why was this even a thing, why did Kara Miller and Kara Writer have to agree privately in advance that the former would go by Miller, why so clandestine? Was Kara Writer handling the bulk of the work that Kara Miller should be taking on, so there are a bunch of people that need to be retrained to send their stuff to Kara Miller instead of Kara Writer? Is it actually going to be a Problem if people can’t keep straight which one is Boss Kara and which one is Designer Kara (or whatever her role is)? I could see a cause for concern if Boss Kara handles sensitive information in the course of being a boss and someone mistakenly sends that to Designer Kara, but I also think it would be harder to accidentally email or message a new hire versus someone who has been there longer, autofill being what it is. I do think most people would be able to figure it out, it would be clear in a matter of weeks who’s still struggling to tell the Karas apart, and then if it IS actually a problem, there are ways to address that. Display names with job titles. Profile pictures – if the Karas look similar, instead of a headshot Boss Kara could have a “World’s Okayest Boss” mug for a PFP or something like that. An easily-accessible org chart, which every company should have anyway.

  11. Off My Lawn, You Must Get*

    I knew the names one would be a hot topic but yowza.
    (names changed) Current job has three Tylers, a Matthew, and just hired a Tyler Matthews.
    Those foldy bits in our gray stuff are there for a reason. We can handle multiple similarly named people and not die.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Those foldy bits in our gray stuff. LOVE IT. Just perfect.

      there seems to be a plethora of letters along the lines of “OMG we will have two people with the same name, how will we ever cope?” I mean unless they went to an extremely small school they probably ran into this problem in school. Somehow for as long as people have had names, we’ve managed to figure it out.

      BTW, for a real fun time with names, try sorting out the English Civil War between King Stephen and Empress Maud. There’s pretty much 3 names for ALL the people involved. Most of the women are named Matilde (Maud). So okay …. If historians can sort through all that, we can handle a couple of same named people in the work place.

      1. Jay*

        I did go to a really small school (same 85 kids from kindergarten through HS, and half of us had also been in preschool together). Four Richards, two Jennys, three Amys, and for good measure a set of twins and a pair of cousins with the same last name. We all managed.

      2. Environmental Compliance*

        I’m doing some genealogy for myself/hubs, and in his family tree…. there was *five damn generations* in a row that named their son John [Last Name]. No junior, senior, the third, just plain ol’ John [Last Name]. And then they all managed to marry some variety of “Mary”.

        1. Dinwar*

          I did some research on this as a kid. Unless your entire name is the same, you’re not entitled to junior, the third, or whatever. If you ever watch MASH, that’s while Major Winchester introduces himself as “Major Charles Emerson Winchester III”. I’ve always been a bit obsessed with the Middle Ages, and liked the idea of being Dinwar III. Since part of the family nomenclatorial tradition is to pick a middle name from the wife’s family, that hasn’t happened yet.

          Add to that the laxity of historical records (William Wallace’s court transcript spells his name multiple ways on the same page, for example), and yeah, I can see that happening.

    2. Katie*

      I had a friend from my kid’s preschool named Tina Locklin. She introduced me to another friend, also named Tina, with a son named Lachlan. Thought it was kind of a cool coincidence.

  12. faintofheartt*

    This happened early last year at my job. A coworker in her 60s was visibly deteriorating before our very eyes over a time span of roughly 6 months. She became very frail, walked slowly as though she was in pain, and started making pretty serious errors. She she was not sleeping, so she would take her lunch early every day (like 11:00am) and nap in her car just to get through the work day. She used to pack a healthy lunch for herself every day but suddenly she was not eating lunch. And when the office catered pizza/cake for birthdays, she would not partake. When we gently tried to mention that she didnt look well and ask if she had seen her doctor recently, she shut us down. She did not want to talk about it. After about 6 months of watching her visibly deteriorate, my bosses finally had a sit-down meeting with her and told her she HAD to get a note from her doctor clearing her to work or else she could not come back. Sadly, she never came back to work – she went right from that meeting with the bosses to her doctor’s office, who immediately sent her to the emergency room. She had a very aggressive form of lung cancer. She died within a few weeks. We never saw her again.

    All this to say, I think OP should gently urge Matt to officially retire. Perhaps provide some severance and allow him to keep his health insurance for a month or two, etc. It’s what’s best for the other staff members. Watching your coworker die is very difficult.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      It seems a bit much, even if gentle, to urge Matt to retire if the rationale is “what’s best for the other staff members” because of their feelings about how Matt is dying. It’s Matt I’m concerned about.

      A conversation with Matt is definitely in order to sort out what he feels capable of on the good days, and whether he’d prefer to be working on a reduced schedule (maybe just afternoons?), or go on some disability leave. He could have a conversation with his doctor and with Jane to sort out what would make sense. And the company could keep him “on the books” in whatever capacity they’re able to — partial wages, continued healthcare etc.

      1. faintofheartt*

        I think my situation is influencing my response, and probably to an inappropriate degree. Of course how the staff feels is not the most important thing here. I think OP should work with Matt and together come up with a solution that works for all parties, whether that’s disability leave, part-time hours, or full retirement. In my situation, I think my bosses should have had the conversation with my coworker earlier than they did. I love the idea some commenters have suggested of having Matt call in “well” each morning he is able to work!

        1. Former Gremlin Herder*

          (I didn’t see this comment before I left mine below-it totally makes sense that your expereince is influencing your reaction-not trying to dogpile, I promise. I also really like the “calling in well” suggesiton above.)

