my boss hasn’t talked to me in a year, a coworker named Babe, and more

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

1. My boss hasn’t spoken to me in a year, but quitting feels like letting him win

I am a dept manager at a small nonprofit for a cause I’m passionate about. I report to our exec director. I’ve been here five years. it’s become clear that my boss does not care about our mission and I think he operates unethically. I have pushed back on some things I thought were inappropriate, and our relationship has deteriorated. For the past year, he will not meet with me or reply to emails with more than a yes/no. He sends me messages through other managers or my direct reports. It is unbelievably juvenile and it would be humiliating, except I have a good rapport with my staff and they do not respect my boss. I talked to one member of our board and he indicated they want to keep our director in his role. They seem to turn a blind eye to some of his more unethical practices because he keeps us operating in the black.

I know he is trying to force me out and I would like to leave. I know it would be better for my mental health. This organization is not effective as it could be and I obviously can’t succeed while being frozen out. But walking away feels like letting him win and it makes me so angry! My team does good work with crummy support, and I believe in them. Plus we are kind of a niche field, and I may need to change fields or move cities to find another job. What huge life changes to make because of this person.

Is it crazy to stay and try to make it work, accepting that my boss won’t speak to me and just ignoring it? I think if he wants me to leave he should say that directly, and part of me wants to stay just to spite him. That’s dumb, right?

Well, yeah. You’re prioritizing the principle of the thing over your mental health and quality of life — and your career too, since you can’t thrive in an environment where your boss is freezing you out (more on that here). This guy is a jerk and a terrible manager; who cares if he gets to feel like he “won” somehow? Buying into his worldview like that gives him a ton of power over you career and your happiness.

You lose by staying. You win by choosing a better situation.

2. I want to receive projects by email, not IM

I have a strong preference for receiving written task assignments and requests for work by email. I also have colleagues who prefer to send and receive these through our messaging platform. I’m not anti-platform! I use it cheerfully for many purposes, including answering questions, etc., that can be answered off the top of my head. And if I’m on a call or in person, I take my own action-item notes and that’s fine.

But I have a number of colleagues who like to send full-on requests for work through the platform: multiple paragraphs of instructions, documents that need my review or contribution, complex questions that I’ll have to research to answer, etc. Everyone is very gracious when I ask them to redirect to email (and explain that doing so will make sure the task stays on my radar), but I can’t help wondering if this is reasonable of me. On the one hand, if it only takes a minute to email myself the relevant info and it feels silly to ask other people to change their process to save me a minute. On the other, that minute multiplied by the number of requests does add up, and sending the email in the first place wouldn’t take any longer than sending it through the messaging platform. But is this a changing professional norm that I should be adapting to instead of cheerfully pushing back against?

Possibly relevant: I have a disability that means that I live and die by my organizational systems. I have an established system for managing my work that works really well for my role and for my quirky brain … and that system involves the use of email folders. I’m open to adjusting my systems when better ways present themselves, but I’ve not yet figured out a good way to get what I need from our messaging platform without pulling the assignment out of the platform altogether. So my resistance is coming less from a place of convenience than a place of being significantly more likely to drop a ball if it gets tossed to me via this one particular route.

Possibly also relevant: I’m a program manager and the messaging-based requests mostly come from more junior staff and occasionally from peers; my supervisory chain and most peers tend to share my approach. That said, I’m zero percent interested in inconveniencing junior staff if I’m being a jerk about this!

You’re not being a jerk about it. Every communication platform is good for some things and not for others. Instant messaging is great for quick, real-time questions. It’s not great for more involved things with lots of details that will get buried there. It’s entirely reasonable to say, “Could you please email that to me so I don’t lose these details?” And if you say it enough, over time you’ll likely train people to do it that way in the first place.

If your boss or others above you were doing this, you’d need to be more accommodating — although even then if it were a pattern there would be room for speaking up at some point — but with junior staff and peers, you really don’t need to dance around it.

3. A coworker called Babe

I used “Surprise me!” on your site, and found an old letter where a man who went by King was asked not to use that name on his new job. You said it was ridiculous that the company had asked him to change his name and that people should be called the name that they prefer. I agree but…

When I was a woman in my 20s, I worked on a small team of programmers. The company hired a new employee as our our team leader. His resume said his name was Michael and we called him Michael in his interviews. He did not correct us. I greeted him on his first day, calling him Michael. He immediately said, “I go by Babe.” I misunderstood him and looked a bit puzzled. He said, “You heard me. Call me Babe.” I tried at first, but he turned out to arrogant and unpleasant to women and I had trouble calling him Babe. If I called him Michael, he always said “Call me Babe” with what felt like sexual innuendo. To be fair, he also asked men to call him Babe though I am sure without any sexual undertone. If he had ever said something like, “Babe, you know like Babe Ruth” it could have felt totally different.

At the time, I spoke to other younger women in my office who had the same reaction. We went to our big boss and asked her if we could call him Michael. She said as long as we treated him with respect, we could call him by his real name and didn’t have to use the nickname. So to his face we either avoided calling him anything or called him Michael.

He didn’t last long. His project failed and he was a poor fit for our culture. So he and the problem disappeared. Now I’m wondering. I refused to call him the name he said he had been called all his life. And the company backed me up. What do you think? As the Reddit subgroup says, AITA?

It doesn’t sound like your discomfort was about the nickname specifically, but rather about this guy himself and the way he acted toward women. It’s reasonable to feel uneasy about that!

But people’s names should be respected. There isn’t an exception for “I think he might be doing this to make people uncomfortable” — in large part because it’s very hard to know that for sure, and if you make exceptions based on your personal discomfort or a suspicion, you open the door for people to be disrespectful about names that are really just people’s names. (The fact that he went by Michael in the interview doesn’t really mean anything. It’s not uncommon for people to use their formal, legal names in interviews but go by a nickname once they’re hired.) If you do think someone is messing with you, the best way to handle it is to just use their name flatly and matter-of-factly as requested without protest; if it’s their name you’re being respectful, and if it’s not your non-reaction will take the fun out of it for them.

4. My employee is sick with Covid, but still working from home

I just became a manager a few weeks ago, and one of my team members has Covid. She took most of a week off, but when we checked in the next week, she told me she was working from bed (we’re hybrid but obviously she’s exempt from in-office time right now), and frankly sounded horrible.

I encouraged her to take the time she needs, but she said she was worried about using all of her sick time. I sent her info about our workplace’s short term disability policy, told her to rest during the day as much as she needs to, and we took some things off her plate. Is there anything else I should be doing? Bottom line — I feel horrible that she is working! And angry that all the early-pandemic extra sick leave is gone (but that’s just another aspect of my general rage about everyone deciding that Covid is over).

She shouldn’t be working while she’s sick.

She also has limited sick leave, and an understandable fear of running out of it when she’s still got seven months left in the year.

Telling her “please don’t work; you need to rest” sounds good in theory, but it might be out of touch with the reality of her situation, even though ideally that’s what you’d do. So … can you take the lead on finding other options for her — whether it’s starting the paperwork for short-term disability (with her permission) or speaking with HR about options? In most cases, I’d tell you to also speak up loudly in your organization for better sick leave practices, but since you’re brand new you likely don’t have much capital yet.

5. Application wants me to submit a current pay stub

I was filling out an online job application recently, and the first page asked for file uploads. They had a spot for a resume and a spot where they asked for a current pay stub “to verify employment.” They didn’t have a place for a cover letter, and the rest of the application was essentially re-typing your resume.

Is it normal/legal/at all reasonable for them to request a current pay stub? Aside from the pay equity issues that would arise from them having exact salary information, it would also give them details like what optional medical benefits I’ve elected to pay for, how much sick time I’ve taken so far this year, and how much I contribute to retirement. All of that seems like it could be used against me. I don’t see the benefit or why a potential employer needs to verify that I’m employed now, since having a job isn’t required to get a job. Plus this position requires a government clearance, which you will definitely fail if you’re lying about your employment.

It’s a bizarre thing for them to ask for at this stage, particularly given that they’re not going to need to verify employment for 99% of their candidates (since most people will be rejected before that part of the process) so they’re collecting a huge amount of personal information that they don’t need. It’s not illegal unless they’re in one of the growing number of states that prohibit employers from asking about your salary, but it’s definitely weird and problematic.

However, if you want to move forward and can’t without submitting this, you can redact the private info on your paystub. If they really just want to verify that you’re employed there, they don’t need all the specific numbers on the paystub. Redact all the numbers you don’t want them to see (which might be all of them) and send it that way.

{ 714 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I’ve removed some comments joking around about other unusual names people have encountered. Please be respectful about people’s names here, even if you find them unusual!

  2. Becky*

    #3
    My grandmother’s given name was Miriam but for at least 50 years of her life she was known by her nickname “Honey.” Everyone called her that–coworkers, friends, family, church acquaintances, etc she was even called Honey in her obituary–it just became her name to everyone, not a term of endearment. There is a possibility that “Babe” was playing some weird game but there is also a possibility that it really was the name he was known by. Unusual names can be odd at first, especially ones that have another meaning or interpretation, but I promise you as you use it it becomes normal and not weird at all. It just becomes their name.

    1. Becky*

      Not actually disagreeing with Alison here–he made it more weird because of his attitude and tone, but in other circumstances it could be very normal.

      1. Buu*

        #1 It’s easy to blame toxic staff for forcing you out, but the rest of the company are to blame for indulging him. I would suspect he perpetuates the idea he keeps the company in the black…but is it his job? Toxic people perpetuate the idea they are irreplaceable. In his case if it goes along with bullying and unethical practices are they now worried if they move against him something truly heinous will come out? Ticking time bomb.
        It sucks to leave a job because of bullies. But a truly decent job doesn’t put up with it and you deserve better than this.
        I was in this mindset to stay in a job like this. But something gave and I started to look. Every role I interviewed at was far higher pay and I ended up taking a role two levels of seniority above my current. I’m serving my notice and currently excited to be done. The product at old job could end up massive with big splashy ads, but I’m always going to be underpaid and underapreciated. We’re always going to worry the toxic manager here is going to upend things and I just don’t need it. So satisfying to tell folks I’m going to a way more senior role when the toxic guy has been trying to undermine my basic abilities.

        1. MK*

          It’s also easy to believe that horrible people are incompetent and unqualified and only have their positions due to privilege/networking/etc, but life isn’t a movie. It’s perfectly probable that the toxic mamager is great at fundraising or other aspects of his job amd the company would suffer if he left.

          1. Bri*

            It’s just as likely that he’s terrible at all aspects of his work except convincing the higher-ups he’s not (probably by being friends with them or being the ‘right kind’ of person).
            The type of men who sit on boards have been ignoring bullying, sexual harassment, and all kinds of other unethical practices forever because of those reasons, not because of some hidden competence.
            The calculus is totally off though. He might be keeping things ‘in the black’ but there’s plenty of people who aren’t toxic who could also do that- and it’s unclear how long they’ll be in the black for if the unethical practices come to light and cause reputational damage (deeply connected with financial instability in this sector) or a massive lawsuit comes along related to his -wild! – behavior.
            Or, he just increases turnover to the point where it gets expensive – after all many people who work in non-profits are concerned with operating ethically and aren’t going to be complicit for long with these unethical aspects of his practice and behavior.

            1. Observer*

              he type of men who sit on boards have been ignoring bullying, sexual harassment, and all kinds of other unethical practices forever because of those reasons, not because of some hidden competence.

              That’s often not true. To take a classic case – Harvey Weinstein was GOOD at what he did. He really was the money man. And that’s why he was allowed to get away with what he did. You see this all the time.

              I’m not saying that every abusive, bigoted, terrible human boss is good at what they do. But it is absolutely true that the most common reason they get away with it is because they are actually good at more than kissing up. I’m not saying that it is ALWAYS the case, but I’d be willing to be that a study of this stuff would show that in most (not all) cases a company looking the other way had a legitimate fear that the person leaving would harm the company.

              The calculus is totally off though.

              This, however is true.

              1. Hannah Lee*

                “Harvey Weinstein was GOOD at what he did. He really was the money man. ”

                I’d argue he may have been able to deliver financing, or get projects noticed, or advanced people’s careers BUT … how many projects did he NOT put forward which could have been hugely successful because the person leading it wouldn’t put up with his toxic, illegal behavior? How many incredibly “GOOD at what they do, able to bring in the product and money” people did he drive off with his gross, abusive behavior?

                How many actresses who would have brought in audiences, made studios, projects gobs of money did he blacklist and submarine because they objected to him sexually harassing or assaulting them. (there were articles when charges first started to surface about him that were essential run downs of “whatever happened to …? with talented actress after talented actress whose careers just dried up after a run in with him, newbies as well as actresses whose names you likely know whose careers, opportunities just dried up)

                Essentially, how much BETTER would he have been at his job if he wasn’t also a gross, abusing, vindictive glassbowl? And maybe someone else would have be able to thrive and be successful and bring money-earning projects forward if the industry players didn’t allow him to suck up all the air in the room.

                Just this morning I read an interview with Melanie Lynskey, who started with Kate Winslet (before she was KATE! WINSLET!) in Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures. I’ve heard stories about how HW was incredibly dismissive to her before, basically did not allow her any of the support that KW got in terms of press access, stylists, even conversation … basically “no one wants to talk to you” as the film was getting lots of attention, going to festivals. (It’s not a knock on Winslet, it’s just that the disparity of his treatment of the two costars was OTT)

                “The premiere at the Venice Film Festival was a really amazing night. Kate and I were very emotional. It felt crazy to have a response like that. Heavenly Creatures premiered at the Venice Film Festival, winning the Silver Lion from a jury headed by David Lynch. The movie ended the year on numerous top-ten lists and would go on to receive a nomination for Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars in 1995. People were so into the movie and very kind to us. Harvey Weinstein was so excited to see Kate. He introduced her to people, like, “This is the next big thing.” To me he was just like, “Hi.” It was so dismissive. I was like, I think I did a bad job. I’m not the kind of person these people are looking for.”

                There have been previous interviews where she’s gone into a bit of detail about his dismissiveness of her. I’ve never heard that he sexual harassed her like he did other women in the industry, but his dismissive attitude towards ML undermined her confidence and her career, likely because of his self-serving, predatory and narrow view of what woman were worthy of his time and attention. ML is a fantastic talented actress, incredibly charismatic and moving and funny and deep. And her first time out in the big leagues, with a hugely successful project, HW treated her like ‘less than’, which encouraged other people to treat her as less than, which undermined her confidence in what she could or should do. It took years before she started to get traction again in the industry, and she’s just finally getting the recognition she likely should have gotten years ago.

                That’s just one case, and obviously not his most egregious behavior over the years. But how many experiences are there like hers, how many like the ones we’ve heard of that are much much worse, and how many people (talent, support staff, below the line folks, marketers, investors) Noped Out of projects, the industry as a whole because of him.

                Evaluating HW’s value, his ability to deliver profits while ignoring, not counting the costs of his toxic, abusive behavior is only looking a at tiny slice what he brought to the table. There will ALWAYS be someone else whose NET positive contribution would be more.

                1. Clandestine Timoraetta*

                  My comment seems like such a diversion, but your comment reminds me that people talk about the US Gymnastics issues that “well Martha Karolyi” was so good and that’s why she got away with it and it was worth it to have the girls do so well. But I always think its someone doing well IN SPITE of what they were given. Surely being abused and injured and starved did not actually make them champions – imagine what they could have done without that.

                2. whingedrinking*

                  @Clandestine Timoraetta:
                  My father used to be a gymnast and a coach and still judges competitions now. He’s said that one of the reasons some countries are able to create champions on the world stage has a great deal to do with how relatively disposable athletes are in those countries. In Canada, for example, we don’t have ten thousand potentially world-class gymnasts. If too many people quit or become too injured to compete, we simply won’t be able to show up to the Olympics or the world championships, let alone win medals.
                  In some countries, however, coaches have the latitude to push as hard as they want. If an athlete breaks – literally or figuratively – under the training, oh well, too bad, move on to the next one.

          2. L-squared*

            This is true. I think a lot of people (especially on this sub) love to believe that bad managers are just bad people who have fooled everyone. In reality, that is likely not the case. I’ve had some managers that I hated working for, who, if I’m being honest, were great at the main part of their job, just was someone who probably shouldn’t be in management. But that doesn’t make people feel as good, so its great to just assume that they are incompetant.

            1. Clandestine Timoraetta*

              Same. They actually were a terrible manager, but super technically good. I’m glad now that there are options for very smart and technical people to continue to rise without putting them in charge of others.

          3. grizzly barrister*

            I think “the company will suffer” is honestly too dramatic of an idea and perpetuates this idea both that people should stay in jobs that are toxic for them, and that bad apples are somehow irreplaceable. The company won’t “suffer” as much as it will be lightly inconvenienced with more admin work trying to find a competent replacement. And yes, that person may not be a savant at fundraising or networking or whatever else but “Bill is perfectly competent he’s just not a superstar at [niche thing] like Jim was” isn’t really the company “suffering.”

            1. Buu*

              These are all good points. Tbh he could be great at raising money, but if he’s a jerk he’s not a good manager. A basic function of leadership. He doesn’t need to be likeable at all. I think to clarify raising funds is a function of his job it is expected. He may be perpetuating the idea he is irreplaceable. Its impossible for us to tell from here. I think everyone in the thread has said something plausible. At the end of the day the company is prioritising this guy to the exclusion of all else, including ethics.

              Not something OP can fix and I get why the feeling is, ‘if this one guy was gone it’d all be worth it’. But they could easily hire another one. Having all their eggs in one basket is also bad long term. It’s OK to be annoyed you have to move though. But your career can grow. This guy isn’t making any friends and the company isn’t being run well if one guy is the lynch pin. He could be great and it’d still be bad. What if he got sick? And he hadn’t shared his contacts or built a strong dept. That isn’t competence tbh.

              1. Hannah Lee*

                And while he may be “great” at raising money … how much money is leaving the table because some big donors don’t like his obnoxious behavior? I’ve seen a couple of non-profits burn out because some ‘rock star’ with toxic, jerk behavior was not reigned in because the board didn’t want to put the brakes on their rainmaker.

                1. Hannah Lee*

                  Also, while it can be hard to quantify, organizations should … if bottom line dollars are their top (or only) concern, be sure to look at the *net* impact of an individual.

                  If they are bringing in $250,000 more in revenue every year, which maybe is great, what does their net contribution to the company look like if you factor in:

                  – Recruiting and training cost due to high turnover in position this Rock Star interacts with, and loss of institutional knowledge, SMEs when experienced people have had enough and leave (and while you’ll never know, what valuable talent were you not able to bring on board because of your company’s reputation as a place where Toxic Rock Stars find a safe haven?)

                  – Loss of productivity of in roles, as people waste time with workarounds or fixes for the stuff the Rock Star doesn’t bother doing right, or CYA, avoidance activities to protect themselves from Rock Star blow ups, or redoing work that Rock Star blew up over because it was Tuesday, or their coffee was cold or whatever or reacting to ’emergencies’ that Toxic Rock Star habitually creates or needs appeasing on.
                  – opportunity costs of lost improvement, projects not attempted out of risk avoidance, staying between the lines, flying under the radar to avoid the wrath of Toxic Rock Star, or there just not being any time to consider opportunities because TRS is sucking up all the air in the room.
                  – having to throw money or perks at other employees to keep them from leaving, or at TRS because of whatever
                  – Increased sick pay of other employees due to stress, burn out, mental health needs after working around Toxic Rock Star
                  – Increased medical insurance premiums (if your company’s policy is experienced based) due to chronic or acute illnesses related to stress, burn out, mental health needs from working around Toxic Rock Star

    2. MK*

      That being said, I understand being uncomfortable with calling someone a pet name. However, I don’t think the answer is to change someone else’s name; in similar situations (and frankly when I forgot someone’s name) I got by just fine not using any name at all.

      1. Beth*

        This would be my workaround–it’s remarkably easy to avoid using people’s names 90% of the time, at least when talking to them directly. (And somehow I’d feel less weird about calling a coworker Babe when talking in the third person than when talking to their face; it’s less of a pet name and more of a proper name, when it’s used in third person.)

        Even that is really only OK because he made such a point of making it weird with women specifically. Ordinarily I’d say to think of his name like Babe Ruth or Babe as in the pig from the movie Babe–not liking someone’s name doesn’t justify refusing to use it. But having multiple women feel weird about the *way* he asked to be called Babe makes me think there’s genuinely something going on there, and that the women have legit reason to avoid using it to his face where possible.

        1. Airy*

          I have a feeling I might have automatically responded to his request with “Oh, like the pig!” But then I do already have a tendency to say “That’ll do, pig” (to myself) when I complete a task to my satisfaction.

          1. Michelle*

            I like to say, “Good one, Ellen!” (My name is not Ellen.) It’s something the mom on one of the shows my kids watch says whenever she does something *she* thinks was good, but was actually ridiculous.

          2. Camellia*

            This is a great response! Imagine exclaiming that, and going on to enthusiastically talking about the movie, what the pig did, etc., with lots of exclamations about how cute, and so forth. And then keep talking about it, maybe even going out of your way to call him Babe just so you can talk about the movie again. Wonder how long he would have insisted on that nickname under those circumstances?

            1. MCMonkeyBean*

              I don’t think that would be a good idea, because as Alison said even if he was a creep that is really a separate issue from the name he asks to be called by and making fun of someone’s nickname at work is a jerk move regardless of whether the person you are mocking is a nice person or not. Mocking his name would open the door to mocking other names. Don’t do it.

              1. it's just the frame of mind*

                When you’re on the right side of an issue, seems like there’s often a temptation to do something to put yourself on the wrong side of a different issue…

                1. pancakes*

                  To self-sabotage? That seems like a real problem worth examining, for people who find themselves in a pattern of doing that.

                2. Despachito*

                  This is a great way to put it, and a very slippery slope.

                  I am defending THE RIGHT CAUSE, right? So I am morally entitled to do a thing I’d consider shady had the other side done that to me, right?

                  (No, absolutely not right, and I wish we should not fall for this. Because it changes our position from victims to co-perpetrators, and some time into the conflict it is already difficult to tell who started it. A bit like those bitter divorces.)

              2. Help Us All*

                Nope, not calling some coworker Babe unless I’m in an intimate relationship with him. That’s the problem with this, Babe has sexual connotations and no I’m not comfortable using this name for a random man. I would call him nothing if his government name was not acceptable to him. Nicnames aren’t sacred.

                1. DragoCucina*

                  But, what if that is his legal name? We had the example of King. But, there are other names that could fall into this category.

                2. MCMonkeyBean*

                  Even though it is not really important to the question because at the end of the day it’s his name regardless—I’m really baffled by how many people in this thread are insisting that “babe” is inherently *sexual*

                  Babe may be a common term of endearment, but there is nothing sexual about it. The opposite really since it a shortened form of “baby.” If anything, it’s infantilizing. Lots of people use it to refer to their romantic partners, but lots of people use it to refer to their children or their friends as well! And when people use it as their name it’s far more likely it came from being called that as a child than from being called that in any romantic or sexual way. There is nothing sexual about the name on its own.

                  The only thing making this situation sexual is the way he speaks. That is the real issue and that is what should be dealt with. It has absolutely nothing to do with the name itself.

                3. Certaintroublemaker*

                  I had a great aunt who was known by everyone as Babe since her childhood—it was just her name (even though a nickname). But I have to admit, the letter about a man skeeving out his female workers with it does give it a whole different spin.

                4. AMT*

                  The “Babe” letter gave me the same feeling that people in kink communities do when they insist that people use pronouns like “it” or “sir.” It implies a relationship or hierarchy that does not exist.

                  If I call someone “he,” “she,” “zie,” or “they,” those words do not imply that this person is my partner, superior, inferior, or anything other than an acquaintance. It does not force me to participate in a kink dynamic or other relationship. In contrast, “it” forces me to degrade someone against my wishes, while “sir” forces me to show deference to someone I may not want to defer to. “Babe” — I don’t know what “Babe” does, but it does not sound like a neutral nickname.

                  In the workplace, we’re not obligated to pretend that someone is not deliberately trying to make people uncomfortable when they clearly are. There is no reasonable doubt standard for sexual harassment. That said, if I were to push back against this, I would want to make reasonably sure that this was actually the case rather than a guy who just happened to have an unusual nickname *and* be rude/sexist at the same time. I honestly have no idea how I’d handle it if I encountered this in the wild. It’s extremely context-dependent.

                5. Dahlia*

                  @MCMonkeyBean My mind is breaking over the combination of “inherantly sexual” and “oh like the pig”.

                  I know I’m asexual but I never looked at the pig and thought “Sexy, sexy pig”???

                6. Michelle*

                  Yeah, that would be hard to accept for me. My husband and I call each other ‘babe.’ We use it more often than each other’s names. I’d get over it, but I’d really resent someone insisting everyone call them that.

                7. Beth*

                  My partner and I call each other ‘babe’ as our main name for each other and I still call BS on this. It’s a sexy endearment in some contexts, a romantic/intimate one in others, and an actual name in others. That’s not unusual for names. (Do you also object when someone introduces themselves as Dick?)

                8. nodramalama*

                  I don’t think you can just decide to not call someone by their name because you think it has sexual connotations. It’s their name. There are a lot of names that in English seem weird or uncomfortable to say that are relatively common in other languages, but it would be VERY inappropriate to refuse to say those names.

              3. Beth*

                I don’t think the suggestion here is to mock the name necessarily. “This name reminds me of this character I loved as a child” is not generally mockery–someone with the actual name might get sick of hearing it, but probably wouldn’t find it offensive or mocking. But, a toxic-masculinity-imbued dude who’s trying to get all up on women and force a bunch of them to call him an endearment would probably really not like it! It’s kind of a clever comment, because it would only be offensive to someone who’s using this nickname in a very specific “look how manly I am, I’m getting all the girls calling me ‘babe'” way.

            2. Sus5an*

              I mean, the LW and her co-workers were already on a coordinated bullying campaign, but they should have bullied him harder? Do you hear yourself?

              1. bubbleon*

                I agree that the pig jokes would have been too far, but I don’t know if I’d call using his name a “coordinated bullying campaign”. Inconsiderate, misguided, and wrong, absolutely, but bullying feels like a stretch. I think there’s a level at which intent has to be factored in to consider it bullying and I don’t know if that was the case here.

                1. Sus5an*

                  No, they weren’t using his name, and the LW whipped up her co-workers to pretend it was some righteous cause to refuse to use his preferred name because she didn’t like him. That’s bullying.

                2. bubbleon*

                  We must be reading “At the time, I spoke to other younger women in my office who had the same reaction” very differently, I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one.

        2. GoryDetails*

          I had hoped to see a comment along these lines! I almost never use someone else’s name when speaking TO them, generally just when speaking of them to others, and I wouldn’t have had a problem using “Babe” that way in the workplace – “Yeah, Babe said he was working on that, check with him”. (If he wasn’t being smarmy about it I’d have no trouble saying it to his face, but, seriously, I almost NEVER use people’s names when talking to them – though I seem to recall previous AAM letters in which people reported being miffed because of getting “Hi!” instead of “Hi, YourName!”, so maybe that option wouldn’t work for everyone.)

          Side note: when I saw “Babe” I thought “Ruth”, but I like the Babe-the-pig reference better. I always get a bit teary at “That’ll do, pig…”

          1. nobadcats*

            Huh. When I first read the title, I thought it would be about a woman and immediately Babe Didrikson came to mind.

            1. voluptuousfire*

              I googled her and Babe Didrikson got her nickname because she hit 5 home runs in a little league game, so “like Babe Ruth” would be fitting in her case. :)

          2. allathian*

            Yeah, I agree. I almost never use people’s names when I’m talking to them, unless I’m a part of a larger group and want to specifically ask a particular person what they think. More than that, I find repeated mentions of my name in conversation distracting and unnecessary. It’s simply not a part of the conversational culture here, and it’s really jarring when it’s a CSR on the phone who’s obviously using a script originally intended for an American audience, and that’s been translated but not localized. Localized scripts mention the name at the start to ensure the CSR is talking to the right person, and at the end. Maybe at some point in the middle, if the client is buying what they’re selling, but otherwise probably not. Any more than that would be considered intrusive and overfamiliar by most people.

            In our conversational culture, interrupting someone who’s speaking is considered rude in most circumstances, but so is hogging the conversation. So if someone’s talking for minutes straight and doesn’t seem to want to give anyone else the opportunity to speak, interrupting them is usually acceptable.

            But collaborative listening isn’t really the done thing here. When I lived in France and Spain, it took me a while to get comfortable with interrupting others in conversations, even when I was fluent enough to do so without the conversation grinding to a halt. But once I did, several people told me that “talking to you is just like talking to one of my compatriots,” which I felt was the ultimate compliment. It meant that they didn’t have to adapt their conversation style to talk to me. But both in France and Spain, the most common way of interrupting someone in conversation to show you’re paying attention was to say their name.

        3. Bongofury*

          My step-aunt required everyone to call her Aunt Baby. I hadn’t thought of her in years until I read this post. I can’t even remember her real name, she was always just Aunt Baby. I never thought it was weird until I considered it now, 20 years later.

          1. Clisby*

            It’s like the Jennifer Grey character in “Dirty Dancing” was called Baby. I can’t remember if we ever learned her real name.

            1. Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom*

              Yes, actually she does say what he name is to Johnny. It is Frances.

          2. Rainy*

            I had a Great-Aunt Sis growing up. I don’t even know what her government name was, but given she was my (horribly named) gran’s sister, she probably also had a horrible name. My family on both sides are awful at names, culminating in my sister and I using nicknames because our government names are so hideous.

            1. Trombones Gigantes*

              My grandmother went by Sis too! She had an obscure French name that she hated.

          3. Koalafied*

            As someone in my late 30s, it has always seemed to me like it was much more common for adult professionals born say, pre-1970? to go by nicknames that aren’t derived directly from their own name. My granddad, a Clarence born in the 1920s, went by “Buck.” In my professional life I’ve encountered names like this at work almost exclusively among older men – Dash, Duck, Tiny, Pip.

            In my granddad’s case, there was another Clarence in his family and “Buck” was a childhood nickname that ultimately became functionally his name, and that seems to be the impetus behind a lot of nicknames like that. Which reminds me another one is Tripp or Trey being used for someone who is a Firstname Lastname III!

            I have no data on this, but I’ve idly wondered if the fact it at least seems to have been so much more prevalent a byproduct of parents using a smaller range of standard names and naming children after older family members, vs the more modern age practice is picking unique names, either new to your family or in some cases names that are entirely new to the culture. (I remember one year 3 toddlers in my church’s nursery were all named McKenna… last names as first names was definitely a trend for a while when I was younger, which even though they would often be trendy enough that multiple peers their own age shared the name, you wouldn’t really find any evidence of them being used as first names if you went back 50+ years.)

            1. allathian*

              Maybe not as first names, but using the mother’s unmarried name as a middle name has been common in the US for decades.

              But I do think that the current trend of using fairly unique names for children has meant that more people are either using their full first names, or a shortened version of their full name as a nickname in younger generations.

              In my area there’s also a gender difference, in that the pool of names for boys is typically much smaller than that for girls. When I was a kid, the 10 most popular boys’ names accounted for more than 60 percent of the cohort, and the 20 most popular names for something like 85 percent. The corresponding numbers for girls were around 40 and 70 percent, meaning that more girls were given unique names than boys. My own name’s a big exception, there were 3 other girls with my first name in my class in first grade. Another girl also had the same last name initial, so I switched to using my family nickname at school.

        4. DivineMissL*

          Under the odd situation the OP had with the weird innuendo to women, I’d be likely passive aggressive and to say “Bave” or “Bade” aloud, which sound close to “Babe” without actually saying it.

          1. allathian*

            I suspect that faced with a creep I’d try to have as little to do with him as possible. If I had to address him, I’d do so in writing where it’s not necessary to use names (“Hi” would be fine here).

            If I absolutely had to address him by name, I probably would say something like “Hey Bee”…

        5. Artemesia*

          Giggle. ‘Oh like the pig movie?’ the first time he makes a thing of it. Or ‘Did your Mom call you Babe, like in the pig movie?’ reframe it so he knows you have reframed it and then smile when you use it.

          1. Despachito*

            That would be awful..

            Imagine it done to a non-obtrusive person with a strange name. Or a transgender person because it is strange for a man to have a girly name (or vice versa).

            He is definitely on the wrong side with his harassy behaviour, but mocking his name would put you on the same wrong side with him.

            Call him “Babe” matter-of-factly (I still cannot wrap my head around why it would be so insulting if there was “Babe Ruth” and nobody bats an eye), and address his creepy behaviour instead.

          2. nodramalama*

            I do not think you should openly mock people for their name, no matter how you perceive their attitude when saying it.

        6. Sleeve McQueen*

          I’d probably say it in the voice of Kristen Wiig and Jason Sudeikis in the old Two A-Holes sketches from SNL (or the “take a bullet for you, Babe” line from Ben Shapiros novel that they mock on Behind the Bastards podcast)

      2. Yorick*

        When I was a TA there was a student in the class named Precious. I felt weird calling her that but still did when I needed to call her by name. I often think of students by their last name anyway, because those are a little less likely to blend together in my mind with their classmates or my former students. The (male) professor also felt weird calling her Precious but I asked him, what else could you call her?

        It was different that it was her actual first name. If someone named Mary wanted me to call them Precious, I think I would but it wouldn’t be as easy to get used to.

        1. allathian*

          Precious is the given name of Mma Ramotswe in Alexander McCall’s The Ladies’ Number One Detective Agency series of books.

          1. alienor*

            It’s a super common nickname in the Philippines. Most families seem to have more than one Baby who is a 70+ year old woman.

    3. A non*

      I know someone whose legal name is from their culture, so when studying as an international student in the US they went by Honey. It was very normal, just became their name to those of us who used it!

      1. D*

        A friend had a Chinese exchange student as his roommate his freshman year who just translated the meaning of his Chinese name to English and came up with “Handsome” and asked to be called that.

        1. Michigan mom*

          When we lived in china the man who delivered mail at my husbands office went by Hitler and my Mandarin teacher was named vanilla. My husband had a direct report named Cloud. Handsome seems legit.

            1. NeedRain47*

              I highly recommend reading Trevor Noah’s autobiography, Born a Crime, for a shocking yet hilarious story about a guy named Hitler. (essentially, the parents didn’t know anything about Adolf Hitler other than that he was powerful.)

            2. Barbara Eyiuche*

              When I taught at a university in China, my students chose English names for themselves. One of them chose Hitler. I vetoed it, but to them he was a great leader, someone to admire, like Napoleon or Mao.

            3. whomever*

              “Born A Crime” by Trevor Noah has a section talking about a friend called Hitler, goes into what happened the time Hitler performed for a Jewish School…it is needless to say extremely funny.
              (Noah discusses how for Black South Africans, “Hitler” is sort of a random name because WW2 isn’t really something on their radar)

          1. D*

            I totally see how it happened! It’s not any different than someone translating, say, Gabriel to be “Messenger of God” or whatever in a foreign language instead of using the language’s equivalent (John/Jean/etc.).

            Was still a bit strange for a straight American man to call him that. But he did, because what else was he gonna do?

          2. Aggretsuko*

            Reminds me of reading The Kitchen God’s Wife. The main character’s first husband, Wen Fu, is an asshole. They meet her future second husband, an American guy who is giving people American names. Wen Fu demands a name that nobody else has. The American guy, already smelling a rat, names him Judas.

          3. LunaLena*

            Considering the original Final Fantasy 7 came out in 1997, it’s totally possible that there are people named after the main character in the workforce now.

            It does remind me of an anecdote Bruce Campbell wrote about in his memoir: at an autograph session, a grumpy-looking teen came up, and, as is routine, Campbell asked him for his name. The kid said “Ash,” and Campbell, who had heard this one before, said “haha, very funny. No really kid, what’s your name?” And the kid angrily responded “it’s Ash. My stupid parents named me after your stupid character in your stupid movie.”

        2. I&I*

          ‘Handsome’ doesn’t seem that silly; there are people called Beau and Belle, after all. :-)

      2. BubbleTea*

        I know of people from British, English-speaking families named Tuesday, Summer, Honey, May, Rainbow… I also have a name that is a word. It’s not particularly uncommon!

        1. Dust Bunny*

          I went to school with a Harmony and Burgundy, and we had a client at an old job named Cinnamon. Cinnamon’s last name was another food word, too, which made you do a double-take. I also knew a Cookie years ago but I’m not sure if it was a given name or a nickname.

          1. Ana*

            I grew up with a girl named Tequila and her brother’s name is Romano. They have both had very successful military careers! Had to be so rough for her though!

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              I met a woman who was named “Felony” as a given name. I never asked, but I’m assuming being a kid was rough with teasing. Her nickname was “Lonny”

            2. PattM*

              When I worked in a medical office, we had siblings who were named Whiskey, Tequila and Amerika.

          2. londonedit*

            Bob Geldof and Paula Yates named their children Pixie, Peaches, Fifi Trixibelle and Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily. He now has grandchildren whose names are Phaedra Bloom Forever and Astala Dylan Willow. Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily just goes by Tiger Lily but that’s still an unusual name.

          3. Zephy*

            My best friend worked for a person named Emerald.

            I went to high school with twins named Prince and Princess.

            I know several people who have renamed themselves later in life and chose nouns rather than conventional names.

            1. Jessica Ganschen*

              I’m surprised that nobody has mentioned Dr. Loki Skylizard yet! His parents let him and his sister change their names when they were eight.

            2. whingedrinking*

              An acquaintance of mine has a name that consists of three English words run together (think something like “NotedHollowFirmament”). This name was given to her by her spiritual teacher in the seventies and as far as I know, everything she does short of filing taxes is done under this name. It caused her terrible trouble with Facebook, since her argument that literally everyone she knew, knew her by this name, didn’t hold much water in the face of their “legal names only” policy. I think in the end she just made a new account around the time FB stopped having such a bug up their ass about what constitutes an “acceptable” name.

    4. Aphrodite*

      Interesting fact: Oliver Hardy (of Laurel & Hardy fame) was known throughout his life as Babe.

      1. Freelance*

        Yup. My uncle Morton was called Babe his entire life. His brother Irwin went by Buddy. Can’t say I blame them for going the nickname route.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          My mom had a cousin [Name] but he went by . . . we’ll say “Bubba”. His son goes by “BJ” for Bubba, Junior. Except he’s not [Name], Junior–he has a completely different given name.

          1. Glen*

            Friend of my brother goes by his initials, BJ, or, I kid you not, by “Beej”. He is a very fun dude.

        2. Cheap Ass Rolls>King's Hawaiian Rolls*

          OP #1… I was in a very similar situation in early 2021. It was really hard to walk away from a place, and profession that I really cared about it… but I left and have no regrets. I also worked in a small, niche non profit sector. I’m not going to lie, it’s been hard transitioning to something new…. but in the end it has been worth it. What finally got me to put in my notice was that I realized there was no future for me in a place where I was being cut out of everything. I also realized that if the board was going to accept this type of behavior from those in leadership, they were not making appropriate, sound decisions. And that’s not a situation you can ride out. I know it’s hard to think that the person who is being a total ass is “winning”. But the only true “winning” is succeeding further in your career. The best revenge is living well. Good luck, and remember that there is always something else out there!