        2. ScruffyInternHerder*

          I completely understand the “influencing my response” aspect of your post, and I have extreme sympathy here. You’re correct. It absolutely sucks, and I’m sorry for your loss.

          I love the call in well solution too!

      2. Le Sigh*

        My company did this for a coworker who had been with the firm for years. She really couldn’t work anymore but they made sure she could keep her insurance and stay at home/the hospital and focus on her care. Sadly, she passed away, but I’m glad the execs did the right thing.

    2. Prefer my pets*

      Welcome to America, where even if you want to retire/quit to deal with medical issues you absolutely can’t because health insurance is through employers.

      1. Dixie*

        My thoughts exactly. It sounds like the woman with cancer above was possibly only staying on because she hadn’t hit Medicare age yet. Devastating.

        If I had my way, I’d let Matt retire and pay for his health insurance for as long as he needed it.

    3. Kim*

      No one should be forced to retire (“with PERHAPS some severance and a month of health insurance”!!) because another employee is uncomfortable seeing a person with a serious illness. There are other alternatives such as partial or full disability. Moreover, the employee may still recover . Preserving as much of a normal routine as possible for seriously ill people is what most medical professionals would advise, and most organizations will do what’s best for that employee.

      1. faintofheartt*

        As a young professional I’m still learning how the working world works, so I appreciate you setting me straight. It was pretty traumatic to watch a coworker die before my eyes; I literally never considered that could happen. I certainly dont want anyone to think I’m saying Matt should be FORCED to retire (I dont want anyone to be FORCED to retire!) A gentle conversation between Matt and OP needs to be had, with the goal to make it work for both of them.

        1. CCC*

          Hi, I posted my reply below before reading this. I have a lot of compassion for you; it’s really hard to see death up close like that for the first time. Wrestling with mortality is something that humans have been trying to do for as long as we’ve been around. To make matters worse, we don’t often see illness/death until it’s someone close to us– death is usually behind closed doors. If it’s a year out and you are still feeling traumatized, or if the idea of seeing another coworker get sick leaves you with a lot of dread, please consider some counseling. Even if you were not close to this person, grief counseling would be completely appropriate.

    4. Former Gremlin Herder*

      That’s an awful sitation, faintofheartt, and I can’t imagine how hard that must have been for everyone. But that being said, to suggest anything beyond a leave of absence seems to be overstepping for the manager in question; I agree with Aspiring Chicken Lady that it’s a decision Matt would need to make in conjunction with his doctor, and it shouldn’t be based on the effect it’s having on co-workers (if it’s having any-beyond the coverage issues, which do need to be addressed, it does seem that Matt is getting medical care and support in a way your co-worker wasn’t.)

    5. Ginger Baker*

      Or, y’know, you don’t do that? I hear that you had an egregious situation with your coworker, and I understand that must have been terrible, but as someone whose mother is – while often having Bad Days and definitely in much worse off shape than pre-cancer – still definitely alive a number of years after cancer treatment and who would not take kindly to being let go for health issues (which…can happen at any age? and can be ongoing and sometimes debilitating without, y’know, being an immediate death sentence??), I am pretty appalled at this comment.

    6. Aggresuko*

      Matt probably needs to keep working as long as he can so he has health insurance, even though it sounds like if we lived in a sane world, he needs to not be working.

      I used to have a coworker–a manager–who was sick EVERY SINGLE first day of the week without exception. When she went on vacation, she’d be out just as long being sick as she was out on vacation. A lot of stuff did not get done because she was always ill. There’s nothing you can do about that, though–eventually she just quit on her own, presumably in some kind of “medical retirement” sort of way, I think.

    7. MistOrMister*

      I think the manager is currently doong the compassionate thing by Matt. Encouraging someone in the US to retire with one or two month’s insurance is pretty horrendous if the person needs the job for insurance. I havent looked into it lately, but the last time I did look insurance was about $800 a month for something decent. So many people absolutely would not be able to afford that. I realize that watching someone waste away must be awful, but to push someone out so others don’t have to see them being ill is not particularly a kindness to anyone. People with cancer or other illnesses should not have to be forced into the darkness so healthy people don’t feel bad. I’ve had a few coworkers die. Some suddenly and some from a more drawn out cancer. One lady had been out for a while then came back to work for a bit and I think a lot of people were thrilled to have her back for as long as they did (she wasn’t in my department and I was new when she came back so I wasn’t seeing everything up close, but from what I did see, people had missed her and were happy to see her again). At some point she left the office again and didn’t come back and died a bit later. I really don’t think it would have gone over well if she had been phased out so no one had to see her sick. It is inevitable that some people will get sick and the best we can do is treat them with compassion and respect.

    8. CCC*

      Yes, watching your coworker die is very difficult. But this take is really problematic. First, it is way harder to be dying than to watch someone do it. Matt has been cleared to go back to work as he is able. You currently have to be 65 to get Medicare, and you have to be 70 for full social security benefits. So there’s the financial aspects to be considered here. A month or two of health insurance is not going to cut it.

      Second, people who are terminally ill are still alive. Many do not wish to be treated as if they are on death’s door, particularly if they aren’t. Dying people often find fulfillment from work, just like anyone else. Particularly for some illnesses, people can live for a long time after diagnosis. Cancer is a great example– for some cancers there are maintenance medications that keep it at bay, and one might have to do chemo or other treatments periodically. My mother lived with metastatic breast cancer for 10 years, finally passing in her mid 50s. Should her employer told her to retire 1 year in because it was too uncomfortable for her coworkers?

      Again, I acknowledge that seeing someone be sick is difficult. It is a reminder of mortality and that everyone we know will die. Our culture keeps us sheltered from illness and death in many ways, so this is really uncomfortable especially if it isn’t something you’ve seen and come to terms with already. But millions of people die before they hit retirement age; it’s just part of life. Watching someone die is something you will see again, either at work or in your personal life. Grief and being upset about that is normal and okay, but please question the concept that it’s better to prioritize the grief of colleagues over the choices and life of the person who is dying.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      Right? Also, just so no one gets confused we are two different Jennifers (hence my last name).

  13. DrMrsC*

    Our department has multiple repeat names. If it is not easily clear which person we are referring to, then we tend to add what part of the organization they are in. For example, “Pool Nate or Therapist Nate”, “Office Carrie or Clinical Carrie”. Once in a while one of our customers/patients will be unclear of which person they talked to on the phone, but asking a couple of clarifying questions is far from what I would consider a workplace nightmare.

    1. Lina*

      Yep, we have (my office’s) Chris and (other department’s) Chris. They have the same last name so we can’t use that to differentiate, AND they are both the organizational equivalent of a household name, as in most people know them by name and many people in leadership work with both of them. And they work together a lot. Somehow we all make it work, and I know they have a system for resolving email errors (forward the message to the right Chris, the right Chris responds after removing the wrong one from the cc chain…)

  14. Panhandlerann*

    I have an extremely common first name and used to have an extremely common last name as well. I’d imagine that at any sizable workplace, there’d have been at least one more person with my first name, and at least one more person with my last name. What in the world would OP think I should be called?

    1. Esmeralda*

      Yeah, that OP is very … possessive of their name.

      I worked in a place where someone hired around the same time I was hired had the same first name, same middle initial, and similar sounding last name (think, Angela P Jones and Angela P Johnson).

      Nobody ever mixed us up. Even though we were both 20-something white women of similar height and build.

      Pretty sure folks distinguished us a Nice Angela and Smart-Ass Angela (that would be me).

    2. Hit my head Glass Ceiling*

      A former company followed the firstname.lastname email address convention, and there were two employees with the same name. One had to be Will.Hawkins and one was William.Hawkins (not real name). Problem was that the one would not forward or reply to emails sent to him by mistake.

  15. Prefer my pets*

    Logically I know that the answer to the references question is correct but gah! I hate it! I’ve had 2 supervisors in my career who simply never, ever, EVER gave a positive reference to someone who was leaving. One of them it took me awhile to figure out he was why I kept making the final two or three and then getting rejected…I owe a great debt to the person on that hiring committee who gave me a heads up off the record. (Fed, so current supervisors required generally.) After that, I was able to talk to hiring officials & give them a heads up about that person and offer multiple additional references from that job who could speak to both my work & that manager’s issues. I was offered two jobs within days of each other once I was able to counter his sabotage.

    1. Important Moi*

      Alison didn’t even acknowledge that some managers can indeed be vindictive and no one gets a good reference.

      I think assuming the applicant knew they were going to get a bad reference is off. Who would knowingly ask someone who would give a bad reference to be a reference?

      The betraying of the confidence of a person who gave a bad reference?

      1. Koalafied*

        Who would knowingly ask someone who would give a bad reference to be a reference?

        More people than you’d think! Sometimes they can’t get around it and sometimes they’re just clueless. (We’ve had letters before about people who were on PIPs, not meeting the clearly laid out PIP standards, and then surprised to be fired, for instance.

        The betraying of the confidence of a person who gave a bad reference?

        Yes. People are allowed to give bad references, and references are assumed to be given in confidence whether good or bad.

        1. Veronica*

          Yes I fired a nanny very much for cause (after multiple discussions about the issue) and she asked me for a reference a few months later. I even wrote up a letter explaining the reason she was fired and documentation (I was going to contest unemployment if it came up). I don’t understand her thought process. Did she think I’d forget? She was with us for a year (pandemic nanny, so desperate times) so maybe she was asked for a recent reference, but who would hire a nanny who had a reference say they were fired for cause?
          I had another nanny applicant whose reference was poor. I didn’t tell the nanny why she wasn’t hired. But then… many of my nanny applicants just didn’t have any references at all. Pandemic, again, desperate times.

      2. Environmental Compliance*

        “Who would knowingly ask someone who would give a bad reference to be a reference?”

        A surprisingly large number of people, often who are a little clueless.

        When I was still teaching, I had a *lot* of students ask me to be a reference for them for grad school, internships, etc. I definitely turned down a few of them because…. they did really, really poorly in class, were incredibly unreliable, had flagrant plagiarism, and the student would tell me directly that “I could speak to their professionalism and punctuality” from the class they took with me. Uh, no?

        I would tell them no, I couldn’t, and this is why (in a tactful manner), but I could tell some of them just didn’t quite understand. A couple wrote me down anyway and I got the call.

        1. Rara Avis*

          I had a reference request from the mother of a boy who failed my class. (Middle school
          Summer program, so parental involvement is not so much of a red flag.). I told her to ask any other teacher. (He was doing fine in other classes — just didn’t care for my subject.). She insisted. I wrote an honest recommendation. Never did hear if he got into his program.

    2. Esmeralda*

      Some years ago I had a friend who was applying for tenure track academic positions. Could not get past the interview. They finally asked if I would request their dossier and see if they needed a different reference letter.