          1. Addy*

            Thanks for sharing this. It’s nice to know Im not alone in this type of situation. So many similar stories. -LW1

      2. pancakes*

        I think it was pretty popular in the US in the 1930s and thereabouts. My grandmother had a sister who was called Babe all her life, Auntie Babe to the rest of us, and Babe Paley was very fashionable.

        1. e271828*

          Yes, I had a great-aunt Babe. To this day I do not know what it was short for. She was Babe everywhere to everyone, and she was adorable.

          1. pancakes*

            Sometimes Barbara, I think, if not Arabella like the one Dahlia mentions? My grandmother had so many siblings, I’m not sure about ours.

        2. Dahlia*

          All My Children had Babe Carey Chandler from 2003-2011. Birth name Arabella, but always called Babe.

        1. Ganymede*

          There’s a posh lady gardener in the UK called Bunny Guinness. (Yes, that Guinness.) She appears on Gardener’s Question Time on the radio.

          1. UKDancer*

            I had a great aunt who used Bunny. I don’t think it was her proper name but it was what everyone called her. We were so used to it we never thought of it in the context of rabbits. It was just her name. I try and take that approach when dealing with names that surprise me or I’m not expecting.

          2. londonedit*

            Posh people here always have nicknames like Bunny and Toff and Tiggy and whatnot (not actually whatnot, that would be a strange name for someone).

            1. alienor*

              Whatnot Jones, the protagonist of my new series about an antique shop owner who solves mysteries.

                1. alienor*

                  I’m pretty sure that Whatnot Jones has a calico cat, collects old postcards and other ephemera, and employs an assistant called Ruby who looks after her grandmother when she’s not ringing up sales or helping with the mysteries. Beyond that, the world is wide open. :D

                2. Irish Teacher*

                  Seconded. I would definitely buy that book. ESPECIALLY if the antiques or his knowledge of them turns out to be relevant to the cases.

                3. alienor*

                  @Irish Teacher they absolutely would! A letter found in a hidden drawer of an old desk reveals a hundred-year-old crime that the criminal’s descendants would kill again to cover up, etc.

              1. Romancing the Book*

                Now I just want to put you in touch with my writer friend whose last name is Whynot. (No joke!)

            2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              Can confirm: have been in fairly high class circles once or twice and encountered several ‘Bunny’ as well as a great number of ‘Topsy’, ‘Kitty’, ‘Fluffy’….actually now I think of it most of the women’s names ended in a Y.

              Quickly learnt to say any name with a perfectly straight face.

              1. Despachito*

                I recently read a book about European nobility, and it seems that most of them would have such nicknames among themselves, which might seem sometimes even infantilizing, like some sort of badge of adherence to this group.

        2. Buni*

          Everyone in the city I’m currently in knows me as Buni (pronounced as in the small furry animal). It’s a shortened form of my non-western name, but unless you see it written down obvs no one knows that, so I think most people just presume it’s a hangover from my ‘posh’ boarding school upbringing…!

      1. Ana Gram*

        I have an Aunt Bunny! I’ve always known her as that (it’s a nickname) and never thought it odd until my husband met her and he seemed a little taken aback.

      2. darlingpants*

        My grandmother has gone by “Kitty” for so long that no one is really sure if her government name is Katherine or Kathleen (and she’s very coy about it). My husband’s grandma has been called “Happy” for at least 70 years. Her real first name is not a mystery but it’s used so rarely that I don’t remember what it is.

      3. miss chevious*

        My next door neighbor while I was growing up was a woman named Bunny. I have no idea what her legal name was.

    5. Viette*

      Indeed, it really sounds like the discomfort is in how the man acted, and how awful it was to be around him and then use a name which would normally be a term of endearment. As you say, it’s possible his name was actually Babe and he was also horrible, and they were just unfortunately both true in this case.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        The whole thing gives you a bad vibe of “I’m doing this to screw with you and be sexual at work,” doesn’t it? It’s the way “Babe” handled it, it if you will.

    6. Donald Duck*

      A relative went by Ducky for the longest time. His legal name was Donald so it was a joke off Donald the Duck

    7. "Call me Babe" OP*

      I’m the “Call me Babe” OP. I think Alison nailed it. It was discomfort with Babe’s tone and attitude that made it all feel so skeevy. Because I do believe that people deserve to be called the name they prefer. But it was indeed Babe the man that I disliked, not Babe the name. I just hadn’t put it together.

      1. Elaine Benes*

        I have to say, I do love when people write in with these very specific pickles. I totally get why you all would be uncomfortable and would have been sort unsure as to what to do in that situation, but agree with Alison’s response as well!

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        “Babe” was a surprisingly common baseball nickname, back in the day. George Ruth is just the most famous. It is entirely plausible for a modern guy to have picked it up along the way. Maybe he father was a huge Yankees fan. That being said, it is also entirely plausible that he got off on making women call him “Babe.” This is the problem with the otherwise sound principle of choose-your-own-name. It can be weaponized. (Pronouns, too.) I don’t have a good solution to the problem.

        1. Hepzibutt Smith*

          I mean, any human interaction can be weaponized, names and pronouns just feel like a new way to do it for a lot of unkind people at this moment in history

        2. Artemesia*

          lots of places call people by their last names — that is also an option if he is making women feel uncomfortable by his body language etc when they call him Babe.

      3. Smithy*

        If anything, I think this was sharing a good story where often it seems like there’s a quick fix issue that is often the kind that our managers/HR like. I.e. New coworker wants us to use a nickname that this group of coworkers feel has inappropriate innuendo – can we use their given name instead?

        Now, that nickname could be Dick (or Babe, etc.), but if new coworker Richard is telling all young women at a workplace to “just call me Dick” with a very different tone of voice than he’s telling the men – that part is the issue. However, it’s far more difficult to convey that tone of voice and women (especially young women) are used to having those concerns dismissed. So focusing on the quantitative nickname – or other perceived issue – often seems easier.

        1. Govt bureaucrat*

          I think your comment about the difficulty conveying the tone and that those kinds of things often get dismissed and are harder to address anyways so it’s easier to focus on the tangible (name in this case) is spot on. There is a comment above that interpreted OP saying they asked other younger female coworkers how they felt as OP going around winding up her coworkers over nothing to create a bullying campaign that I think speaks well to your point. Still got to respect the name tho. I am horrible at remembering names so I can tell you how easy it is to avoid using them for the most part.

      4. Jora Malli*

        I’ve been asked to call a skeevy person by a more intimate nickname in the past (in my case I was a kid and the skeevy person wanted me to call him Uncle). It feels like being forced into a more intimate relationship than you have or want or feel safe with. I totally understand your discomfort and I wouldn’t have wanted to call this man by an endearment either. 99.9999% of the time, I’m team Call People What They Want To Be Called, but I think there’s that remaining 0.0001% that’s a more gray area.

        1. Candy Morningstar*

          But that seems different, unless everyone in his life called him Uncle and that’s the name he went by? If Babe only asked certain people, not the whole office, to call him by the nickname, then that would be a totally different situation and could possibly be harassment.

    8. Damn it, Hardison!*

      I had both an Uncle Babe and Aunt Babe (sadly, not married to each other). I have no idea what their given names are – they might be Babe for all I know!

      1. Buni*

        My favourite Same Name fact is that the writer Evelyn Waugh was for a while married to a woman also named Evelyn. They’re friends referred to them as H’Evelyn and Sh’Evelyn.

        1. Jam on Toast*

          I know a couple who are Clare/Claire. Like Anne with an ‘e’, spelling differences don’t communicate well out loud.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        I had a great-great-great-etc. aunt named Grace who married a man whose surname was Grace, so she was Gracie Grace.

        1. Lily*

          I once knew a Buffy Buff. Buffy was her given first name. Married someone whose last name was Buff.

      3. Canterlot*

        My Aunt Babe was amazing. Until her funeral mass, I always assumed that it was a lifelong nickname, but it turns out it was her given name.

        Miss her. She made crazy good noodles and was the best listener I ever met.

    9. Hel*

      When I was in law school I had no problem introducing myself as Hel. Students, professors, attorneys in the offices I worked in – no one had an issue. But when I went into an accounting program the Career Services advisor told me I shouldn’t use that name because “accounting is a conservative profession” (and law isn’t???).

      To her credit, accountants generally have had a much weirder time with it so I introduce myself using my full name (and put up with the occasional mispronunciation). The only downside to this is I have a general weird auditory blindness to my own name – and essentially going by two different names equally makes it a bit worse.

      1. Jenny Jen Jennifer*

        Good for you!

        I once had a warehouse job. My supervisor said “what do you go by? Jen? Jennifer?” I said “actually I go by Jenny”. He looked me dead in the eye and said “I can’t call you that. Jen or Jennifer?”

        I’ve had SUCH a ridiculous identity crisis since.

        1. Raspin*

          I’m a Jen Jennifer and never ever go by Jenny. My former boss was a given name Jenny. So many people would get our names mixed up. It was always so entertaining to me.

    10. Cj*

      My father was a happy child, and was given the nickname Happy which stuck with him through his life. It was included in his obituary. 48 years after his death, people find out who my parents were, and we’ll say “oh you’re one of Happy’s girls.”

      It’s not the same as Babe, which can have other connotations, but there are nicknames that aren’t generally considered to be a name.

      1. Jam on Toast*

        My grandmother *hated* nick names. Thought they were totally unclassy. So she consciously, purposefully chose names for all her kids that couldn’t be rhymed or shorted or twinned. Then karma got involved. My dad and his brother’s grew up in a small town. My uncle wasn’t the most attractive kid and ended up with the nickname ‘Froggy’ despite my grandmother’s meticulous planning. I was at his funeral a few years back…there were quite a few folks in the condolence line who still just couldn’t believe Froggy’d been taken so soon. Sometimes, names just stick. Sorry, Grandma.

    11. LetsBeReal*

      I work with someone whose first name is Queen. I happen to have seen her full name, and I won’t post it here bc it’s pretty unique and identifiable but it sounds like she was named for a bunch of Disney characters strung together (multiple given names). Anyhow, yes, everyone at work calls her Queen and thinks nothing of it. And she’s a lovely person.

      1. SpecialSpecialist*

        Went to school with someone named Prince. His sister Princess was a few years younger than us.

        There’s a politician in Alabama who’s legal name is Twinkle.

      2. TK*

        I work for a university, and I once had to email a student whose name was Princess. I think it was her real legal name, and as a man it sure felt weird to start a professional email with “Hi Princess” but…. it’s her name.

    12. Erin*

      I have a great aunt whose name is Honora who always went by Honey. To me it was so normal that I was completely gobsmacked when someone said that Edward Albee named is character Honey in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? because he was going for the implication that she wasn’t even worth having a real name. I was like “but Honey is a real name!!!”

      1. Artemesia*

        It is so common in the South. In politics there were Honey Alexander and Tipper Gore, Muffet McGraw the basketball coach, a bunch of Peaches. And grown men who went by Bobby or Billy or Binky or Junior or Bubba and of course Quad. I never quite got used to it. One of my bosses was a very dignified, distinguished scholar who went by Robert Lastname. Turns out his actual name was Bobby Joe and it was a source of profound embarrassment to him.

    13. Veruca*

      This is a little close to home today! My daughter has a school friend whose legal name is Babe. Now I’m wondering how that’s going to play out in her adult life.
      Interestingly, she’s named after her mother’s mentor, who went by Babe. The elder Babe told the girl’s mother, “Since my parents always intended to call me Babe, I wish they’d have made it official so it would be on my legal documents and I wouldn’t have to have spent my whole life telling people to call me Babe!”
      So the mother of younger Babe did exactly that.

      1. QAPeon*

        Having it on your official documents doesn’t help much. My birth certificate and all my stuff has my name, but since it’s a common nickname I get marked down as being the full name allllllll the darn time. Think I’m Beth but teachers and doctors and coworkers assume I’m Elizabeth. Even the telephone book lists it wrong.

        Although, I will say that it’s gotten a TON better in the last 15 years or so. People now are more likely to at least ask than assume and the under 30 folks just take the name I introduce myself with as a given.

    14. DragoCucina*

      One of my grandfather’s nicknames was actually Babe. We called him Grandpa Babe. His wife, sisters, etc., all called him Babe. His actual first name was one that is traditionally seen as a woman’s name. Think Marion.
      It doesn’t seem that this Babe handled well, but I’d default to using the preferred name. Unless it’s considered an unequivocally obscene I think we’d have to be adults and use his preferred name.

    15. MapleHill*

      I actually have a coworker whose legal name is Honey. Even as a woman, I feel uncomfortable saying her name, so I can only imagine how the men feel. Still, I wouldn’t ask to call her by another name because it makes me uncomfortable. I don’t work with her much, but I’m sure it gets more normal for those who do frequently.

      I think part of the challenge is that some of these names, such as Babe and Honey, have some degree of sexualized and sexist connotations in our society and our workplace history. So in a workplace, especially post-MeToo era (but really even before), it feels wrong to call people by names like that; whereas King may be less common, but it’s just an honorific in some countries and has no romantic or sexual connotations tied to it.

    16. Megan M.*

      Just throwing in that my best friend in high school, her mother’s mother (who passed away before I would have had the chance to know her) was known as Babe, and Babe’s sister was apparently known as Honey.

      When I read the letter’s title I assumed it would be about a woman. I admit it’s a bit more jarring to think of calling a man “Babe” – but as others have pointed out, it’s pretty easy to avoid using someone’s name when speaking directly to them.

    17. ThursdaysGeek*

      The OP says he was arrogant to woman and she took it to be sexual innuendo, but since he wanted men to call him Babe as well, it likely was just his name. Sure, he was arrogant, but the rest of that could be projection by the OP and her co-workers. Perhaps she should have thought “Babe, like in Babe Ruth” without him having to say that, because he probably was really tired of explaining it to people too. It’s just his name. And sure, he was arrogant, but that is really common, even if he went by Michael.

    18. This Person Right Here*

      My grandmother and her twin sister were legally named Marvella and Arvella, respectively. But the names they went by—and were known to everyone as–were Sally and Tiny.

      1. Rainy*

        In the area I grew up in, it was pretty common if there were two kids in the family, a boy and a girl, for them to have paper names but be called Bubba and Sissy. Like, I knew multiple Bubbas and Sissys. An unexpected third child might trigger everyone to be called by their government names, but also might be called Baby.

    19. Ann Nonymous*

      Difference between a woman being called “Honey” and a man suggestively insisting that women call him “Babe” – while having the men neutrally call him “Babe” for cover. I think that LW should have done some digging (although it might have been before social media) to see if his nickname in other parts of his life really was Babe. Call his home phone number and ask for “Babe” and see what happened.

    20. Ellie*

      My grandmother’s nickname is Babe… its short for Baby, she is the youngest in her family, and it’s what she’s been called for the last 80 years.

      OP is right – if he’d given a similar explanation or said ‘Like Babe Ruth’ then I bet there would have been no issue. If men called him Babe as well then it would have been best to just ignore the odd name, and addressed his arrogant tone as a separate issue.

    21. Reluctant Mezzo*

      I really don’t blame your grandmother at all. There are large number of ways of misspelling “Miriam”.

  3. PollyQ*

    #1 — Your boss won’t be winning when you leave, he’ll be losing — YOU. He’ll be losing the benefit of your experience, your hard work, and your passion. Walking away from him and to a job that appreciates you and treats you with respect will be YOUR win.

    1. lyonite*

      Yes to this. You can’t control how people are feeling, and I suspect this guy is going to feel like he is “winning” over you no matter what you do, because that’s just how he gets through life. So let him feel that way, know that he is wrong, and make your choices like he isn’t even a thing.

      1. lyonite*

        (Also, the other losers in this situation are the members of the board, who will be getting exactly what they deserve, and they might even know it.)

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          For real. If you’re feeling up for it, OP, I might encourage you to contact other board members and let them know what is happening, but only as a last-ditch effort and only – I reiterate – if you are feeling up for it. Otherwise getting out and finding a better position would be the sweetest revenge.

      2. pancakes*

        Yeah. It doesn’t matter what he thinks of the situation because he’s a very silly man.

    2. GammaGirl1908*

      Furthermore, this is a time to remember the adage that the best revenge is living well. Ignoring for the moment that this is not a game and there really isn’t any winning or losing at all, LW certainly isn’t winning anything by hanging on where s/he is miserable and being bullied by the boss. Truly winning would be finding a great job somewhere else that is an even better fit and leaving this person’s dumb games forever. LW wants to leave. Boss wants LW to go. Why can’t everybody win in the situation? The fact that Boss is being a petulant child about it and LW is busy nitpicking the petty semantics of it all doesn’t really need to enter this equation.

      Other teams do good work and have great support, too. You don’t have to stay at this one. You can go somewhere that does good work where you ALSO will be happier and respected and appreciated. LW will look around after a few months somewhere else and wonder why on earth s/he stayed mired down in the ridiculousness of this situation for so long.

      1. MEH Squared*

        I agree. In addition, it’s a Pyrrhic victory for LW#1 because they’ve stated that this has taken a toll on their mental health and they want to leave. It seems it really would be better off for them to get a different job. If that means the boss ‘wins’ somehow, so what? What they have won is losing a good employee to whom they have behaved childishly.

        1. Sean*

          Exactly.

          LW1: “I would like to leave. I know it would be better for my mental health [. . .] But walking away feels like letting him win and it makes me so angry!”

          To mangle the old saying, by staying you are basically taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.

        2. Katie*

          Right. They are hurting themselves way more by staying and ‘hurting’ the horrible manager.
          Leave and possibly report the organization if they are ignoring the unethical behavior.

      2. Mornington Cresent*

        I had that exact phrase- the best revenge is living well- on my lightbox for *weeks* after I started my new job! It barely fit, and I had to use 3s when I ran out of Es but it’s such an important one to remember.

      3. Smithy*

        Absolutely – I also want to stress that very often when winning/losing becomes a binary where you can forget to ask whether this is a prize worth winning? I have no doubt that there are positive aspects about the OP’s organization and team….but it also sounds like if they step outside the winning/losing rubric there are also other negative ones besides the boss.

        This is an organization that has prioritized this boss behaving this way rather than developing a proactive exit plan for the OP (which would also be shitty, but at least be direct and honest HR practice). And a board more focused on being in the black vs this kind of shady behavior is likely to let other unethical stuff slide as well. When we fall victim to the win/loss binary, it can be very easy to let the other problematic stuff not be as visible. And lets a dynamic of “If I can win this, then I can focus on that n those”. When the reality is “this” is usually connected to “that n those”.

        I most often see this kind of win/loss thinking when people get focused on how much they deserve a promotion at their current employer. They’ve put in the hours, had the results, etc etc etc – the only focus ends up being on that promotion and leaving before getting that promotion is seen as losing. This can often derail the reality that (in my industry) internal promotions typically come with raises that are capped – so the increase pay usually isn’t huge. And more importantly….was that promotion for a job they even wanted???? The vision of wanting to do ABC work and make $XXX gets side tracked by the focus of winning a promotion so they don’t “lose”.

    3. Waving not Drowning*

      I second this! I had a toxic manager – and – like your situation, they also refused to talk to me for my last 5 months. HR were useless! In the 4 months that HR fiddled around and didn’t organise mediation, I got approached for, and accepted an internal temporary transfer to another department – a promotion that my ex-manager deemed I was unsuited for. And, since then I’ve settled into my niche and am very very happy.

      They on the other hand have been given a major promotion – but – after a 12 month period where there was an absolute flood of staff resignations and transfers from people in that team (going, nope, can’t do this) and by my estimate lost a minimum of 40% of people in that first year alone , they were very quietly moved sideways into a role overseeing minimal staff.

      I was incredibly stressed working for my toxic manager – but I didn’t want to leave, because I didn’t want to leave my team in the lurch, plus I was so convinced that I was an awful person because toxic manager made me feel that way. In the end, I decided that crying in the car on the way home from work, and heart pounding anxiety when I got in the car for work were not what I wanted, and I left. Yes, I left a skills gap in the team that is still to be filled (a lot of my former job was things picked up along the way and hard to write formal SOP’s for, it was more a case of knowing who to talk to, and what system could do what).