      I was working at a university so I did that, but told my friend I could not give any specifics, just, should they keep letters in their dossier or have them taken out, since the letters were written in confidence.

      I had to tell my friend that the letter from their favorite professor had to go… basically it damned my friend with faint praise. Did not give my friend any details. But they were very very hurt. I’m sure it affected the relationship, but my friend was not going to get a job with that letter haunting their efforts.

      1. Esmeralda*

        Similarly, when I was in grad school, we had a prof in charge of shepherding us thru the job search. They requested everyone’s dossier, reviewed the materials, and then went to profs who’d written crap letters and told them to rewrite them.

        Shepherd Prof was powerful enough to get away with this. All crap letters were rewritten per Shepherd Prof’s standards.

    3. Victoria*

      I’ve worked at a place that gave a bad reference to anyone that was job hunting while they still worked there. Like I should have loyalty to a place that pays me $8.50 an hour.

      That place was a bank.

      All of the tellers made a deal to be each other’s reference for that job. Instead of giving the manager’s phone number, we gave a co-worker.

    4. Antilles*

      I really struggle with the answer to that question.
      On one hand, it’s fair for the reference to expect some confidentiality because the whole point of the process is to get an honest evaluation; if that’s not happening everybody might as well save a few minutes by not even bothering.
      But on the other hand, for the candidate, how would you know if someone is saying something bad? I presume in most cases, the candidate doesn’t realize someone is being negative or you would have found someone different.
      Personally, how I’ve generally handled getting negative information from reference checks is to generically ask the candidate about “I heard some reservations about your ability to complete projects” (or whatever) without getting too specific. This doesn’t betray the confidence but also gives the candidate a chance to respond to what may be unfair criticism or perhaps to explain that they recognize that flaw and fix it by X.

      1. PB Bunny Watson*

        I’m conflicted to. Honestly, I get the confidentiality, but I also think references should have the integrity to be okay with the nature of the reference being shared. Sure, it’s awkward, but this should be a natural follow up to a request to be a reference. If the reference didn’t ask and then confronts you, just say, “I would have told you to find another reference.” To me, there are too many opportunities for people to sabotage another person over personal reasons. I mean, we see that all the time in these questions.

  16. SZ*

    I frown whenever I read about a reference stating unpleasant things when asked to refer a candidate. Yes, those topics may be factual, but if a reference was actually asked ahead of time to be listed as a reference, it’s a total cop-out to not tell the individual you can’t be comfortable being a reference.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I think that mostly the person hasn’t asked. I once got a call asking about my former child-minder… when I hadn’t yet given birth to my first child. Turned out it was the sister of a friend who’d put my name down. I had met her precisely once, without talking at all with her because there was no common language. She had tried to hit on my partner despite seeing that I was heavily pregnant that evening. I wasn’t going to be doing her any favours!

  17. Zan Shin*

    I was brought on some years ago to a place where the very longtime office manager was Zan Shin. In the office I always referred to her as Original Zan Shin and me as New Zan Shin.

  18. Katie*

    It is much easier to go by the person’s actual name. People will not get that confused. I work with tons of name twins. The only time it’s confusing is when you didn’t know that other person existed.

    1. KCMC*

      Right? We hired a Kelly V. when we already had a Kelly B. and while we occasionally had to clarify which one because of the similar-sounding initials (especially over Zoom or through masks) it was only actually confusing to the people who didn’t know about the new hire and who remembered the other Kelly V. who had transferred out of our department a year earlier. And, even then, the confusion was minor, temporary, easily resolved and definitely not a nightmare.

    2. MistOrMister*

      Heh. This reminds me of the OP who thought they had two separate coworkers and finally found out that “Joe-a-kwin” and “Wakeen” were both the same person (Joaquin) and no one had bothered correcting them. I cannot help but chuckle over that one every time.

  19. Lizianna*

    As an Elizabeth born in the 1980s, it’s really not an issue. People figure it out pretty quickly. I have had a couple of calls where a person thought they were calling my employee, and it took a few minutes to figure out (this woman was INSISTING we’d met at a meeting a few weeks ago that I had zero memory of attending and I was starting to question my own sanity), but for the most part, it’s fine.

  20. Anya the Demon*

    Could you try having Matt call in “well” on the days he IS coming in? Then if you don’t get a call, you know he’s not coming?

    1. Amtelope*

      This was my thought as well. Have him call/text/email as he’s leaving for work. Not hearing from him by a certain time counts as “calling in sick.”

  21. Hornswoggler*

    On the references thing, I recently had an employer do this (I was working as a contractor). She sat me down and said my references were brilliant but she wanted to give me feedback – I think she said it was with the referee’s permission. The feedback was that my work was great but I wasn’t so fab at meeting the deadline for the final report. It was actually really useful to be picked up on that before we started – the employer emphasised that a tkmely end to the project was highly desirable and I worked with that in mind.

    Then Covid came and wrecked it all, but hey.

  22. JelloStapler*

    We have umpteen Jennifer/Jenns at my organization and people do not seem to have trouble with it.

  23. Casey*

    As someone who has FOUR PEOPLE with essentially the same name on our 14 person team… don’t worry about it. People catch on, a slightly chaotic array of nicknames naturally spring up, emails get forwarded, life goes on.

  24. kiki*

    I’m a Kara and maybe the issue the LW is having is that this has never come up for them before? My name is just unique enough that everybody knows a Kara but it’s not often that we work together or are in the same friend group. BUT it’s a really normal thing that folks with more common names have to deal with all the time. It really doesn’t need to be managed that closely– folks figure it out. I once worked somewhere with three Jake Andersons. It honestly rarely caused an issue, even with the same first and last name.