      The best revenge is indeed living well.

      You are worth so much more than this.

      1. addy*

        I’m LW#1. Thanks for sharing and sorry to hear about everything you went through with your old manager! I’m glad to hear you made it through the other side and I appreciate the encouragement.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          LW#1 When I finally left ToxicBoss2, he had a lot of trouble replacing me apparently. Several of his clients searched for me once he’d admitted that no, Rebel did not do your translation because she’s no longer with us, and now I’m working for them again, but on my own terms, and for more money!

    4. hbc*

      Yes, and staying there doing great work for the guy is actually part of why he can stay employed. He’s keeping things in the black and his team is running pretty well. Of course, no one should be giving the silent treatment to a colleague, but from a business perspective, it’s not worth the upheaval to correct it right now.

      HE probably won’t get fired immediately after you leave, but I’ve seen time and time again where there was a slow chain reaction once the person absorbing the ridiculousness got out of the way. Some of your direct reports will probably follow your lead, he’ll bring in someone else who points out his ethics violations–your departure will cause pain for him even if he’s initially cackling about how he forced you out.

      1. addy*

        I’m LW; yes you are totally right, we (his managers) enable him and I feel a lot of guilt over that. When he doesn’t do something, we take care of it. We keep the ball rolling and he looks good because of it. He knows that because of the type of work and the type of people who end up here, we don’t want to see it fall apart. But that also allows him to continue to be the person he is without consequences. I am going to try to take other commenters’ thoughts to heart, that I need to stop worrying about what he thinks or “gains” from the situation, and really stop thinking about him at all. It’s head games. Thanks for your feedback.

        1. Smithy*

          It’s been a while – but I had a nonprofit boss while perhaps not the same, definitely gave me all sorts of fantasies that I would leave and then that would hurt him.

          In my case, the biggest reality was that his #1 weakness was as a manager – and so he was successful in doing weird stuff to make his direct reports miserable and undermined as a way of having to manage fewer and fewer people. He also wasn’t particularly great at the job either. But we also worked for a generically toxic nonprofit that allowed that kind of behavior to thrive. Any “victory” I would ever have had over him, would have still kept me in a place that allowed endless unethical and inappropriate professional practices.

          My boss always acknowledged the place was toxic, but was paid an enormous sum for the nonprofit sector and what he was expected to do. He also wasn’t that old/experienced, but his skills became more and more narrow for that employer and not our sector as a whole. And eventually that nonprofit’s leadership came for him and now he’s “consulting”. For as much misery as he put me through, over time I’ve become more able to see his situation with pity and not anger.

          Getting pushed out sucks, but festering in this kind of anger for the sake of a mission you do find important really won’t help you in the long run.

        2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          You remind me of a colleague and friend I had in one of my first jobs. She was phenomenal and more than made up for the fact that her boss, a VP, was completely incompetent. The boss once didn’t come in for an entire summer and no one even noticed, because my colleague was doing everything for her.

          Then my colleague got a better job and left. The VP completely iced her out and acted like it was a personal betrayal. She then turned to me as her new support system, and I frankly didn’t have the experience or willingness to do it. I encouraged her to bring in a more experienced hire, then I left about 6 months later. What I heard was that the more experienced new hire was calling her out on her shenanigans, so the VP fired her. Less than a year later the VP’s “retirement” was announced. In the 18 months between my colleague leaving and the VP getting shown the door, nothing of note was accomplished in the department and they had to completely start over from scratch.

          My colleague and I both have phenomenal jobs now and are so much farther along in our careers than we ever could have if we’d stayed working for someone so toxic and incompetent. You *have* to leave to protect yourself and continue to grow your skills – you can take the time to find the right next step for you, but the longer you stay and get treated this way, the less of yourself you’ll be able to bring to a new job. These kinds of environments wear a person down and the sooner you can get out, the better.

          Good luck!

        3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          If it’s any consolation to you, my ToxicBoss1 had to find another job and ended up as an estate agent, nothing to do with our line of business, but it’s the only job in France where your boss doesn’t have to pay a fixed salary, and you live off commission alone, so only the most desperate people ever want to do that.

    5. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      I know the work means a lot to you. But the work will still be there, and other organizations will be doing that work, or similar work, and you can (let us hope) find one where you are appreciated and can accomplish MORE because your bosses collaborate with you to get the work done.

    6. AnonInCanada*

      Well said. OP shouldn’t think of it as “the boss won,” but “I (OP) won by getting out of this toxic environment and I can watch this sink ship from a safe distance, and hope the old boss goes down with it!”

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        To quote from aviation: put on your mask first before helping others. You can’t help others if you’re going into a hypoxic episode.

    7. Burn After Writing*

      LW1, man oh man, do I get this impulse. I stayed with my ex for about 3 years longer than I might have otherwise because his ex hated me and wanted me gone. But you can only stay somewhere out of spite for so long. And once you leave, that person you were in a battle of wills with will become “someone that you used to know.” You will rarely think of them, and when you do it will be to wonder why you stayed so long. So do 2 years from now you a favor and set her free from terrible boss. He doesn’t deserve her.

    8. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      The other thing he looses may also be the rest of your team. I get the feeling that you may be doing the good boss thing of protecting your direct reports from the unethical/crazy/toxic behavior of the upper manager. It’s likely the rest of the group will leave then.

      Will that change things for the company – who knows. But maybe that spawns some change if there is too much turnover.

  4. Marnix*

    Re: letter #1: I once had a boss who never spoke to me. At the time, I was a middle school teacher and after A LOT of discussions with colleagues, the answer we decided is that she was intimidated by me.
    I was the chairperson of our school’s head leadership committee. I was also the chairperson of a district-wide powerful committee.
    I was frequently in touch with the people who were, essentially, her bosses.
    Also I was teaching middle school and she had no experience in middle school.

  5. Fikly*

    LW4: You may or may not be aware, but short term disability often has terrible caps on what income it provides. For example, at my last job, it would pay a max of $2000 a month, and that cap was the same for every employee, regardless of your salary. For reference, that’s nearly my current rent, and I am a household of one renting a single bedroom in a three bedroom apartment.

    It also often has a delay between when the disability starts and when it will start paying out, typically at least a week.

    So this employee is likely having to consider whether or not they can afford both the gap between using up their sick days and when disability kicks in, plus the gap between their wages and what short term disability provides, all amidst who knows what other factors. Unless you or your employer can provide concrete benefits that allow them to take time off, the most helpful thing you can do is provide them a way to continue to work from home in the least stressful way possible so that they can keep getting paid and attempt to recover.

    1. Beth*

      Yeah, I get the sense LW4 is working on the level of the way things SHOULD work (people should be allowed to rest when they’re sick, they’ll recover faster and it’s also just the right thing to do) while their employee is working on the level of the way things DO work (sick leave is limited, PTO is probably limited and they may not have vacation time saved up, short term disability may not pay full income and might take a while to get actual cash in hand and is a lot to navigate while sick, cost of living is high enough compared to wages that many of us don’t have the leeway for an unexpected gap).

      LW4, the best thing you can do is either to get them more official paid sick leave or to find ways to let them rest while officially on the clock. If you can’t wrangle either of those (and I know you might not be able to!), look into what you can do in regards to making short term disability easy, offering an advance on their next paycheck, offering overtime opportunities so they can make up the gap (if that’s a thing in their role and they want it), etc.

      On a broader scale, is there anything you can do to advocate for that early-pandemic extended sick leave policy to come back? This won’t be the last of your employees to get sick, given the ongoing nature of the pandemic–so if you have any power to advocate for that, you’d be setting everyone up better going forward.

      1. JM60*

        LW4 could also let the employee know that if they do continue to work while sick, she’ll lower their workload and performance expectations. Doing minimal work while sick is better than trying to live up to normal work expectations while sick.

        1. londonedit*

          Yep, this is what my boss did when I had Covid. I absolutely could have just taken a week off work if I’d felt really bad or if I’d wanted to (we don’t have set amounts of sick time) but I had tons to get through before an upcoming holiday (would definitely recommend a week in the sun as part of Covid recuperation, by the way) and I only had a mild case of Covid, just fatigue and a bad cold. My boss said I could do as much or as little as I felt up to doing, so I let them know that I had three or four things that I really wanted to accomplish that week, but I wouldn’t be doing much apart from that. I ducked out of all of my meetings, I worked for as long as I felt like my brain was functioning and then I had a rest, and I finished work at about 3-4pm all that week. It helped me because I was able to get those jobs done before my holiday, so when I’d recovered and I went on my week off I didn’t have to worry about anything, but there was no pressure to do anything in particular.

          1. ALLCAPSRESUME*

            As a manager, in the short term at least, there’s rarely an opportunity to be able to grant someone extra sick leave (that’s why the US has the absolutely horrendous practice of calling on colleagues to “donate” their PTO to sick people), but you can determine what constitutes working for the day. Particularly when we’re talking about a time period of a few weeks. Taking the time to determine a few either low lift or mission critical things and allowing the sick person the grace to only worry about that is usually a mutually beneficial situation. There’s a delicate line between how boring being sick is and how stressful needing to work while being sick can be. This is appropriate and helpful – 1) it makes sure mission critical work is being done 2) It allows the employee to not need to use their PTO or go on unpaid leave 3) It makes sure the manager isn’t developing subconscious negative feelings towards the employee for being sick.

            In the US there is the other issue of the “optics” because “absenteeism” is often a perception/reputation based thing rather than a mathematical one. Even though it is illegal to fire someone for taking their PTO days or going on FLMA or taking a short-term disability leave, it is perfectly legal to fire them based on vague notions of “not being a team player” or “not being a good fit” informed by perceptions of absenteeism that a manager developed while an employee was dealing with health issues.

    2. Arrghhhhh*

      I have had to take short term disability at two of my jobs. The one that paid me 100% of my salary was infinitely less stressful than my current place that only pays 60%. Especially considering I had a bunch of additional bills due to the medical procedures I was having done.

      1. Random Bystander*

        Exactly–when I had my cataracts removed, and chose to stay out on sick leave for the two weeks in between (they don’t do both eyes at the same time), my workplace had a benefit EPTO, which was earned at about a quarter the rate of PTO–you needed to use regular PTO for the first 32 hours and then could get into EPTO, and thus be paid at 100% of normal. By the time that I had cancer, they’d done away with that, and so there was only the ST disability at 66% … and so that six weeks post surgery was like having two paychecks when I would normally have had three + all the bills from surgery and other related medical expenses.

      2. SpaceySteph*

        I am extremely lucky the company I took 2 of my 3 maternity leaves under self-administered their short term disability at 100%, so I got my regular paycheck, with my regular payroll deductions (health insurance, etc) direct deposited on payday. Aside from the simple form I had to fill out with my Dr. to get the STD authorized, it was totally transparent to me.

        But with my first kid…hoo boy. They sent me a check for untaxed 60% of my pay. A real check that I then had to go deposit. Also I had to send HR a check (again a real check by real mail) biweekly for my portion of my benefits deductions in order to continue my health insurance, etc during my disability period. They had a number of other nuisances, so this was pretty characteristic. Nothing like additional stress on top of recovering from childbirth and caring for an infant.

      3. Kyrielle*

        I’ve only done it once, when I had a heart attack (highly do not recommend that experience), and just getting the thing started and keeping it going was a pain. Like, we don’t know when I’ll be better, but we know I will be in the hospital another week – well, okay, we’ll put the end date on this at the end of that week, and then when you have the next info you can file that….

        Luckily the way the payout of that worked, I got the money exactly when I would have gotten paychecks, even if the paperwork was pending, but it was stressful and an unholy pain. (And the paperwork was outsourced, so that information subject to HIPAA was never passed to my company, and the company to which it was outsourced was…so bad that once I was sure everything would be okay and I just had a paperwork nightmare, I started vent-joking to one of my dearest friends every time something came up, because it was just *ridiculous*.)

        1. Kyrielle*

          Wait, no, I’ve done it two more times for childbirth. But I don’t actually remember those, probably because I took 12 weeks off and therefore some of it was unpaid and not on disability (because I’d recovered but was taking my full leave), so I was expecting a monetary hit there.

          Also it’s been a while. :)

    3. Threeve*

      This is most definitely calls for “what can I do for you?” and not “this is what you should do.”

      And “can I start the short-term disability paperwork for you?” is a huge overstep. I can’t tell if LW4 is new to the company or was promoted internally, but if the employee doesn’t know them very well yet, that could come across as threatening rather than sympathetic.

      There’s every chance you could say “I don’t want you to have to work while you’re sick, you should just rest and recover” and an employee will hear “you aren’t performing well enough, so maybe working while you’re sick shouldn’t be an option.”

    4. Sick of it*

      Yeah as a person with chronic health issues, I literally am out of all my leave already this year and I will certainly have to take unpaid time. I have worked some rough days because I can only be gone so much. And I do have short-term disability insurance and my company tries to be very accommodating. And it’s STILL hard.

    5. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      I would also add that in my experience you also have to use up your vacation and sick time first and there is usually a waiting period of at least 2 weeks. Maybe their short term disability is different but its something to look into.

    6. lilsheba*

      First off I agree, the way the pandemic is being handled now is pathetic. Companies and the government are acting like it’s over, and it’s worse than it was in the beginning. And I think short term disability in the US is a racket, it’s not enough to live on. Would it really kill companies to pay 100 percent of someone’s salary while they’re laid up? As for me I had Covid in January (almost made it 2 years without getting it!) and I ended up working through it. I mainly had fatigue and the worst congestion I’ve ever had in my life. But I was given free reign to step away and rest whenever I needed to and since I sit at a computer all day it wasn’t bad.

      1. TheRain'sSmallHands*

        Just as an FYI to people – some research is showing that “long covid” may be tied to NOT getting enough rest and pushing through – even with a mild case. So if you CAN rest through a bout of Covid and binge Bridgerton and The Gilded Age, while having your partner/friend/kid wait on you, please do so.

        And yes, due to horrifying short term disability payments and leave policies, that might not be possible.

  6. Chilipepper Attitude*

    I think you could go into a new line of work. Consulting to explain how you keep sane and doing the job for a YEAR while your boss did not talk to you.

    Like that’s some skill set.

    1. Mockingjay*

      Came to say something similar. OP1, while your industry and particular role might be narrow, the skills you use as a program manager keeping a team together and functioning despite multiple problems are valuable and usable in ANY industry. Broaden your search!

  7. Nameless*

    LW3 – I fail to see how refusing to call somebody by their preferred name is any different from misgendering somebody by refusing to use their preferred pronouns. LW not only refused to call Babe by his name, but she encouraged others not to call him by his name either. Sounds an awful lot like bullying to me.

    1. Can Can Cannot*

      I seem to remember a posting a while back about someone wanting to be referred to as “Master.” I’m sure that some might have legitimate concerns about using that in the office.

      1. MK*

        That wasn’t someone’s name. It was a woman in a D/s relationship who wanted hr coworkers to refer to her partner this way, instead of husband or boyfriend.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          The point stands that some people will weaponize the principle that they get to choose what they are called.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            And some people just have a name that others find weird. They still deserve the respect of being called by that name.

          2. BabyElephantWalk*

            I think the point that the name is being weaponized is key. I agree in principle that people should choose what they are called, but in this situation it sounds like the coworker is using that to force women to be complicit in their own harrassment. I’m really skeeved out by the whole thing.

            Another poster suggested just not using his name is conversation at all. It’s probably the easiest solution even if it isn’t perfect, and while it may feel odd to someone who is used to sprinkling conversations with names, it’s not uncommon for neurodiverse people to avoid using names so it shouldn’t stand out too much.

    2. Sisyphus*

      What is he wanted only female colleagues to call him Babe, but the male ones called by his given name? This seems possible.

        1. Lunch Ghost*

          But suspects he said it differently to men and women, which really highlights that it’s not the name that’s the problem– I’d feel weird if a guy flirtateously told me to call him a nickname but said the same thing to men in a normal straightforward voice, even if the nickname was Mike or Joe.

      1. "Call me Babe" OP*

        No, he asked men to call him Babe too. And they did. It was just the women who rebelled.

    3. Allonge*

      But that is not the whole story, is it? Michael/Babe was being skeevy AND asking to be called something that is a personal, easily-seen-as sexualised name. Context matters – this is not OP not acknowledging an essential facet of Babe, it’s OP protecting herself from what could be sexual harrassment.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        But it was the behavior that was the issue, not the name. OP could (and should!) report the behavior while still calling him by his preferred name. You can say it in a flat tone which would keep it from being sexually charged.

        1. Jora Malli*

          So you would be perfectly comfortable being forced to use an intimate nickname for someone who was behaving toward you in ways you felt were bordering on harassment?

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            I’m not saying I would be comfortable, but I would report the behavior and use the name in the flatest tone possible. Again, the issue is the behavior, not the name.

          2. Dahlia*

            I wouldn’t be comfortable calling someone “John” if they were behaving towards me in ways I felt were bordering on harassment.

        2. Allonge*

          OP went to management. With others. Got nothing useful out of it (actually got authorisation to use Michael, which, yeah, bad management).

          How respectful do you expect people to be to those harrassing them? Should she have to quit her job, on principle, lest she offend her abuser?

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            That’s not what I’m saying at all? I know the OP went to management and they did nothing, which is bad on management. My point is that ultimately the behavior is the issue, not the name. The fact that management wouldn’t fix the BEHAVIOR is a problem.

            1. Allonge*

              Yes, the nickname would not be an issue without the behavior. But the behavior was not stopping, management was not helping to stop it.

              I see that you are not alone in being able to separate the name from the behavior, but can you see how for some of us it’s connected? OP was not refusing to use Mike instead of Michael, she was refusing to use a nickname that is a word for a very intimate relationship – for a man who was inappropriately behaving towards her and other women there.

              I suppose it’s technically possible that Babe was both a skeevy guy and someone whose identity was strongly tied to the name Babe (say, because of Babe Ruth) without any ill intentions on that part. But at some point young women (or, anyone, really) are allowed to stop extending the benefit of the doubt to people harrassing them.

              1. Allonge*

                One last point as I am figuring this out as we go too.

                A harrasser getting his target to call him Babe or other intimate names by relying on general politeness and identity rules is making the victim an active participant in her own harrassment. He’s not just being sleazy to her, he is forcing her into playing along. The chosen name – in this case – is part of the behavior!

                1. Jennifer Strange*

                  In response to your second point, he asked everyone – men and women – to call him by that name, though. As someone said elsewhere in the thread if he had only asked some people (or had only asked women) to do it that would have been one thing, but he asked everyone, which seems to signal that it’s just a name. Again, it was the behavior that created an issue.

                2. JM60*

                  @Jennifer Strange

                  If he was using the nickname of Babe to harass women, asking men to also call him Babe would be a very easy way to get away with the harassment. Plus, it’s possible for a man to sexually harass both men and women. So I don’t think him asking everyone to call him Babe is evidence against it being harassment.

                3. Jennifer Strange*

                  @JM60 I’m not saying he isn’t harassing women, I’m saying it’s not the name that is the harassment, it’s the way he speaks to them. He could say to them “Hey, could you send me the files on the Johnson case” in a seductive tone, but I’m sure no one would claim that simply asking someone to send you a pertinent file is what makes it harassment.

                4. JM60*

                  @Jennifer Strange

                  Lots of names can have sexual meanings without their use automatically being sexual. However, if he chose the nickname Babe specifically because he gets a kick out of making people call him a name with a sexual undertone, then his demanding that others call him by that name is itself a form of sexual harassment apart from his other behavior. (Although, his other behavior makes it more believable that he chose the nickname Babe because of its sexual undertone.)

              2. Jennifer Strange*

                But the behavior was not stopping, management was not helping to stop it.