    1. Might Be Spam*

      Most people adjust quickly because they are more experienced with others having the same or similar names.
      My name is unusual enough that I was startled when someone else’s name even just rhymed with it. It took a couple of weeks to train myself not to react to her name. Sometimes it still takes a second to realize which one of us is being referred to, but it’s getting easier.

      1. EchoGirl*

        Yeah, I think the one thing people with common names don’t always realize is that it *is* a little bit different when it’s not something you encounter on a regular basis. When you’re a Jennifer or a Sarah or a Mike (all names mentioned in the comments on this post), you get used to not being the only Jennifer or Sarah or Mike in many spaces and that’s the framework you go through life with. But when you have an uncommon name, the framework you get used to is that any time anyone says your name, they’re referring to you, it definitely takes a little getting used to when all of a sudden that’s not the case. There was one time I ran across an episode of a TV series where a one-off character had my name (only time it’s ever happened), and the first time I saw it, I had more than one reaction of “wuh-what?” I KNEW this show wasn’t talking about me but it was just so strange.

        Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely think OP’s in the wrong here — the other Kara has just as much right to use the name as she does, so it’s going to be something that OP has to get used to. But I think a lot of the comments along the lines of “I have a really common name and it’s always been totally fine” don’t really account for how much more disconcerting it can be when it’s quite possibly the first time in your life that that’s happened. (To be clear, I understand those references in the sense of of “other people are not going to be hopelessly confused by two people with the same name”; I’m referring specifically to those who can’t understand why OP would even care.)

  25. Oat Milk Market*

    Ugh. I wish that the advice for LW 4 was to tell the candidate about their negative reference. Bummer.

  26. JenniferAlys*

    Kara sounds like she has some control issues. Chill. This is not a problem.

    Signed, Jennifer.

  27. Lenora Rose*

    Re Same Names.

    Now I’m Having flashbacks to introducing someone around a group. “Well, the men are easy. That’s Dave, Dave, David, Dave, and Wakeen.”

    At least the newcomer was Fred.

  28. Bethie*

    I just want to add that in an office of less than 30 people, at one point we had 2 Renee’s, 2 Susan’s, and 2 Jennifers. Im a Renee and until I came to work for the government had not met another Renee. You cant throw a stick without hitting a Renee in my state government! But we all manage just fine :)

  29. Rich*

    I worked for years in an office with fewer than 100 people, and 7 of us were named Richard — 4 in the same department. This is a 0% problem.

  30. Karia*

    If a person has two good references and one bad, consider that the role might just have been a bad fit, or that the manager was the issue.

  31. Leela*

    OP #2 wait if i’m reading this right you had a conversation with her about how it would be confusing and she agreed to go by miller…in the *interview*?

    The pressure to concede must have been enormous. I really don’t think it’s going to be such an issue but it’s not reasonable to expect someone else to go by a different name than their own because it’s also what you are named. People might get confused but that happens anyway (I have a non-standard spelling, think something like Tarah versus Tara, and even though it’s correct in my e-mail and signature people who have worked with me for years still don’t get it right. People just get these things wrong) but that’s not her responsibility to fix that for you. If you’re so worried about it, honestly you should go by your last name then, regardless of what was agreed to. It’s a very weird thing to have discussed as an interviewee, having no idea if not doing so could tank their candidacy. I’m not surprised at all she’s been introducing herself to people with her own name instead of one you wished she’d use!

    1. Chris*


      The power dynamics during an interview are often so skewed in favor of the company I don’t think it’s a good place to get any sort of agreement like this from a job seeker. Lay out the requirements of the job, sure. But it’s not the place to ask the interviewee to voluntarily consent to something that’s not a reasonable requirement of the job (and LW2 seems to know that making it a requirement wouldn’t have been reasonable).

    2. Office Lobster DJ*

      Agreed about the pressure during the interview. What else could she have said?

      I also think I’m intuiting “go by Miller” differently. If I were NewKara, I would have took the idea to mean that in meetings or places it would be immediately confusing, I’m fine being called Miller….not a complete erasure of my first name forevermore, ala Rumpelstiltskin.

      So, honestly, if I were OP, I don’t even think I’d bring it up again. If the need to clarify comes up, you can refer to her as Miller, but accept that she’ll go by her name otherwise. Exception: If this is a setting where people are getting paged overhead or something and it’s causing the wrong one of you to come running, that’s a different matter.

  32. Mrs. Hawiggins*

    We have two Mrs. Hawiggins at my place (our first names that is). The team has taken to calling me Original Mrs. Hawiggins, and my coworker Additional Mrs. Hawiggins. We are a close knit team, so you can imagine my surprise when they referred to us that way at the board meeting now the board members are doing it… I’ve suggested a picture day with all of us around here who have the same first name, because at my last count I think we have 5 Steves.

  33. BA*

    Kara is worrying over nothing. While not work, similar situation: My school was small. In my class, 18% of the students were either named Jason, Chris or Aaron. Never was an issue. I don’t think anyone ever mistook one Jason, Aaron or Chris for another. It feels like LW wants it to be, or worries that any potential confusion might undermine their position within the company, but this will never, and I mean EVER be an issue.

  34. All the words*

    I shared a first name with plenty of girls in my grade throughout my school years. It was fine. There were also lots of Marks, Deans, Scotts & Kevins, Karens, Julies, etc.

    Letter writer, please back way off on pushing a person to stop using their preferred name. Tacking on a last name or last initial will be adequate to differentiate you. I’d be fairly offended if someone made this ask of me. Her first name is every bit as much hers to use as yours is.

  35. Elizabeth West*

    #3—Is this LinkedIn? The Apply button sometimes goes to the company’s application platform but sometimes through LinkedIn itself. I don’t know if there’s a way to specify when you set it up; I’ve never used it except as an applicant.

    One thing I’ve seen in some posts is where they say “Apply by sending a resume and cover letter to fergus @ jobthingy.com” or “Do not apply through this listing; go to companyname.com/careerportal/application.” If you want candidates to do that, you can put that at the top of the job post so it’s hard to miss. I know they SHOULD be reading all the way down, but sometimes they don’t.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      If reading all the way down is important in a job, it would be a great way to filter out those who don’t!
      A contractor once didn’t bother to read the entire PO he was sent, and the last line read “please only translate the parts highlighted in yellow”. There were maybe five paragraphs highlighted in a ten-page document. He was very upset when he realised he wouldn’t be paid for the rest of the document, which had probably taken the best part of a week.
      The boss just said, well sucks to be him, surely translators know the importance of reading an entire document.
      Then she decided to conduct a little test. For the whole of November and December, the last line of all POs was “call us to receive a bottle of champagne”. Of several hundred POs, only two people actually called.
      (Some may have read it and decided it was a mistake, since it wasn’t exactly in character for the boss to be handing out bottles of champagne, others may not have wanted a bottle of champagne, but 100% of contractors were able to read and understand the instruction.)

  36. Alexandrine*

    Lol I looked myself up on this and there are “one or fewer” people in the US with my first and last name combo. Thanks for the chuckle.

  37. The Impossible Girl*

    LW would hate my company – I counted 15 people with the same first AND last name before I stopped; there are 2 different names (at least) that 3 people share, and 6 (!) people share the same first and last name.

  38. Leah K.*

    I was once on a work call where we had a John, another John, Jon, and Jonathan. Somehow we powered through. Asking someone to go by their last name because you think that having two people in the same office with the same first name is somehow going to cause confusion is a bit… “precious”.

  39. J*

    I worked at a place with 20 people. There were 2 Marys, 2 Jamies and a James, a Hannah and an Anna and an Ellen and a Ellie. We did have to forward email to the other person a lot, but mostly we just laughed about it.

  40. GG Fluke*

    I wonder if that social media job posting slip-up was on Facebook. I’ve run into this problem multiple times, where you make a Facebook post with a link to the job posting on Indeed or your website, and Facebook sees that you wrote something like “We are hiring!” and automatically turns the post into a job application. You have to manually change it back to a regular post. It’s one of those features that is supposed to make you work smarter but it just makes things…harder. Although I do love the idea of apps being more accessible, if the poster doesn’t know how the system works, that’s no good!

  41. Laney Boggs*

    God, #3 is my nightmare. If it’s a job I’m really really interested in (based on the posting) I’ll try to google it to see if I can find a direct link instead of Indeed/LinkedIn/etc. But now I wonder how many jobs I may have missed due to this exact thing…

    Also, one time, I was on a job site and it had no fewer than **three** “Apply here” buttons, all leading to different parts of the internet. I just didn’t bother.

    1. Filosofickle*

      Yeah, I posted above about this. Now I know it’s best to track down the actual company’s portal, but I didn’t know that early enough and probably lost out on a number of opportunities because I trusted the “apply now” button.

  42. Raspin*

    My real name is Jennifer Smith. After 25 years of grown-up jobs, I started one 5 months ago where I am finally the only Jennifer Smith. At the last job, both of us used the same diminutive and I’m still pissed that she got it in outlook before I did, but that happened after her outlook information was copied into mine somehow and I was getting all of her emails, even though the name was hers. Good times.

    I also didn’t mind getting called by my last name, because even if it had been more unusual I still would have the joy have being a Jennifer.

    1. Aggresuko*

      You have my sympathies.

      Have you heard of the author Jennifer Crusie? In real life, she’s a Smith.

    2. Hermione Granger's muggle cousin*

      I can relate!! My real name before I got married was Katherine Jones. I went to high school with another Katherine Jones and we both went by the same shortened version of Katherine. I have also worked in the same company as another Katherine Jones. I changed my last name when I got married, but for a while there I always was connected at work or school to someone sharing my first and/or last name.

  43. MonkeyPrincess*

    I feel like the first letter writer must be in their 20s, because anyone over 35 had 4 Jennifers, 3 Amys, and 6 Bobbys in every class they were ever in. ;) It wasn’t until the 90s that the backlash to that started.

    1. Aggresuko*

      They probably also had access to the Internet to check the most popular baby names. Not that I’m going to reproduce, but I’d avoid any names in the top 50 if it was me!

    2. Anon for this*

      Yes. In the 90’s it became three Aidans, two Tiffanys, Ashely, Ashlee and Ashlie.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      I have a college friend whose name is–we’ll say it’s Jennifer Michelle. Like, her parents picked the two most popular names the year she was born so she couldn’t even go by a middle name.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      The rate of duplicate names is still high period only the names have been changed.
      My teenager is solidly GenZ… around 2011, there were so many Jayden variations they ran out of nicknames. Also quite a few kids named Emma, Olivia, and Sofia.