                Right, but that has nothing to do with the name. Even if had gone by Michael the behavior (and management’s lack of response) was the issue.

                Of course I see how it can seem connected, but ultimately it isn’t. If his actual given name had been Peter (which can be slang for penis) would you also insist someone doesn’t have to call him by his name, even if he still said it in a seductive manner? Babe CAN be a name for an intimate relationship, but it can also just be a name, the same way Randy can mean horny or Fanny can mean butt/vagina.

                And I agree people don’t have to extend the benefit of the doubt to people harassing them. This guy is a creep and I’m glad OP reported him (even though management did nothing). But calling them by their given name isn’t part of that, it’s just calling them by their name.

    4. JM60*

      I think a difference is that calling someone “babe” often is a bit sexual and/or romantic. Calling someone by their preferred pronoun does not.

      1. Sir Ulrich Von Liechtenstein*

        Right, yeah. To me, this feels a lot less about the principle of ‘call people the names they want’ and a lot more about coworkers inappropriately asking for relational terms. More like the coworkers Alison’s tackled in the past who want to be people’s “work mom” or whatever.

        “Babe” is what I call my girlfriend, not Joe from Accounting.

    5. SAS*

      Yes, his behaviour sounds disgusting but LW doesn’t sound like they made any effort to use his name at all. Often with unusual names, the more you use them the more mundane they become.

      If she had used Babe, and he had them gone on to make inappropriate comments she would have a legitimate complaint.

      1. pancakes*

        It’s legit to complain about his behavior either way, I think, but yes, not using the name he asked people to use seems unhelpful to me. The idea that it’s too difficult to say aloud seems overly-intense to me, or a bit affected or something. I understand being a bit uncomfortable, but it’s not as if it’s a slur, or a vile word for other reasons.

    6. Not_Me*

      I agree with Nameless even tho it seems like many of the responses don’t. He asked to be called Babe. He asked this of both men and women. Not only did OP not call him by his preferred name, she told others not to. I go by an informal version of my name (think Jenny instead of Jennifer, not my real name). People at work insist on calling me Jennifer even tho I’ve said multiple times to please call me Jenny. It’s not the same as Babe, but just call people what they want to be called. Unless it’s vulgar or really sexual in nature.

      I’m not trying to bash you LW3, but he asked you to call him a name he preferred/liked. If he were to be creepy or skeevy about it, then go ahead and report him. If he’s saying it in a flirtatious way to women but not to men, then report him. But otherwise, it’s respectful to call people what they asked to be called.

      1. Rebecca*

        *unless it’s vulgar or really sexual in nature* – you’ve allowed for that, but where the line of too vulgar or too sexual is will be different for different people. The OP is saying that in this case, there was discomfort around the sexuality of it.

        And that can cross cultural lines, too. I worked in Korea, where students were choosing ‘English’ nicknames (there’s a whole conversation to be had around neo-colonialism there, but it’s a different conversation and also one of the reasons I don’t work in those schools anymore), and one girl wanted her name to be ‘P**sy’. In the dictionary, for a non-English speaker without the benefit of cultural idioms and slang, that means cat. We suggested ‘Kitty’ instead, and she agreed, but if she hadn’t, yes, we would have insisted and been right to, even though for her, there was no sexuality or vulgarity in her chosen name.

        It’s subjective! I think the subjectivity of ‘Babe’ in this case is really difficult.

      2. Batgirl*

        That’s not really comparable to people insisting you be called Jennifer. They’re pretending they know better than you what you should be called which is baseless, high-handed, patronizing and an entirely different situation to be being creeped on through the use of a nickname’s connotations. While reporting that particular type of creepy behavior, it was reasonable for the employees to also avoid participating in it. If a colleague asked me to call him sexy I would decline to use it, while also reporting it. I wouldn’t agree to do anything else he asked me to do either just because it was possible to report it. Reporting something afterwards doesn’t take away the discomfort of being pressured or sexualized beforehand. I’m not sure why they felt they had to use his full name though. There I agree with you. I would go with either “excuse me”, “you”, or tell my manager that it wasn’t possible to address him or work with him until he cleared up the problematic behavior.

      3. JM60*

        He asked this of both men and women.

        Both men and women are capable of being sexually harassed and made to feel uncomfortable. So the mere fact that he hasn’t restricted his request to be called Babe to women doesn’t itself make the request reasonable.

        Unless it’s vulgar or really sexual in nature.

        Calling someone “Babe” often is a bit sexual and/or romantic. Calling someone Jenny is not.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          Babe CAN be sexual/romantic. But so can other names. I know people named Bunny and Muffin. I’m not going to refuse to call them by that name just because it could be a pet name under other circumstances.

          1. JM60*

            I think the ratio of how often it’s used sexually, vs how often it’s used as a first name, matters. I hear Babe used sexually/romantically much more often than I hear it used as a first name. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone named Babe.

            I also think it matters that this is is not related to their legal first name. For nicknames that are often used sexually, I think it should get less leeway if it isn’t related to their legal first name. “Dick” can refer to a cis man’s member, and people don’t usually go by the nickname “Dick” unless their legal first name is Richard (since that’s a commonly used first name for Richard). But I’d think it less reasonable to ask people to call you Dick if your legal first name is Benjamin.

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              But the same could be said for Bunny and Muffin (two names I referenced above). They’re usually more of pet names, but they can be someone’s name. It doesn’t matter how often you hear it used another way, it’s still a name.

              Nicknames can be just as much an identity for someone as a name. My uncle was named after my grandfather (“James”) but my grandmother decided to call him by the name she liked (“Willy”). He grew up as “Willy”, thought of himself as “Willy”, and identified as “Willy” even though his legal name was “James”. He still has the right to be called “Willy” at work, even though it’s not his given name and is slang for penis.

              1. JM60*

                But the same could be said for Bunny and Muffin (two names I referenced above).

                And I think demanding people calling you those names would also be iffy when they’re a nickname.

                They’re usually more of pet names, but they can be someone’s name. It doesn’t matter how often you hear it used another way, it’s still a name.

                We disagree there. Earlier, you acknowledged that being “sexual in nature” can be an exception to calling people their preferred names, and I see this as one of the relevant factors in borderline cases when a name can be flirtatious.

                Nicknames can be just as much an identity for someone as a name.

                Sure, they can be. But they’re often chosen by the individual.

                1. JM60*

                  This reminds me of Biggus Dickus from The Life of Brian. If someone in real life actually demanded that their coworkers call them Biggus Dickus, I think it would be very relevant that this is much less common than Willy and Dick (even though all names can be slang for penis).

                2. Glen*

                  …yes. they are often chosen by the individual. That’s precisely why they can be so important. Plenty of people choose their legal name, too, and plenty more change their name socially but not legally. That’s effectively what someone who exclusively goes by a nickname is doing and it is exactly as legitimate as legally changing their name.

                3. JM60*

                  @Glen

                  I think if someone hypothetically chose the nickname “Biggusdickus”, I think the fact that they chose it (rather than being appointed by a parent without their consent) makes it less reasonable for them to demand that others call them “Biggusdickus”. If you’re from an English speaking culture, you presumably picked that name knowing that you’d be asking people to call you by an overtly sexual name.

                4. Jennifer Strange*

                  At the end of the day, though, it’s just a name. You’re basically asking to be able to erase a part of someone’s identity because you don’t like it. People use all kinds of things as pet names. Hell, my only pet name for my husband is his actual name. That doesn’t mean I refuse to call anyone else “Christopher” simply because I can associate it with a sexual nature.

                5. JM60*

                  @Jennifer Strange

                  At the end of the day, though, it’s just a name.

                  “Just a name” can be sexual harassment if the name is too sexual and you demand people call you it. If someone demands their coworkers call them “Biggusdickus”, people would generally consider that sexual harassment.

                  You’re basically asking to be able to erase a part of someone’s identity because you don’t like it.

                  First, it’s poo-pooing sexual harassment to say that it’s “because you don’t like it”. (Though not all sexual harassment is equal)

                  Secondly, on the one hand you started by saying, “It’s just a name”, then two sentences later say that if you don’t use that name you’re erasing their identity! It’s normally rude to purposefully not call someone the name they wish to be called, but it seems like your minimizing people made uncomfortable by a name, but swing to hyperbole when considering the other perspective.

                  If someone’s chosen name is sexual enough (“Biggusdickus”), there comes a point at which there needs to be a compromise. Babe isn’t quite the same as “Biggusdickus” – partly because it’s more commonly used as a serious name – but it’s somewhere between there and most other names that are sometimes used as slang for genitalia (Willy).

                  People use all kinds of things as pet names. Hell, my only pet name for my husband is his actual name.

                  Yes, people use pet names all the time, but that’s usually in a personal relationship with consent on both ends (both the person called the name, and calling them the name, like using the pet name). A demand that makes a co-worker uncomfortable is very different.

    7. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      I think they should have stuck to avoiding using his name and calling him Babe when necessary, but labelling it bullying is assuming a lot about intent on both sides. Did she “encourage” other women not to use it or just check in with them if it felt uncomfortable, and they all felt uncomfortable, which was partly as a result of Babe’s behavior when addressed as Babe. “Bullying” assumes a lot about intention on both sides.

      FWIW, I go by my full 3-syllable name and sometimes people call me by the 1-syllable shortened version and I don’t much care. It’s much less jarring than being referred to as “he” would be.

    8. Smithy*

      While I understand the perspective, my take on the letter was that the LW felt as though Babe was engaging in sexualizing and derogatory speech and tone when talking to them (as a young woman). This was confirmed by other young women, and how he spoke about his preferred name was part of it.

      Raising the issue of being sexualized or dismissed as young women to HR probably felt a lot harder to quantify or articulate, but this captured what they were experiencing. And if HR opted to go no further and actually address the issue (sexualizing and derogatory speech and one) and saw an easy fix with the name, I’m not terribly surprised.

      Not an ideal solution, but I think a very common one we see in letters. The actual issue is far more complex and qualitative and needs a more holistic answer.

      1. pancakes*

        Yes, he was sexualizing them, in a really uncomfortable way, and it’s really difficult to approach HR about things like that even if you’re reasonably confident they’ll be responsive, which many workers can’t be. It’s nonetheless possible to call him Babe in an ordinary, non-sexual tone.

        1. Smithy*

          Agreed. But as the OP was writing in on a historical situation – I do think that’s where a lot of the “on the other hand” comments are coming from.

          If this were a contemporary situation, then the advise would likely be to use the name Babe when necessary and focus on the sexualizing language and potential sexual harassment and how to report that. However, as its historic, I think the sympathy is around a choice someone made earlier in their professional life in a difficult situation that missed the mark but was understandable. And not awful.

        2. Batgirl*

          I agree, but since OP said that she tried that, my reading was that he continued to make it feel weird nevertheless.

    9. Critical Rolls*

      It’s more accurate to say that you’re choosing not to see the difference between a man making a woman uncomfortable in how he’s telling her to call him a common romantic pet name, and someone asking for their correct pronouns. Alison’s advice (and the consensus so far in the comments) is to respect the ask and try to parse out inappropriate behavior separately. But pretending the situations are the same seems pretty disingenuous.

    10. Henry Division*

      I have to agree with you on this. The circumstances here are specific and I don’t disagree with Alison’s judgment in this case, but I don’t love the rhetoric around “he’s a skeevy guy and a bad worker so we won’t call him by the name he asked.” A gentle reminder that people do not have to earn their identities/names being respected. Unless the name is degrading or derogatory to others (or you), you should call people what they ask to be called.

    11. Susie Q*

      It’s not his name. It’s a nickname.

      I also think there are allowed to be personal boundaries. What if someone wanted to be called “Adolf Hitler” as a nickname or “Satan”? We are allowed to put boundaries in place. Plenty of countries happen to have approved named lists and this discussion is making me realize that it’s a good idea.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        For some folks their nickname IS their name. We don’t get to erase that just because we don’t like it. You mention “Satan” as an option, so what about Christian? What if someone finds that name offensive because it’s also a religion? Do we just get to ignore their name?

  8. Lady With No Name*

    Is there a source for the information from LW4 re: the relationship between powering through a Covid infection and increased risk of long Covid? I haven’t heard this so I’m curious.

    1. Elbereth Gilthoniel*

      I hadn’t heard that before either! Thanks for asking – I’m curious myself.

    2. Boosted up the yinyang*

      All kinds of things are being found out about COVID. There’s a spike in former COVID patients with Parkinson’s and with kidney issues. It can be never ending.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Weirdly, I have seen a bunch of references to this and now can’t find a single one of them. I’m taking it out of my answer until/unless I can find them.

      1. Coggleshaw*

        I work as a specialty team member aligned with a post acute COVID syndrome (PACS) program. My interpretation of the literature is: we are exploring the connection, but it’s not at all clear – and we also have some other things that have more evidence as being true risk factors for “long COVID”, which by the way has no single accepted definition.
        I agree people should rest and listen to their bodies when sick, with any illness or injury. They should also, as many mentioned below, be allowed to have agency deciding if/when they are too sick to work, unless there are clear reasons that they cannot (eg can’t work on site because infectious).

        The reason speculation about not resting enough as a “cause” of long COVID in the media is problematic is because it slips into victim blaming. Some people have had to work, or chosen to work (maybe because they felt okay but sounded awful). We may advise people rest for many reasons including compassion and “common sense” – but there is no clear evidence that “powering through” is linked to harm. There is also the issue of correlation versus causation, and one could anticipate that some groups may be less likely to be able to recovery fully before returning to regular activity, based on socioeconomic status, occupation. I think we all hope we will understand more in years to come. I’d encourage anyone struggling with physical, cognitive or mental health consequences to reach out to their provider. There are quite a lot of specialty clinics/programs emerging, and many of them are contributing to the research base.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        It’s one of those things that’s under heavy investigation but we do not have enough data to make a correlation that’s proven. There’s certainly information from similar viruses that not resting while symptomatic can cause post viral syndromes and significant long term damage but they have the benefit of some 10+ years data behind them.

        (My main field of study when I was a virologist was herpesviruses – specifically Epstein Barr – and we were looking into it being a possible cause of chronic fatigue syndrome. I read a LOT about long term damage from viruses of all kinds)

        It’s still good advice to rest when you’ve got an active viral infection though. The immune system can take up a lot of resources.

    4. ecnaseener*

      I was able to find a paper from 2020, but nothing more recent (so nothing that could account for vaccines). I’ll see if I can find it again and share the link.

    5. BubbleTea*

      Long covid seems to be a form of post-viral fatigue, which often morphs into CFS/ME. I got it after a viral infection which I didn’t take seriously enough, and it took nearly a decade to recover.

      It’s a spectacularly underreserched area (surprise! It’s mostly women who get it!) but I think that’s starting to change because of the sheer volume of people experiencing it now.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        That’s very interesting, I wonder if there are physical reasons women are more likely to get it or if it’s just cultural reasons that make them more likely to feel like they have to push through the initial illness?

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          That’s a question with a long answer! But basically there’s a lot we do not know about the immune system even today – but we do know the operation of it can be affected by hormone levels and conversely having it active can mess with the same levels. It’s why a lot of people report short term menstrual anomalies after a vaccine.

          It’s still highly theoretical but there may be a hormone link.

    6. mlem*

      I’ve more often seen that people who try to jump back in to their usual busy lives find themselves “relapsing” (not testing positive again, but quickly finding themselves wiped out). This often turns up in spotlight pieces about people dealing with long Covid, but as far as I know, it’s an anecdotal correlation — though one I would take very seriously. (A member of my team has had a “mild” case and I think only took one Monday off; I’ve been trying to encourage her to take it slow and easy as she recovers.)

    7. pancakes*

      I’m not sure. I was vaguely under the impression there was a relationship there. Looking around just now, I do see a few orgs saying “activity-induced muscle fatigue” is one of the symptoms of long Covid. They aren’t exactly saying that other long Covid symptoms are caused by over-exertion, but they’re pretty clear about recommending that people not over-exert themselves while recovering from Covid, if that makes sense.

  9. Phil*

    I have a much younger sister who was called Baby as a child and still is in her 60s. By everybody who knows her.

    1. KateM*

      So basically everybody has been infatilizing her through her life because she was much younger that other sibling(s)?

          1. Cj*

            Queen Elizabeth’s nickname when she was a child, but Harry and Megan’s daughter’s actual name.

            If I hadn’t heard it had been the Queen’s childhood nickname, I just would have thought it was an unusual name, probably with Lily used as a nickname, which I believe Harry and Meghan do use.

            1. Dr Crusher*

              Ah! I didn’t realise there was another grandchild and was confused, since QEII being an eldest child is sort of part of her whole deal lol

      1. L-squared*

        Or… and I know this is a novel concept. Maybe she liked it and chose to go by that outside of the family. By everyone who knows her implies its more than just at family gatherings.

      2. metadata minion*

        Maybe? Or it just started out as a reference to how young she was and then just became a name. As other people mentioned in the thread, Babe/Baby was actually a pretty common nickname a generation or two back.

        1. londonedit*

          The British adventurer/TV presenter Bear Grylls is called Bear because his sister gave him the nickname when he was tiny, and it stuck. If he’d wanted to use Edward for his professional career, I’m sure he would have, but he’s always used Bear because that’s what everyone’s always called him since he was weeks old.

      3. Napkin Thief*

        Whoa, that seems kind of intense! And I think a pretty far-reaching assumption, based on my experience.

        My childhood nickname was Binky. People who have known me since pre-5 years old still call me that. Nowadays it doesn’t hold any association with a pacifier for me or anyone else. I have a cousin with the nickname Lil Man and a friend whose nickname in his language translates to the same. I haven’t seen anyone I know treat either of them with any less respect as adults even while using those nicknames. After a while it just becomes sounds used to refer to someone, no deep meaning attached.

        Maybe Phil’s sister has felt infantilized, but it sounds like she’s definitely old enough to introduce herself differently if she wanted to. Might be a cultural thing, but I definitely don’t read deeply into nicknames.

      4. Wants Green Things*

        Amazing how fast you jumped to the most ungenerous take possible. If you look down grom your high horse for a moment, you’ll see a several threads on this very page about people named Baby.

      5. The OG Sleepless*

        Or Baby in Baby Driver (if you haven’t seen the movie, he’s the getaway driver for a gang of bank robbers who all know each other by nicknames. He’s much younger than the rest, so, Baby. You find out toward the end that his real name is Miles, which is a pretty funny name for a driver).

      6. RagingADHD*

        Well, only until she was old enough to *intentionally introduce herself to people*.

        At that point it’s her own choice.

      7. Ash*

        I don’t think it’s inherently infantilizing. There are many languages in which it’s common to refer to the youngest child with a nickname that draws attention to that (like “Chotu” in Hindi, which can follow people into adulthood and they can then be referred to as “Chotu” uncle).

  10. Kendra*

    #5 – Do you have any other odd feelings about this application, or the company? I ask because I’m job searching right now myself, and I’ve seen more scams in the past two weeks than during any other job search in my life (for reference, it’s only been about 7 months since I started my current side gig, so I’ve searched fairly recently). There’s information on some pay stubs that I wouldn’t want in the hands of identity thieves; do you feel confident that it’s a real position?

    Best of luck in your search!

    1. Iron Chef Boyardee*

      “There’s information on some pay stubs that I wouldn’t want in the hands of identity thieves”

      Would you feel comfortable redacting everything on the stub but your name and the name of your employer?

      1. AcademiaNut*

        You do need to be careful to redact in a way that genuinely strips the information out – in a PDF, for example, simply putting a black box over the text can leave the information in the document, easily findable by a knowledgeable user. To be safe, you could print the document, manually blank out the text with a black felt marker and then scan it back in again, and carefully check the scanned document on zoom to be sure there are no traces left.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          Or the digital equivalent of that, which would be putting the black boxes and then screenshotting the document and sending the screenshot.