  44. TR1211*

    I used to work at a day care and 1 room (out of 5) had 3 teachers named Ann. You know what we did? We called them Ann J, Ann B, & Ann W.

    We got by just fine doing that.

  45. GreenDoor*

    For the sick employee, I would suggest, if it would work for your team, to make sure other people are cross-trained on all of the deadline/mission-critical work that the sick employee does. That way, if he has an unreported absence, you’ve got someone else on the team that is trained to pick up any “must be done ASAP” type of work. I’m a big fan of cross training for just this type of scenario, but even in work areas where you don’t have a chronically ill staff member it’s a smart idea. The proverbial “anyone can step out and get hit by a bus….” theory.

  46. Dinwar*

    My first and last name are family traditions–my father, grandfather, son, and I all share it. Asking us to go by our last names would be an exercise in futility. Our wives love it. They yell one name and three people (my grandparents have passed away) dive for cover!

    More generally: Names are powerful. We tie our identity, our sense of self, to those names. Asking someone to go by something different merely because it’s convenient for you is to demand they abdicate their self in a very real way. It was a literal tool of oppression for centuries–for example, with Native Americans up until very recently. It’s also used for religious or cultural reasons–the Roman Catholics take a new name during Confirmation, some Pagan/Wiccan groups take a new name during initiations, and the SCA (Medieval Re-enactment group) members adopt new names to fit their chosen time periods. The reason is that names have long been acknowledged as a powerful psychological force.

    Asking someone to give up a major part of what makes them them, merely for a job, is absurd. It’s frankly an egregious abuse of power.

    1. Nameless in Customer Service*

      Well and beautifully put, and I love the image of GENERATIONS of Dinwars hiding when you hear the angry holler!

  47. Delta Delta*

    I share a name with one of the most well-known people on this planet. No one’s ever gotten us confused. And because that well-known person is pretty awesome, lots of other people also have the same first name. It’s usually easily sorted out.

  48. Policy Wonk*

    Regarding the question about the bad reference, I would ask the candidate if they could provide additional workplace references. We’ve seen too many letters about bosses who tanked opportunities for their employees for me to rely solely on the current manager. (Though OP spoke to the person and likely has a better feel for if the reference was legit – particularly as the reference rang true for the circumstance.)

  49. Serin*

    For LW#1, I wonder if it would be possible to set up a system where he calls in when he WILL be working, and if they don’t get a call from him, they assume he won’t?

  50. Jo April*

    The classic feminist joke in tech that there are “more Daves than women” on a given team comes from the truth. It’s the kind of thing that adult handle without even thinking about it.

  51. beaton2922*

    Weirdly enough, our office’s most common names have been Teresa (at least 6 in my time here) and Jennifer (at one point we had two Jennifers with the same last initial, so the one who was hired later was referred to casually as “Jen 5” – as we had four other Jennifers working there at the time). My name is fairly uncommon, but at different points in time there have been three other women with the same name as me, once even spelled the same way. It might be confusing for some people at first, but people are able to adapt.

    1. Aggresuko*

      Hahahah, sounds like the quaddies in the Vorkosigan Saga books: if you want to reuse a name in their culture, you have to add a number to it, so one character is named Garnet 5.

      We’d have Jennifer 2 Million in this world!

  52. TeacherLady*

    The reference one bothers me. I understand the reasoning for not telling, but I struggled in my first teaching position, due to not being well prepared by my program as well as the principal and VP having very conflicting preferences regarding technology used in lessons (pre covid) and I couldn’t ever seem to please both. I decided it wasn’t a good fit, and wanted to sub and focus on my masters degree, trying to better prepare myself. Both OFFERED to give me references, without my asking first. I used them only to find out later through the grapevine that they’d be giving me poor references, making it extremely difficult to even join sub services(pre sub shortage), I’m very grateful for whoever who decided I should know.

  53. Gali*

    The Matt situation is an easy fix: he has to tell you when he *is* coming to work. Not with a phone call, but with a text/WhatsApp message. Your agreement should be that if Matt doesn’t text you by 7am (or 7:30, or 8:09, or whatever you decide), you know he’s not coming in that day.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Thank you.

      I was thinking along the same lines, but hesitant to type it out. A few posts I thought were innocuous have landed as hot takes lately, leading me to question my judgment.

  54. Dragon*

    A past employer had two employees with the same-sounding name, but spelled differently. (like John Lewis and John Louis)

    When reception had to page either of them, they included the middle initial.

  55. CA PM*

    The bad reference really got to me.

    Years ago I was working on a contract. When the contract ended, I ran into one of my supervisors as I was turning in my equipment. He offered to be a reference. I kept getting rejected in the final stage of the interview process. One of my friends offered to call and check my references. I had two glowing references from former managers, but the manager that explicitly offered to be a reference was giving me a poor reference. Once I stopped using him, I was able to get a job.

    Some people are vindictive and awful. I wish more hiring managers would realize this and stop holding bad references against candidates.

  56. EvilQueenRegina*

    I remember the original name letter, and the OP came into the comments and clarified that the reason behind the request in the first place was that people who needed to call “Kara Miller” were likely to be calling about life or death situations, and OP was concerned about people misdirecting genuine emergency calls to her instead of the new Kara. I didn’t comment at the time, but thought that if misdirected calls were a problem, could they not train the call handlers that “Calls about X go to Kara Miller, calls about Y go to Kara Danvers” rather than forcing the new Kara to go by Miller?