          1. cappucino girl*

            yep – and if they require a pdf not a jpg, you can convert the screenshot into a PDF

        2. Lunch Ghost*

          Does printing the PDF to a new PDF after adding the boxes work? (It works for what I’m thinking of but I’m not sure if there’s something I’m not thinking of.)

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            That’s what I have done in the past. I was asked for it after I got an offer though as part of the background check, asking for it as part of the application is a lot!

    2. Mockingjay*

      I’ve been asked for paystubs when applying to large corporations. One was blatant about the purposes: 1) to verify current employment and 2) to ascertain my current salary, which I did not provide when applying. The HR rep told me flat out that the offer would not proceed unless they had proof of my current salary. I did not take the job, so they never got a copy.

    3. LW5*

      I didn’t go through with the application, partly because of the pay stub thing and partly because I didn’t want to re-type my entire resume. The company and job seemed real, though pretty out of touch/out of date.

  11. What's in a name?*

    I’ve worked with several people whose given names would suggest anyone addressing them to be ignorant at best and racist at at worst if those weren’t their actual names. And have run across a few names along the lines of “M’lady” that make you sound like like you’re sarcastically addressing them…again, if it weren’t their actual name.

    But they’re all perfectly nice people so after the initial surprise and some discomfort, you just get used to using their name. Maybe a nickname feels kind of different because you know they chose it themselves? But if it’s the name they have everyone call them, then I think if they’re a creep as well that’s the issue, and the name is neither here nor there.

    1. mlem*

      Nicknames aren’t usually chosen by the bearer. (I’d guess that they quite rarely are.) They’re usually bestowed by parents, family, and/or friends.

      1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        That’s true, but a new job, like going to college or moving to a new city, is an easy time to stop using an unwanted nickname. This isn’t someone being introduced to a new social group or work team with “This is Jim, this is Babe, and I’m Tangerine.”

        1. Kayem*

          Or at least it is until there’s some crossover, like a work sponsored event that family members can attend and said family member slips up and refers to someone with their nickname and then they have to spend the next several months stamping out coworkers using said nickname. Or in social circles that might have cross pollination with family members and the old nickname starts creeping into the social circle.

          Or moving back to the region and discovering that one’s new employer has employees with contacts to family members and old nickname has already proliferated so no amount of trying to change it is ever going to work and any future friends are introduced via family members and old nickname is never going to go away. This is where I’m at now.

    2. RagingADHD*

      Yeah, he could have said, “Oh, call me Mike” in a creepy way.

      Creeps can make anything creepy.

      1. goducks*

        This, exactly.

        The issue isn’t that he asked his coworkers to use the name he uses (he surely goes by Babe in all parts of his life), it’s that he’s a creep.

        The name is just a name. His behavior is what needs addressing, and that would be true regardless of his preferred name.

  12. Loulou*

    I think lobbying the company for expanding sick time and figuring out more flexible options is absolutely the way to go, but I’d be careful of taking up this particular employee’s cause without having a real conversation with her first. Working from home in the second week of being sick does not sound inherently beyond the pale, and from the letter it’s not clear that the employee is so ill that she’d certainly be taking sick time if she had more of it (I’m sure I’m not the only one who sounds awful for weeks after recovering from an illness). I think it would be worth it to ask her once if she is truly feeling up to working or if she’d like you to explore other leave options — but then drop it and talk to HR about how to handle a similar situation if it comes up again.

    1. Tinkerbell*

      It depends a lot on the job, too. My family was unlucky enough to get COVID last month, and my spouse ended up working through most of it because there wouldn’t be enough leave left for our summer vacation (which we already have booked) otherwise. Most of the hard stuff got left alone, though, and my spouse spent time doing things like reading up on new processes, catching up on paperwork, etc. – things that didn’t use as much brainpower as programming. Also, things they could do at 3 AM if that’s when they happened to feel up to it. (I slept in the kid’s bedroom for a week, so we wouldn’t cross-contaminate each other, so we all ended up on various semi-feral schedules…)

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        That’s the best description of it – the whole house went semi-feral for about 6 weeks solid surrounding the diagnosis, quarantines, and recovery time. We did a fantastic job quarantining when I had it, to the point where my husband got it five months later! (That may or may not be partially sarcastic about the fantastic job quarantining.)

    2. LIZZIE*

      This. While I didn’t have COVID, I was sick a few weeks back. I wasn’t ill enough to not work, aside from one day, which I did take as a sick day, slept for most of it, and also had a fever. Next day, I was more rested, and my fever was gone. However, I really only did the stuff that absolutely had to get done, and left the rest until I was feeling better. 3 weeks later, I still have occasional coughing fits, and sound like I’m really ill, although I’m pretty much back to normal.

    3. BethDH*

      I am this way. Halfway-better is the perfect time for me to catch up on administrative tasks or reading in the field. Not working at all when I’m partially recovered means that my brain finds ways to occupy itself, and there is so much in the world right now that occupies my brain in unhealthy ways.
      I recover best mentally and physically if I do my job’s version of “light duty.”

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      I agree, obviously in an ideal world no one should feel like they have to work just because they are worried about using up all their sick days. But I know many people who would be stir crazy by week 2 and desperate to do any work they were able to. So I think sending her info was a good thought, advocating for better policies is great if you can, looking into what kind of manager discretion you might have over any time off is good too–and beyond that you’re both just working with the system you’ve got at the moment and you may not be able to 100% solve this problem for her.

    5. TPS reporter*

      I worked a few days after diagnosis. I did not feel great but I could do some things. I also had this annoying cough that lasted for about a month and made me sound a lot worse than I was feeling. honestly I got bored lying around and work helped me even if I wasn’t feeling 100%.

  13. BobSacamono*

    For LW2: I can very much relate to this, and have had very similar experiences. It’s probably a cynical thing for me to do, but with bigger requests from senior staff I send an email to confirm their ask and how I plan to deliver it, giving them the opportunity to confirm or correct me. One of the struggles with IM is the coworker doesn’t always make themselves clear about what they are asking from you – and I’ve found it very important to get that clear before starting a task. The added benefit of the email is you have something for your organisation system too.

    1. anonymous73*

      That’s a good idea, and I would also do this with senior staff to confirm. But if OP is a Program Manager, she may have some authority to insist they send an email. It sounds like she gets a lot of requests, so sending an email to confirm for each one would add a lot of extra work to her plate.

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        But it gets it into her email system, which is the thing she needs. (I’ve emailed things to myself when I need that, or more recently to “snooze” the email so it acts as a tickler.)

        1. anonymous73*

          You’re missing my point. She states in the letter that yes, it only takes a minute to email it to herself, but those minutes add up. If someone can type a large amount of text into a messaging system, they can type that same amount of text into an email.

  14. Sleepy cat*

    #5 Until I saw it required a clearance, I wondered if this job was a scam. Because that’s a very odd thing to ask before you’ve even got an interview, and is an excessive amount of personal information to be collecting.

    1. anonymous73*

      I missed the part about the clearance, but couldn’t they get that information by having your SSN? I don’t have high level security clearance but I did have to obtain a public trust clearance for my current job and I never sent anyone a paystub as proof of employment.

      1. Sleepy cat*

        I just meant the clearance thing suggested the job was legit, without that it seemed like a scam

        I didn’t mean I thought the pay stub was needed for clearance

    2. Mockingjay*

      Proof of salary is not required for a clearance. If you have an existing clearance, the company security officer will verify your clearance info in an official database and whether it can be transferred/reactivated for the new position, but only after hire. If you don’t have one, the company should ask you in the interview if there is anything in your background that would preclude obtaining a clearance. Your financials will be checked if you are hired and you apply for a clearance, but the checking is done by a government agent, not the company.

      That said, companies which routinely staff positions requiring a clearance or certificate of trust often do their own screening during the application process, to ensure they only interview applicants who will meet the position requirements. Hence the request for paystubs and other verifiable info, which can be given to a third party background checker. Not saying I agree, only that this is a process I have seen as a government contractor. Company does a background check as condition of hire; you pass and are hired; then you apply for the clearance and the checking is done all over again, this time by the government.

      1. Sleepy cat*

        As explained above. I just meant the clearance thing suggested the job was legit, without that it seemed like a scam

        I didn’t mean I thought the pay stub was needed for clearance

  15. Fedpants*

    To LW 2: I’m a senior data scientist/developer and when I started at a new agency with a really matrixed approach to projects, I was put on a team with a project manager, Bob. Bob is always sending me asks on phone calls, on IM, and by email. When I was about 5 months in, they hired another project manager, who has backed me up when I simply stopped doing work that wasn’t on the MS Teams planner. “What did you need? Which ticket? Oh, I can’t track anything that’s not a ticket. I need the dopamine rush of a tickbox when I finish something” Apparently there had been ticket paralysis before either the new PM or I showed up (Bob kept changing my tickets from done back to to-do, just in case we needed to do more work on the ticket, because the tickets were not appropriate size work packages). A Jr developer, our main tester, and the project sponsor/leadership rep have also mentioned to me in passing that forcing the issue has made downstream improvements for them as well, for reporting and for confirming fixes when they go to release. And at least one comment that it’s impressive to come in and just say “well I’m just not gonna do work if you don’t put it in the queue.” (To my credit, significantly more work was being done overall, because I knew the software better than my predecessors. And the planner board in teams existed, but just tasks at a disorganized level, so I wasn’t forcing an entirely new process, so much as “use the thing we have for this exact purpose”).
    Anyways, long story to say Allison is right and totally reasonable to just keep saying “can you pop that in my email so I can track it.”

    1. AcademiaNut*

      And Alison is right that different media have different purposes. I’m in a project that uses a combination of Zoom, Slack, phone messaging app, email and Jira tickets. Tickets are for tracking specific work tasks, to do items and bugs, and the corresponding git merges. Zoom is for real time meetings. Slack is for interactive discussion on specific technical areas, with the people you directly work with. Email is for scheduling meetings, project wide announcements, and information that needs to be archived (Slack messages top out at 10,000 for the free version). The messaging app is only used for very time critical communication (the kind where waking people up at 3am is appropriate and necessary).

    2. anonymous73*

      That would work if they use a ticketing system. I’ve had to push back when I was in App Support and people would just call me or come to my desk and ask for help. Once you say “Have you put in a ticket” 20 times, they stop coming to you directly. If that’s not an option for OP, she needs to insist on email. And I think it would benefit her to send something to the whole group (multiple times if needed) instead of requesting it each time a request comes through IM.

    3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      When I worked at the agency, I was supposed to be on Skype to be pinged on demand (I was remote from all the people likely to give me work). So someone would ping me “hey Rebel are you free?” Loaded question that, because if I say yes, it’s gonna be harder to get out of whatever they want, and if I say no I might be passing up a wonderful job. So I’d skirt around the question with a “depends. What for?” “a translation” “yes, ok but what about, how long, what’s the deadline, who is it for, what software do I have to use?”

      So they’d give me the info in drips and drabs, as the French say it was like pulling worms out of your nose. Finally I’d say “can you email file for me to check it?” because if they said it “wasn’t too technical” that usually meant it was rocket science, and if they said it was “pretty straightforward” that usually meant that the text was full of puns and wordplay that’s a devil to translate.
      Thing is, I couldn’t formally accept the job until they’d sent me the file, with an email recapping all the info mentioned above, so I don’t know why they ever bothered pinging me. I tried just saying, sure, send me the email and I’ll check it out, but finally ended up just not opening up Skype so they couldn’t ping me at all.
      All that changed was that I was interrupted less often (which is crucial to getting the job done).

  16. Mehitabel*

    #5 – Asking for a pay stub is a sneaky way of trying to ascertain your current salary, which is in turn a tactic for lowballing salary offers. If it’s not illegal, it should be. If you decide to submit one, definitely redact everything but your name, the name of your employer, and the pay stub date.

    1. Cat Tree*

      Yeah, I wonder if they’re trying to get around a state law that doesn’t allow them to ask for salary info by pretending to ask for a different reason and hoping people won’t redact the part that they really want.

      1. LW5*

        I thought that, too, since it’s a remote position, but later in the application they directly asked for current salary. Maybe they hoped people who put 0 or 999999 in the current salary box wouldn’t remember to redact their paystub?

  17. Ele4phant*

    So – for letter number 4, while I definitely concur with all of Allison’s advice, one throw away thought I had is – is it possible she does feel better? I got sick for the first time in 2.5 years (just a cold but still) and I remembered that oh yeah, I sound the most congested and snotty once I’m actually past the worst of it.

  18. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

    I had a coworker offer Farmboy as a good nickname for me to call him. It was his wife’s nickname for him, from Princess Bride. Yeah, no. NOT using your wife’s cutesy nickname for you. I don’t think he meant it in a creepy way, but it was still deeply weird.

    Fortunately he wasn’t actually picky as to what he was called as long as it wasn’t his actual name, which was strange and old-fashioned, so calling him something else wasn’t a problem.

    Nicknames are commonly used as an expression of intimacy and friendship, so it feels really weird when someone requests that intimacy without actually having the relationship to back it up.

    I do think there is a distinction between names that are nicknames, and names which are totally your name but not on your birth certificate. I go by one of the latter myself, it’s hardly uncommon. Farmboy and Babe both sound like the former. I don’t know how to define the difference, especially since the same word could easily be either one to different people, but I can tell it when I see it.

    At any rate, I definitely don’t think you need to play along with some creepy man’s game just because he’s hiding behind a social rule.

    1. Mangled metaphor*

      There are also westernised names which I always feel guilt about using, despite the fact that my tongue cannot physically pronounce it would probably cause more offense. And there are some people who will seek offense whether some was intended or not.
      I worked with someone with such a name. He was lovely, but you could see his smile become slightly pained when HR attempted to introduce him. The first syllable of his given name was Tubhz, so he chose that as his nickname, slightly westernised – Tubz. This was how he answered the phone, email, and how he introduced himself in person.
      Tubz was not a large man by any stretch of the imagination, but we had a number of visitor “complaints” (as in they complained verbally at the time, it was addressed at the time and never escalated), that we were making fun of his weight because of his nickname. Cue mangled pronunciation of his given name. You just cannot win sometimes.

      And then there was Stubs – again her actual given name, first name Andi – who was one of the unfortunate thalidomide generation and was missing most of her right arm above the elbow and three fingers on her left hand… She leaned into the irony, and would formalise her name to Andrea (despite her birth certificate saying Andi) if anyone felt too uncomfortable.

      Names are funny things, but the person who owns it gets the final say in how it is used. Names are also gifts, and can be exchanged even without a receipt.

        1. Sir Ulrich Von Liechtenstein*

          Probably because it sounds a lot like “Handy” which would indeed sound like a really nasty nickname.

          1. Loulou*

            This is a huge reach — Andy is a very common name and I would be completely unable to take someone seriously if they couldn’t say it because it sounds like “handy” (I realize you were just trying to explain the logic and probably don’t feel this way yourself!)

            1. WantonSeedStitch*

              The problem is that she had birth defects resulting in incomplete formation of her hands…and her first name was Andi and her surname was Stubs. “Andi Stubs” as a name for someone with incompletely formed hands is pretty shocking. It sounds like she had a sense of humor about it, but I can easily see how someone else might have been really uncomfortable saying it.

              1. Loulou*

                Right, I read the comment, but I still think “Andy” is such a common name that most people would not even think about it (and it’s not like I’d be addressing her as Andy Stubs ever)

          2. metadata minion*

            I can see where you would get an obscene meaning from “handy”, but my first association with that word is the positive meaning, and I wouldn’t think twice about, say, a plumber being nicknamed Handy because they’re known for being very helpful and good with repairs.

            And also yeah, Andy is a really common name. As anyone who has been 8 years old can tell you, you can find a tease-worthy association with literally any name if you really want to. Adults are expected to behave better.

            1. metadata minion*

              Oh wait I skimmed the post this was in reply to and now I see why “Handy” would be unfortunate in this particular case. Please disregard my post!

              1. pancakes*

                It’s still over the top for adults to be making that connection in their minds every time they hear “Andi.” If people are having intrusive thoughts about coworkers, that’s on them to deal with.

    2. Asenath*

      I’m not sure the distinction between legal names and nicknames is quite that clear-cut. I’ve had close relatives who used nicknames most of their lives – in one, and I think, two, cases, from infancy. At least one of them, in the days before authorities got sticky about the issue, had the nickname on at least some official documents. Their nicknames were (and in a couple cases, are) used at work and socially. And they are nicknames – some given by family members during childhood, some acquired later from friends or by choice, but not legal names.

      1. BubbleTea*

        As I understand the law in the UK, you can change your name at any point to anything as long as you’re not trying to commit fraud or other deception by doing so. The paperwork is only required in order to provide evidence for things like bank accounts etc, and even then you can do it yourself for free by deed. So someone like my brother, who has used his nickname for his entire life including at work, could quite easily argue that the nickname is already his legal name, and if someone demanded proof, he could create a legal document in front of them and get someone else to witness him signing it, to prove it.

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I worked with a team of men named Dragon, Turtle, Junebug, Junior, and Chuck. Only some of these were nicknames.

    3. Bagpuss*

      I agree that in a lot of cases a nickname is used by friends/ intimates, but equally, as you say, there are a lot of people who use something other than their official, legal name and use it for all purposes. It sounds as though, in this case, Michael / Babe was creepy but he did use Babe with eveyone, including other men, so it sounds as though it may have been more of a name used all the time, that isn’t the legal name, than a nickname for intimates only. In which case while I can understnad why people were uncomfrtable, I am not convinced that it was appropriate for the managerto decide what name they could use.

      I’m very curious about whethe the manager who told OP that she could call him Michael spoke to Michael / Babe at all – and whether he pushed back on it. I’m also very curious aboutwhther OP or other staff ever made any kind of formal report or compalint about the sexual innuendo or general creepiness, and what happened if they did!

    4. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      Only if you also got to say “I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.”

      1. Batgirl*

        Everyone’s aware of that very obvious point (Babe Ruth is relatively famous), and Elspeth never said it wasn’t, indeed she acknowledged that it is. In this case though the guy was just being a dick. (Also not his name. Probably.)

          1. Batgirl*

            So did the girlfriend’s Master, it didn’t mean it wasn’t disingenuous or a way of involving a lot of people in a sex fantasy non consensually. A lot of guys hug everyone of every gender, but certain women still know in their gut that the hugs aren’t okay. It is harder when someone grooms everyone, but you don’t have to go along with something because everyone else has. In this case because Babe is sometimes a genuine nickname it is harder still to know what’s what, but I trust OP and her coworkers assessment and think they were brave.

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              In that case Master wasn’t a name, it was a title and was specifically tied to a sexual act.

  19. Mami21*

    I totally agree. It’s rare for me to disagree with the advice on this site but I’m not willing to refer to some smug stranger as ‘Babe’ if he’s not even willing to put it on his resume. If it was his actual legal name, I’d have to live with it, but no one’s forcing me to use an overly familiar nickname that makes me uncomfortable. I’d be happy to say that to my boss, too.

    1. Despachito*

      I think we should be just though – if we agree that we should call people what they themselves prefer to be called (which I heartily support), I assume it would be hypocritical for us to decide against it if we do not like the name.

      I can imagine that a lot of people can have a problem with using preferred names/pronouns that do not align with the person’s appearance (a female name or a she pronoun for a male-presenting person), but we are strongly advocating for them to respect it (and if they have a problem with it, it is for them to solve). If we want to be fair, we should do the same for “Babe”, as much as we don’t like it. And I think it should be used as devoid of that other meaning, just as any other name. Perhaps it helps to think that a lot of names and surnames we are using without thinking about it twice that sound funny or also have other meanings but we just do not perceive it anymore.

      If “Babe’s” behaviour is problematic, it is another issue and it should be addressed as such, but I’d respect his choice of name just like any other person’s.

      1. katkat*

        I get your point Mami21, but have to agree with Despachito. Besides, if he is a smug misogynist, he is going to be a smug misogynist no matter what you call him. I think Alison is right : non-reaction will take the most “fun” out of it.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yes, it sounds like the issue is the really way he speaks to women and not the name. He would probably say “call me Mike” in the same tone. You can’t pick and choose when the concept of names deserves respect based on how much you like a person, especially not at work.

          If it really makes you that uncomfortable, just don’t address him by name at all. I have done that lots of times when I’m not sure how to address someone.

      2. Allonge*

        It really is a complex situation. From what OP writes, this could well be a guy who used his knowledge of identity issues to sexually harrass young women.

        In this particular context, I am ok with OP deciding to push back on this by using the name that is on his resume. Just as I am ok with violence or deception in self-defence or defence of others. Life is not black and white.

        1. Despachito*

          But he was asking his male colleagues to use that name, too.

          And I disagree with pushing back by using “Michael” instead of “Babe” – if he is sexually harassing young women, THIS is the problem that should be immediately addressed, not the name. (And he would not magically stop harassing them if he goes by “Michael”).

          To decide that one person “deserves” to be called what they want to, and another one doesn’t is a very slippery slope. The name by itself is not the problem, it is the behaviour, and this is what should be rightfully addressed.

          1. Allonge*

            But the chosen name is (or easily feels like) part of the behavior. It’s not a random selection – OP is not pushing back against calling him Mike, King, Lucille or Elefterios.

            And for asking men to call him Babe too – it’s not like men cannot get sexually harrassed.

            OP and other women went to their boss with this and got ‘sure, call him Michael’ from the boss as a response to their concerns. ‘Cause sexual harrassment is easy to address and gets stopped every time it is raised.

            Just for the record: yes, we should call people what they want to be called, in general. Just as we should not lie, in general, or hurt people, in general. And I do know that ‘well, it’s uncomfortable’ is used against people. This situation is different (based on what we know).

            1. bamcheeks*

              The message this sends to Mike, King, Lucille and Elefterios is that they have to have a GOOD ENOUGH REASON to be called by their preferred names, however. Of course it’s possible that they agree that Babe’s reasons aren’t GOOD ENOUGH, but you never know who is watching all this and getting the message that their name won’t be respected unless it’s GOOD ENOUGH.

              “Your reasons for wanting a name change / your pronouns respected / your full name pronounced correctly and respectfully aren’t GOOD ENOUGH and are actually an imposition on my rights” is the rallying cry of rightwing bullies everywhere. To my mind, the broader principle that people’s names and preferences should be respected purely because that’s what they ask for is more important than gatekeeping whose preference is good enough.

              1. Despachito*

                This was exactly my point, thank you!

                “Babe” in this story is an a.s.s., but it is his a.s.siness to be addressed, not his name.

                1. Allonge*

                  His assiness wasnotaddressed though, was it?

                  I am seriously side-eyeing manager here: about five young women came to her with a ‘well, Michael/Babe is skeevy and, at the very least we would like to not have to call him Babe’ and she was like: sure, go ahead? Not good (for anyone). I would expect a manager to put some effort into resolving the actual problem.

              2. Allonge*

                We are talking about a woman who is being sexually harrassed. I am not ok with expecting her to act as a perfect ally to people who may or may not be around in this situation instead of protecting herself.

                1. Despachito*

                  Yes, but as you stated above, the manager’s solution was wrong on more fronts:

                  – they approved something they shouldn’t have approved (the Michael/Babe thing)
                  – they did not solve, or even attempt to solve, the real problem – the harassment.

                  I think that if you feel you are in a situation where you have no back of anyone and must protect yourself, the problem is much deeper and does not go away with a “Michael”. It might well be the first-aid solution to the woman in a situation of imminent harassment, but what about the manager? He was NOT in that situation, and yet agreed to a toothless solution. I am side-eyieng him as well as you do.

                2. bamcheeks*

                  I’m talking less about LW’s reaction and more about the company reaction here. The fact that Babe was making multiple women feel uncomfortable with his attitude and tone should have been addressed by managers or HR. The fact that people were refusing to call him by his chosen name should also have been addressed, because the organisation has a duty to think about the wider environment and the example that is being set.

                3. Allonge*

                  Oh absolutely, the company / manager is in the wrong, and should have addressed the harrassment (and the misnaming, but, like, in that order).

                  On the individual level of the person being harrassed though – I don’t think the entire problem goes away with calling the harrasser Michael but Babe really really is a choice of name that’s difficult to separate from harrassment once there is harrassment. And, again, OP went to the manager and got next to zero support. Sometimes a band-aid solution is all you have.

              3. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

                Yep, they have to have a good enough reason, as long as we are defining a bad reason as “using their name to make young women uncomfortable on purpose”.

                “I like it” = good reason
                “I was given it at birth” = good reason
                “I dunno, it’s just my name” = good reason
                “I picked it out when I started learning English” = good reason
                “I like the way women are skeeved out when they call me it” = bad reason

                1. Jennifer Strange*

                  But he also asked men to use it, so you can’t really claim that the only reason he was going by that name was to skeeve out women. Again, his behavior was the issue here, not the name.

                2. bamcheeks*

                  But nobody, including LW, knows if that was his reason. LW felt skeeved out by it and that’s valid, but it simply doesn’t follow that that was his reason for using it.

                3. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

                  But how do you actually, reliably distinguish the first reason from the last one in that list? It’s very common for transphobes, homophobes, racists etc. to suggest that aspects of their victims’ personhood and presentation are deliberately provocative. And such people can just as easily get management’s ear as a person with reasonable concerns (like the LW presumably is).

                  Seems far better to use the requested name and police his behavior as a whole, as the response suggested.

                4. Nameless in Customer Service*

                  This still lets us put ourselves in the position of judging “a good enough reason” to respect another person’s name or nickname, which lets us justify not respecting such as a punishment for bad behavior or whatever else. That way lies people with non-Western names getting renamed by our coworkers, trans people being misgendered because others have decided they’re “lying”, and so on and so forth. I think letting ourselves justify such things is letting Michael/Babe from the example win by his malfeasance.

          2. "Call me Babe" OP*

            I’m with you Despachito. I was worried (in retrospect) about my own behavior and Alison has helped clear it up in my brain. You need to call someone by the name they prefer. And Babe is a normal (though unusual) nickname. This was all about his attitude. This was a company that did not address sexual harassment at all. If an employee was good at their job, they stayed. We warned new women hires not to get in elevators alone with “Joe” and not to stick around if “Steve” got angry. If Babe had been a nice guy and said “Call me Babe like Babe Ruth” we would have been ok with the name. And if he had been good at his job, he would have stayed skeeving out women for all time.

            1. No Tribble At All*

              That sucks :( I’m really sorry to hear that there were so many Creepy Dudes at the company.

            2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              Thing is for me, asking people to call him an inappropriate nickname is pretty much the starting point for the harassment, it’s a quintessential part of his skeevy behaviour.

        2. Despachito*

          And I think violence or deception in self-defence or defence of others are indeed acceptable BUT just in case of emergency if you have no other means at hand. I do not mind kicking in the privates a man who attacks me in a desert road, but if I do that to a sleazy coworker who has inappropriate comments I’d be in trouble, and rightfully so (he is not physically threatening me, and I can go to the HR or his boss and require they resolve this).

      3. Batgirl*

        But it’s not like we have to pick one rule and then live and die by it, regardless of context. We can make a different decision in different circumstances.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          Sure, but if you’re refusing to use someone’s preferred name because you don’t like it then you’re the one who ends up looking like a jerk. The issue here isn’t the guy’s name, it’s his behavior with women. He could have said “Call me Jack” in a salacious tone and it still would have been creepy.

          1. Batgirl*

            In the context of simply not liking a name you would be a jerk. It’s a different context than that here though.

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              No, in the context of not respecting someone’s name you would be a jerk. The same as if you decided not to call your co-worker “King” or “Princess” or “Beauty” because you decided it’s not worthy of being a name. Again, you’re getting caught up on the name instead of focusing on the behavior, which is the actual problem.

              1. Lucy Skywalker*

                I don’t know; if a male coworker insisted that I call him Daddy, Master, or Studmuffin, I’d have a hard time complying, even if he requested that everyone, regardless of gender, call him that name.

          2. Batgirl*

            Also, if Jack was having a creepy, gleeful reaction to me using the name, I’m not using his name! It’s not the name that is the objectional thing. Part of dealing with creepy behavior may involve refusing to deal with the creep, even if I’m okay with calling Dick, Dick and Babe Babe because it’s clearly just their preferred name, and not a clever-clever “but you have to treat everyone equally” creep’s game. I don’t have to do anything equally. It’s like the hugging rule. If I hug Wakeen, it doesn’t mean I have to hug creepy Jack. We do have to use critical thinking rather than blanket rules when dealing with especially difficult people.

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              It’s not the name that is the objectional thing.

              That’s exactly my point.

              Part of dealing with creepy behavior may involve refusing to deal with the creep

              I agree, but that should be reporting the behavior, not refusing to use their name. Surely if a guy named “Jack” was being a creep you would go to the proper person and say “Jack is making me uncomfortable” not “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is making me uncomfortable”. The use for the OP is that management did not do anything to fix the issue (either by issuing Babe a warning or firing him if need be).

    2. Asenath*

      I don’t see any difference between “Babe” and most of the other nicknames I’ve heard. I think I’ve even encountered another Babe, many years ago, which may account for my thought that it’s a rather old-fashioned nickname. If the policy is to call people the name they prefer and use, “Babe” doesn’t get excluded. I did know someone who thought that everyone should use their “real” name, and it took me a while to figure out who she was referring to sometimes. I think she particularly disliked “Junior” which at the time a common nickname for a boy whose name was the same as his father’s. Or a man. I knew one Junior who was the father of a classmate, although in those formal days I wouldn’t have addressed him as such even if all adults did so.

      1. Yellow*

        I expect it varies between different cultures. I’m assuming the LW is in a place where, like where I am, Babe is not like other nicknames. In the workplace, it’sa term associated with sexual harassment and abuse of (mostly) women. Outside of work, it’s a pet name for a sexual partner.

        If it doesn’t have that usage, or commonly has other usages, then my vehement objection to being forced to call my colleagues that probably sounds really weird!

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          Lots of things can be a pet name for a sex partner, but also actual names. There are people who literally have the names Honey, Sugar, and Sweetie. You can’t just ignore their names because you don’t like them.

    3. Yellow*

      I would not use that name. Ever. I don’t care if it’s a nickname or a legal name I would not use it. There are many names, perhaps entirely innocent in their own cultural space, that I would not use. It’s inappropriately sexual, and I would be very happy to take that fight to hr if necessary.

      I would also show others the courtesy of using a different name if my own name/nicknames had sexual or other inappropriate connotations elsewhere/for others. If I lived somewhere with this issue generally I’d use a different name entirely. If it was just one or two people I knew I’d continue using my name but find a nickname they could use for me. (I already happily accept approximate pronunciations from some language-backgrounds anyway).

      This really isn’t similar to pronouns. Refusing to use someone’s pronouns usually implies I’ll call these people her but not you. Rarely is it someone refusing to use the pronouns she/her across the board. I would treat all equally and not use sexual relationship linked terms for any of my colleagues.

      1. Despachito*

        But really – there are a lot of names (rather family names than first names) which have a historically derogatory meaning, some of which is still discernible for general public (some is not).

        Do you really mean it that such a person should have the courtesy of changing their own name because it may be offensive to other people? I have seen more than one person with a derogatory family name who was mocked for it, yet it was THEIR NAME, that of their forefathers, running in their family for years. They were proud of it, and I do not see any reason for them to change it – their right to it prevails over the fact I could be potentially offended by it (and why should I, if otherwise the person behaves normally)?

        1. bamcheeks*

          My great-aunt’s name was Nob. She was nicknamed Coppernob for her red hair in the 1920s as a small child, and it was just her name. When she was in her 80s, her husband died and she went into a home. They called her Ada, the name on her birth certificate. She’d been Nob for seventy years, and suddenly she was Ada, and the only time she heard her name was when my grandma visited her.

          1. UKDancer*

            I think it’s so important when people go into care to check what they actually want to be called as sometimes their name is all they remember. My grandfather was an emeritus professor and he wanted to be known as Professor Smith rather than by his first name. To give all credit to the care home they absolutely honoured his wish, even when he didn’t remember who he was properly because they remembered it even if he didn’t. So it was always “can I change your continence pad Professor?”

            I still remember his regular carer crying in my arms at the funeral tea and saying what a nice man the Professor was and how he’d do anything for him.

        2. londonedit*

          Yep…when I was at school one of the teachers was called Dick. In UK schools we tend to refer to teachers by their title/surname, so we all called him ‘Mr Jones’ in school (or ‘Sir’ – in secondary school in particular teachers are commonly just called ‘Sir’ or ‘Miss’ by the students) but he was also involved with organising a sailing trip for the school once a year, and if you went on the trip, the first thing he said to everyone was ‘Right, we’re out of school now – so you can all call me Dick’. Of course, that’s an absolute gift to a load of 11-year-olds, and the younger ones would come back to school every year with the Greatly Exciting News that Mr Jones’s real name was DICK. Poor old Mr Jones then had to put up with a few weeks of sniggering, but all it took was a few well-placed ‘It’s Mr Jones at school, thank you’ and the kids soon gave up on the joke. In the end, it was his name, he’d used it for 50-odd years at this point, and putting up with being sniggered at by a few Year 7 kids once a year wasn’t worth him changing his whole name over.

          1. A Simple Narwhal*

            My husband’s guidance counselor in high school was named Richard Semen, and he preferred to go by Dick. That man must have either had nerves of steel, been absolutely terrifying, or been the nicest/coolest/most confident person ever to willingly go by that name and survive when working with teenage boys.

            I mean, I’m an adult and I still laughed when he first shared that name with me. (I would never laugh if I met Mr. Dick Semen in real life, but hearing it in the privacy of my own home? Yea, I’m giggling.)

            All the power to him sticking to his preferences and ignoring immaturity.

        3. Yellow*

          Historically derogatory? Or presently obscene or sexual?

          If it’s a term that’s deemed to be sexual harassment and a sackable offence without having to be told don’t call me that – then I think it’s unreasonable to force people to use that term.

          If you wouldn’t be able to legally register the name because it was deemed offensive in the region, you should not expect people to use it.

          There’s a huge difference between your name is associated with slavery so I’m refusing to use it, and no I’m not going to call you Sexy, or Master, or Babe. There’s also a difference between historical connotations and current. There’s always some allowance for generational variation, but terms that were an issue 200 years ago but aren’t now don’t get treated the same as terms that were fine 200 years ago but aren’t now.

          Some nicknames work fine between home and work. Others are not appropriate in the workplace. If you like being called Babe feel free to use that name socially. But understand that it’s not ok to require coworkers to use a name that has clear (in my location) sexual connotations at work. I also think it’s not ok to require cafe workers and they like to use such names etc.

          1. londonedit*

            It’s not really up to you, though. I would guess that the majority of people who do have names that sound like/can also be words that are problematic for one reason or another probably do use a nickname, but there will be some people who don’t. Because it’s their name, and they get to decide what people call them. Until fairly recently Fanny was a pretty common name for a girl here in Britain – yes, it’s also a word that can mean something else (backside in the US, a woman’s ‘front bottom’ area in the UK) but tons of people had/have grandparents and aunts called Fanny. If you meet someone who was named after their great-aunt Fanny and that’s the name they want to use, then yes, you are going to have to put up with calling them Fanny now and then. Just as you would if their name was Rainbow or Princess or Marvelous (all very real names).

          2. miro*

            I’m guessing we come from very different cultural contexts (for a start, Babe would not be an illegal name where I am, but it sounds like it is where you are) so maybe this isn’t even a discussion worth having. With that said, the assertion that the name Babe is obscene and sexual and cannot be separated from its sexual connotations reminds me of the men who refuse to be alone with women because “it might lead to something.” Just because one thing that a man and a woman may do when alone together is have sex doesn’t mean that that’s the only possible outcome, and those kinds of assumptions just seem to make things *more* sexual. Similarly, just because some people refer to their partners as “babe” doesn’t mean that that word/name isn’t only sexual or romantic. If you go through life feeling like you’re doing something dirty whenever you talk to someone named Babe, Baby, Honey, Fanny, Dick, etc, that’s your prerogative (and/or the result of a cultural or linguistic background that was handed down to you). But know that a) it’s not inherently sexual and b) treating those names as inherently sexual is going to get you some weirded-out reactions from people.

            I’d put stuff like Sexy in a different category–and suspect many people would too. I’ve personally never known or known-of anyone whose family and friends call them that, whereas the other names and nicknames I listed are pretty common.

            1. londonedit*

              There’s a private school called Sexey’s near where I grew up – named after someone with the surname Sexey. Caused quite a bit of amusement but no one ever suggested naming the school something different. I’m sure there are people around who still have the surname Sexey – or people like my schoolfriend whose surname was Hoare. If you’re in a situation where calling people by their last names is common, then those names will be used just as Smith or Williams would be.

          3. Kal*

            My primary connotation from the name Babe is the pig from the movie, so my immaturity is making me wanna say that if your first thought about the movie is that you could never say the name of the movie without feeling like you were insinuating a sexual relationship between you and a fictional pig – that’s a you problem.

            But for a serious reply:
            Its fine if you are personally uncomfortable with a name because of your own associations, but that isn’t enough for you to decide that you won’t refer to someone by their name. I grew up in a very small, very white, Christian family and town (with a very small pool of acceptable names – I have something like 10 Aunt Marias), so I didn’t have exposure to much of names out of my own micro-culture. But I still call people by their name, because my cultural hangups are mine to deal with and I don’t have the right to force them onto someone else. I was perfectly able to date someone with the name Poon – he couldn’t help that it was a normal name in his culture and slang for genitalia in mine, and he already got made fun of for it his entire life. Would it have been reasonable for no one to call my boyfriend by his name at work? For no service person or barista to ever use his name? Does coming from another culture mean he has no right to the name his family gave him?

            Saying that you would refuse to use someone’s name because it has connotations you don’t like you in your culture even though its a perfectly normal name in another culture says much more about you than the name says about them.

        4. DragoCucina*

          It reminds me of the book “Help, I’m Being Held Prisoner” by Donald E. Westlake. The main character’s name is Harold Künt. It contributes to shaping his personality into a practical joker. Which for reasons gets him sent to prison. Hilarity ensues.

          When I was first stationed in Germany many Americans I knew just couldn’t handle the German word for fox. Sometimes we have to just go in a quiet room and practice saying the name over and over again until we get over our discomfort.

        5. Eff Walsingham*

          I do think that some of this may be culturally dependent on country, etc. In the country where I live, there is a fairly high profile case (because the individual with the name keeps promoting it in the media) of a man who can no longer get a personalized licence plate. With his legal name on it. His position is that he is a proud Nameholder descended from generations of Nameholders in the community, and he/they have long used their legal name as their licence plate. However, there were official complaints from people who saw his plate driving around and thought it was advocating violence against women. Therefore, when it was due for renewal he was told that it wasn’t going to happen.

          So far the courts have ruled against him, basically saying (as I understand it) that not having a personalized licence plate doesn’t do an individual any harm. His position is that it’s deeply insulting, not only to him but to his ancestors, to suggest that there’s anything wrong with his name. Which, fair enough, but he’s also coming off as rather unfeeling and willfully obtuse. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how a stranger, either in his community or anywhere he travels to, isn’t going to think, “Oh, that must be the guy’s name,” since it spells common words and as a name it’s unusual. At least, in this country, I’ve never heard it before.

          1. Humble Schoolmarm*

            I wonder if we’re neighbours or if this is a thing in more than one place.