    I was one of five with my name in my year at secondary school, one of whom was another Firstname Middlename who had gone all through primary school with me as well, so I got used to being “Regina M.” (not the actual name, but for the purposes of the comment, going with my regular pseudonym). More recently I’ve had a job handling calls for children’s social worker, and there was a time when two of the social workers were also “Regina.” It was easy enough to explain to people that we had three Reginas and confirm whether they were calling for Regina Mills, Regina Phalange or Regina George, and if for any reason anyone wasn’t sure, a bit of questioning about the context usually made it possible to figure out.

    While I never had any problem with “Regina M.”, I would not have been okay with going by “Mills”. My actual last name is one that I’ve never liked, but often get called by mistake because it’s spelled the same as, although pronounced differently from, a common first name. There’s reasons why I would not be happy to go by it at work, and if I was the employee, frankly I’d have tried to suggest any alternative but that. This employee should be able to decide for herself what she wants to be called at work.

  57. raida7*

    I would talk with the daughter about what are the barriers to her calling you *for her Dad*.
    She’s not calling *for you* because she doesn’t work for you, so the task is in service to helping her Dad.

    My first thought is “Why is she calling?” Surely this one employee’s daughter can utilise a text message to you, a different rule I’d expect to other staff needing days off for illness.
    Aim for the least effort approach to try and get a high level of confidence that you’ll get *something* to let you know he’s not coming in – a saved text message template of “John ill, can’t come in today” which she can send you in a few seconds perhaps

  58. Gray Lady*

    I wonder if with #2, when new Kara agreed to “go by her last name,” she was thinking that LW meant “Kara Miller,” not just “Miller.” If the workplace culture isn’t to normally call people by last names only, using just “Miller” might feel odd and not what she would have understood LW to mean. Now LW is bothered by her even using “Kara” at all, because she perceives that as confusing.

    But it’s not. If it becomes workplace practice to refer to LW as Kara and new Kara as Kara Miller, that will be easy enough for people to pick up on.

  59. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk-ox*

    My first name was popular for exactly one year and that has resulted in my company hiring 8 people with the same name. Did I just get an email intended for a different person this morning? Yes. Did I simply respond with something like, “Was this intended for another Musk Ox? It doesn’t seem like something intended for me.” because it’s seriously not that big of a deal? Yes.

    I understand I don’t report to someone with my name, but I have worked with some of them in the past. I also work pretty closely with two guys with the same first name. Everyone just says “John Russell.” or “John Lewis” to indicate who they’re talking about. (In case there is any doubt, those are just example names.) It’s far from a nightmare; it’s really just a normal part of having the same name as someone else.

    I will admit I did briefly consider going by a shortened version of my middle name professionally for a time, but I quickly got over it. It’s really not that big of a deal. As long as people know there are two Karas, they’ll figure out how to differentiate between you.

  60. Lizzo*

    For #2, I can’t be the only one who reads “Miller” in the voice of David Tennant as Detective Inspector Alec Hardy…right?

  61. mikeyc*

    I appreciate that the employee in LW#1 might really want to come to work when he can but it seems insane to me that if he’s that ill he’s not off on long-term sick? Would that not be better for everyone long term? Is this an america thing?

    1. gmg22*

      “Is this an America thing” — unfortunately I’d say yes, for several reasons:

      1) As other comments have mentioned above, Matt may be afraid of losing his health insurance.
      2) The process of going on long-term disability here can put a person through the wringer.
      3) US toxic work ethic leads to some strange psychology; people absolutely use work as a main source of self-esteem and feel incredible guilt when they can’t work. My family experience is emblematic of how extreme this can get: I have a relative who returned to a fast-paced office job with a serious heart condition, strictly against doctor’s orders. That same relative, when her stepbrother not long after that had to stop working because of a cancer diagnosis, went so far as to ACCUSE HIM OF FAKING IT (because she couldn’t possibly believe he could be too sick to work — even as he was having repeated seizures).

  62. Sarah*

    All I have to say to LW#2 is that I was born in the 1980s and my first name is Sarah. It is a CONSTANT part of my work life that there is another Sara(h) somewhere that I work with.

    And you know what? It is a pain (once there were two of us with the same last initial!). But no one has ever asked me to go by my last name. Just as Alison said, we use initials or full names and it’s fine. In fact, the most annoying part is when people feel the need to comment on the number of Sara(h)s involved!

    Using someone’s name is the most basic form of acknowledging their humanity. It’s ridiculous to ask someone to change theirs.

    1. Sarah*

      Oh, and I just remembered two other examples of potential name confusion and how they were dealt with:

      Two doctors at a small hospital:
      Lucas P. Stein
      Lucas S. Stein

      The solution here was that they adjusted their names in Outlook to read:
      Lucas P. Stein – [SPECIALTY A]
      Lucas S. Stein – [SPECIALTY B]

      At my current employer (45K+ employees)
      Timothy J. (goes by TJ) O’Connor – top executive management
      Timothy J. O’Connor – random staff member
      Again, the solution here was in Outlook:
      “TJ O’Connor, [degree]”
      “Timothy O’Connor <–NOT TJ O'Connor"

      (I've changed the actual names.)

  63. Teapotulance*

    My thoughts on the name letter is that maybe New Kara agreed to Miller in professional sense like that’s what their email will be or in the directory or something like that but around the office they can be allowed to tell their coworkers their real actual name to know who they actually are. Putting down the law on them using a pseudonym in all contexts is a little controlling and (I would think) would make the employee feel like they have to hide who they are and feel dis valued.

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