      2. Bagpuss*

        I don’t think you get to decide whether or not someone’s name is appropriate. I think it *us* pretty much exactly equivalent to misgendering someone or refusingto use their preferred pronouns.
        If you are uncomfortable because thei name may also have a sexual or other context that’s a ‘you’ probem- they are simply living their life with thie normal name.

        If they are expeting you to use a nickname that they don’t require others to use (e.g. had he been telling women to call him Babe, but been happy to respond to Michael when addressed by men, then it’s reasonable to refuse, but you don’t get to decide that you won’t use someone’s name just because you don’t like it. It’s no differnet than if you refused to use someone’s name becuase you personally found it harder to pronounce.

      3. FedVet*

        This is pretty horrible, to be honest.

        “I don’t value you as a person because your name is not one that I deem ‘acceptable’, so I will refuse to give you the basic respect every person deserves – calling you by your name.”

        So taking your moniker into account – Green, how are you today? Doing well, Purple? Why are you upset, Orange, I’m just sticking with my ethical principles and refusing to call you the name you’ve introduced yourself as. Oh get off it, Mauve, it’s not important.

        See how ridiculous that is? You call people the name that they want to be called. I mean heck, part of my name is latin for “bear” – and I changed it by choice. I’d be *livid* if someone decided that wasn’t okay and either deadnamed (or whatever term you want to use for a non-trans name change) me or refused to use my name at all – that’s them telling me they refuse to even give me a base level of respect.

        And that’s not okay.

        1. lizesq*

          It’s truly insane to me how so many otherwise decent people can treat others without just basic courtesy. Call people what they ask to be called. Someone else’s name is not a burden on you!

        2. Yellow*

          Doing very well thank you. And totally ok with you calling me purple, or orange, or mauve or whatever if you genuinely find my name offensive (although could you please pick just one – otherwise I might not realise you’re talking to me, and I’d like to be part of the decision making there).

          I genuinely don’t want my colleagues to feel threatened or uncomfortable in their workplace because my name, unknowingly and not by choice, happens to be genuinely offensive, obscene or sexual in their language/culture.

          We know that sexual terms of address can and do leave people (especially women, who’ve often had them used against them) uncomfortable and feeling threatened. This discourages women (and other minorities similarly targeted) from working in places that tolerate such language.

          The thing with inclusivity is sometimes we are the ones who have to bend or change to include others. That might be learning how to correctly pronounce a colleague’s name. Or learning that we’re don’t use sexual terms to address people at work or require that they use them for us.

          I’d be willing to bet that everyone claiming you always address people as they want to be addressed has exceptions. There’s terms they would not use. There are things they would not say. Overwhelming you should address people using the name they introduce themselves as. But there will always be exceptions. For me, terms used to sexually harass people in the workplace fit in that exception box as things you cannot require your colleagues to call you.

          1. FedVet*

            Well, all I’m going to leave you with is this: My shipmates named “Sweetie” and “Darling,” and many people of African descent with names like “Princess,” would be extremely upset when you refused to use their names because you think those names are “sexually harassing.”

            I hope you don’t end up on the other side of that level of disrespect.

            Have a good day.

        3. Apples*

          Isn’t insisting on a chosen name which they know makes many other people uncomfortable pretty much like saying “I value my identity and self-expression more than I value anyone else’s feelings”? I guess in general a lot of people will agree that that statement is morally correct, but in the workplace there are tons of scenarios in which people are expected to quash their self-expression in favour of making their coworkers more comfortable. We dress and act a certain learned “professional” way which isn’t part of our identity, it’s purely to avoid making the workplace dysfunctional and awkward. Not using strange nicknames seems like it could easily fall into the same bucket.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            A name isn’t like an outfit that you can take on and off, though, it’s a part of a person. What if someone’s given name made someone uncomfortable? Are they supposed to just change it?

          2. bamcheeks*

            I think telling people that their identities are subordinate to other people’s feelings is a pretty dangerous path to go down tbh.

            1. Eyes Kiwami*

              That’s literally living in a society, though. We all learn to compartmentalize to express our identity in ways appropriate to the situation.

              Call the dude by his name, but if someone is borrowing language from trans and antiracist movements in order to harass others, that’s not okay either.

      4. anonymous73*

        You don’t get to decide what names you are comfortable using. You could pick apart lots of names for negative connotations, but if it’s someone else’s name, it’s not your business. And any decent HR department that you’re running to would tell you that.

        1. Yellow*

          In my culture I think the connotations is very different. I know Dick as a (foreign) nickname for Richard. It’s also a term used as an insult.

          I’m certainly not aware of the term being used to harass people in the workplace. Or it implying a sexual relationship exists between you and them. So for me there’s no similarity there.

          I genuinely feel that there are always limits on behaviour in the workplace. That guiding principles (use people’s names) do get balanced on the edges with the impact on others (no you can’t force your coworkers to call you SexyBuns).

          This might be a purely cultural difference (AAM is an American site and I’m not), or even reflecting our different legal environments. I often find myself really surprised at the things that are seen as “usual” on this site – that are so very different in my country. There is a lot of advice that just does not work in my country and you would find yourself in trouble if you followed it without adapting for local customs (and regulations!)

          I think I’m really just repeating myself now so should stop commenting as I’m not adding anything to the discussion.

          1. EventPlannerGal*

            That’s certainly your prerogative, but can I ask if you have ever actually encountered such a situation in real life, in person? Not as a hypothetical or a story on an advice website, if you have ever actually encountered someone called Precious and said “no, I don’t like your name so you’re Mary now” or whatever?*

            I’m asking not to be a dick (as it were) but because speaking from direct personal experience I would say that when you actually interact with people with unusual names, it is remarkable how fast it loses any connotation and becomes just a noise that denotes that person. It’s like how when you work on a cash register you very quickly stop thinking of banknotes as “wow, so much money!!” and they just become bits of paper. And I often find that people who are the most upset by unusual names and most reluctant to use them are people who have rarely had to do it, and that their objections stem more from unfamiliarity.

            *I’m also curious, if you have indeed done this, how that person dealt with the (to me) unimaginable rudeness and disrespect of that interaction and what your relationship was like going forward. But again, if you would rather withdraw from the conversation I understand.

            1. bamcheeks*

              it is remarkable how fast it loses any connotation and becomes just a noise that denotes that person

              I think this is key, and I wonder whether there are many people arguing that “this name is ridiculous and also offensive” who realise this.

              Even things like someone having the same name as a famous person. You have about a day and a half where you’re like, “Pamela Anderson? Seriously?” and after that you just casually think of her as Pamela Anderson in Finance and when someone from outside goes, “Pamela Anderson? Seiously?” it takes you a moment to work out what they’re talking about.

            2. Yellow*

              Yes. I have informed people that’s not a nickname I’ll use.

              They knew full well what they were asking was inappropriate. It’s mostly happened with teenagers. It’s not common. My personal experience have all been with nicknames.

              No I’m notgoing to list out examples of insults and sexual terms that you cannot use as a name here.

      5. Loulou*

        Wait, there are MANY names you wouldn’t call someone by? What are some other examples?

        Also, I don’t think your note about pronouns is true across the board, at least not for pronouns other than she/her/he/him

        1. Yellow*

          Nothing sexual. Nothing obscene. No racist insults. No sexist slurs. No homophobic insults. Basically no insults against anyone. Nothing that implies you have lordship or dominion over me. Nothing that makes it sounds like I’m claiming lordship or dominion over you. Nothing deliberately offensive to cultures and communities around me.

          Plus – I’ve worked with kids. So let’s also take out the bodily function focused nicknames they come up with.

          1. sagc*

            So… Dick? Poonam? Randy? King or Lord?

            Basically, you sound like both a racist and someone so inflexible that you don’t realize that names aren’t the same part of speech as saying “Hey, you’re such a dick”. Is that really the stance you want to double down on?

            1. londonedit*

              I mean…if we can manage to tell the difference between ‘I’ll ask Mark to run a report’ and ‘I’ll mark these emails as read’ then I’m sure we can tell the difference between ‘Hey, you’re such a dick’ and ‘Will Dick be at the meeting tomorrow?’

              1. sagc*

                Well, I’m talking to Yellow, not the general commentariat. They do not seem to be able to make that distinction.

          2. Nancy*

            Yeah, that doesn’t work in the US and would not go over well with many people here.

          3. Loulou*

            Okay, but those aren’t examples. Are there actual names or nicknames, that you’re aware of real people using, that you have refused or would refuse to use?

            No one is suggesting you call someone “stinky” or whatever the other fourth graders came up with — I’m talking about adults in the office.

            1. Despachito*

              I think that if the person themselves said they wanted to go by “Stinky”, there would be no other option than to call them “Stinky”.

            2. EventPlannerGal*

              I think the answer is almost certainly no, they have never actually had this problem in real life. I generally find that people on here tend to be the most hardline about what they Most Definitely Would Do in entirely hypothetical scenarios.

          4. Cthulhu's Librarian*

            So… what about Randy? Not exactly a common name, but I know at least a couple Randells who use it. In Hindi, the same pronunciation means prostitute (and even in english, it can be used in a sexual manner). If Randy goes to India on assignment, would you make him change his name? Or Pete, which is used as slang for fellatio in Argentina? Dom, which means stupid in Dutch? Becky, which in the Philippines is a slur for young gay men? Pippa, which is used as slang for sex and sex acts in Italian, Swedish, and Greek? All of these are examples found through a simple google search.

            The approach you’re taking seems untenable, simply because you, and everyone you work with, can’t be equally well versed in what might be offensive to each and every culture or language out there. You’re projecting your understanding and meaning of the names onto the person, and making them deal with your personal hang-ups that are based upon your personal experiences. That is definitively disrespectful – as disrespectful as telling a Shaniqua, Faizal, or Siobhan that they need to change their name because you can’t pronounce it.

            1. UKDancer*

              Yes I worked with an American who went by Randy. In England it’s pretty much always used to mean aroused so very few British people would have that as a first name. Still I managed not to snigger when introduced to Randy and after a while I stopped thinking of it as an amusing double entendre and it became simply his name to me.

      6. mlem*

        If you think “Babe” is “inappropriately sexual”, then you refuse to call anyone Dick, Willy, Johnson, Peter, Honey, Fanny, Bunny, and on and on and on. All because your mind is on sex rather than on professionalism. That reflects badly on you, not on the people you insist on misnaming.

      7. pancakes*

        “I would also show others the courtesy of using a different name if my own name/nicknames had sexual or other inappropriate connotations elsewhere/for others.”

        I’m not on board with the idea that it’s a courtesy for people to cover up their own names for the benefit of prudes. Maybe there are some exceptions, but my thinking is that people who find themselves fixating on the connotations of a new acquaintance’s name should generally get over it.

    4. Apples*

      Yeah, surely there has to be a limit? Say someone decided their nickname was “Sexy” and they were determined to use it in the office because “everyone at uni called me that”. We wouldn’t expect all their coworkers to say it, right? I’d be OK with using anyone’s legal name even if it was unusual, but I think it’s inappropriate for someone to take a friends & family nickname with intimate connotations like “Babe”, “Darling”, “Sweetheart” etc and tell all their coworkers to use it. Nicknames as a whole aren’t really for the office anyway in my opinion? I don’t want to get that informal with my coworkers.

      1. bamcheeks*

        We wouldn’t expect all their coworkers to say it, right?

        … yes? I mean, if it’s a name that’s transcended that original group of friends and whatever initial in-joke created it and it’s what they want to be known as professionally, then yes, I do think that’s what you call them!

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Huh, I have worked with more than one Darling (male and female), Princess/Prince, Queen, Beloved, etc. and I never thought of those names as sexual.

      3. giraffecat*

        I have a coworker named Honey. I call her Honey. That’s her name. The intimate connoation of the name is in your head. If I refer to my spouse as ‘honey’ it’s intimate. If I call my coworker by her name, it’s not. The intention is completely different and most people have the maturity and reason to be able to tell the difference. It’s really not that hard.

        If someone genuinely goes by Sexy and literally everyone calls them that (family, friends, coworkers, etc.), then that’s their name, so that’s what I’d call them. It might be wierd at first, but I’d adjust. If it’s just a selective nickname, that is, if only college friends call them that, but not family or anyone else, that’s probably different.

        And people use nicknames in the office all the time: Beth for Elizabeth, Will for William, etc.

    5. L-squared*

      I mean, that is kind of disrespectful.

      I have a good friend whose legal name and what he goes by are totally different. Who are you to decide what names are valid and which ones arent.

    6. Anon for This*

      I probably would have said “like the pig in the kids’ movie? You really want me to essentially call you a pig? Well, OK. Babe.”

      1. bamcheeks*

        I get that we’re assuming this guy a) was a dick b) wasn’t operating in good faith and c) the name’s ridiculous, but “Oh, like a pig? OK” is a really horrible thing to say to someone! Frankly if I found out that any of my staff were saying things like that to someone I’d be extremely concerned about their professional judgment.

        1. mlem*

          Seriously. If I ever worked around someone who reacted to a name with “Babe, like the pig?” or “Benji, like the dog?” or “Herbie, like the Love Bug?” or “Willy, like the whale? or “Queenie, like my friend’s cat?” … there would be words, because that’s deeply inappropriate and unprofessional. Don’t mock people’s names!

          1. The OG Sleepless*

            My (married) last name is a somewhat amusing food name, and I cringe whenever I introduce myself to people, bracing myself for the inevitable “XXX? Like, XXX? Haha! [one of about 3 smart remarks that invariably follow]. Nope, didn’t pick it, don’t really like it, for that matter I really dislike the in-law who doomed all of us with this stupid name, but it’s what I’ve got. People could at least not pile on about it.

            1. BadCultureFit*

              To be fair, you DID pick it, though. You’re not legally obligated to take your spouse’s last name.

    7. Jora Malli*

      Yes. I said this further up in the thread, 99.9999% of the time, I am on team Call People What They Want To Be Called. But there’s a 0.0001% exception for people who are acting harassy and trying to get you to call them something intimate when you don’t have that kind of relationship.

      1. bamcheeks*

        If it was someone trying to get one particular person or a specific group of people to call them something intimate, it would be intimate. But if they’re literally asking all 500 people at the company to call them that thing, it stops being something “intimate” and simply becomes a name which sounds the same as something intimate.

    8. Old and don’t care*

      And if I were he and someone called me Michael I’d ignore it and say “I didn’t know you meant me. I’m Babe.” Similar advice is given when people write in and say coworkers are using nicknames for them and the go buy their first name, or vice versa.

      He is not going by Babe “at”anyone.

      Coincidentally I had a relative by marriage who was also Michael goes by Babe. It was obviously unusual but that was it. This thread kind of baffles me.

  20. my 8th name*

    LW1: I challenge you to consider what “making it work” could even look like in this scenario and whether that’s even remotely feasible if your manager refuses to engage you in your work! Unless you’re simply planning to wait him out and see if he leaves first, there’s no “winning” here.

    That said, do not let him rush you out the door! Definitely begin your job search, but only leave for a position and environment you feel really good about. Do leave a bad job for another bad job just to get away from him. Good luck!

    1. Myrin*

      I really like this comment and I reckon especially its first paragraph is something OP really needs to think about and internalise.

  21. Eyes Kiwami*

    OP 5–I also encountered this recently, and while I am in a country where eventually you have to give pay-stub-related information to your new company for tax purposes, this company was asking for it at the application stage! Several of my friends had applied to this company already, and didn’t know the laws/common practices, so they felt they had no choice but to provide it. I was nervous about being lowballed on salary, so I declined to provide it. I had to give a whole schpiel about it to the interviewers. We shall see if they penalize me for it.

    I don’t think it’s right that companies act like they’re entitled to such personal information at early stages. It’s not like we as candidates get copies of their recent financial earnings or engagement survey results.

    1. Panda (she/her)*

      Hmm, maybe you SHOULD ask for their financial statements and the performance review of the person you’d be reporting to…you know, since it’s important that you verify the job is a good one :)

      1. Eyes Kiwami*

        I would love to! I think if they’re going to demand so much from candidates, it’s only fair!

    2. PX*

      Depending on where you are, you can absolutely look for companies financial information online before starting or while interviewing! I’m UK based and have definitely done that – especially when applying to smaller companies. You can usually find at least a rough number on government/tax related websites.

  22. Matt*

    #2: I don’t care about the medium as long as it’s an asynchronous medium in writing. Everyone except me seems to love the phone. And since we use Teams, the Teams call function too. Sigh …

    1. OHCFO*

      Hey OP#2 – I totally respect that you’ve developed a system that works for you. And I know how tough it can be to try to shape the preferences of others to fit within it. Read a different way (i.e. the way your coworkers might perceive the situation) what you’re asking is for others on your team to change *what works for them* because it doesn’t *work for you.* I can imagine an alternate AAM where we get a letter from someone saying they have developed a great work management system for themselves using the organization’s messaging platform… and someone on their team always makes them resend their messages as emails.

      There’s a low key workaround here, where everyone gets to work the way that makes sense for them. And that’s for you to send yourself an email w/ the request in it. You could add the sender’s name to the subject line to help with sorting if that’s part of the issue.

      I think we’re all going to see a lot more reliance on these chat platforms moving forward. What’s currently an uphill battle for you is going to get a lot more steep. So figuring out a way to make it kit a fight might be best.

      1. anonymous73*

        Scrolling through a bunch of messages on IM to find all the details for a project request is the least efficient way of doing things. I don’t care if it’s a preferred method, but you’re just asking for something to get lost in translation. Putting it in an email makes more sense for everyone involved (and if you can type a bunch of text into a messaging platform, you can type that same amount of text into an email). And some IM platforms don’t save the conversations once you close the window. A few jobs ago I worked in App Support and we used a ticketing system. People would call or come to me directly when they had an issue. Could I have fixed their problem in 5 minutes? Most of the time yes. But then there would be no record of the problem, or that I had fixed it/how I had fixed it/etc. So I didn’t fix it in the moment. I told them to submit a ticket. Did they prefer that? Of course not. But it was the only way to have a record of what had happened and been done to fix it so it could be referred to in the future if needed.

        1. eastcoastkate*

          Fully agree on this- my org only keeps so many messages in Teams (30 days?) so it’s easy to lose something, and the search function (at least for me) hasn’t worked well to try and reference something if you talk to someone frequently. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with requesting an email to have it in a much more organizable/searchable/referenced format.

      2. Colette*

        If the OP were refusing to answer quick questions over IM, I’d agree. But IM – like text – is not a good way to store long-term information, including questions that take a while to answer. That’s not what those systems were built for. The OP is making a reasonable request, to people who do not outrank her.

      3. SomebodyElse*

        I was going to say the same thing. MS Teams does have an email function back and forth which works pretty well. Another option if you use MS OneNote- you can copy/paste the the msg in a page then email the page to yourself.

        OP:
        Of course you can push back on the people doing this and the best way is a breezy “Hi Wakeen, do me a favor and send that in an email please. It will get lost if it’s in my chat. Thanks!” but I would encourage you to find out what functionality might be available in the system you use. I’ve found over the years that software often gets rolled out with the most basic of instructions and the second/third level functionality isn’t mentioned. (It’s usually the second/third level functions that really make the tools shine in my opinion!) I find most of it by clicking buttons and wandering around in it.

  23. Rika*

    #5 So far I’ve encountered two potential employers who asked for a pay stub/current salary to bring to the interview. I completely ignored the request both times and it was fine; no-one had the gall to follow up on it. I think it’s one of those things employers know perfectly well they have no right to ask, but figure it’s worth a shot.
    I like Alison’s advice in this instance, but if anyone should ever ask you point blank what your current salary is, just give them a funny look an tell them that you’re not discussing your current salary (in a matter of fact tone, like OF COURSE you’re not discussing that). That should put an end to it. If they get it into their heads to press on after that; that’s probably not a company you want to work for anyway.

    1. Triplestep*

      I took from the letter that it needed to be uploaded with the application, but maybe I’m reading that wrong.

  24. Agent Diane*

    OP1 – I’m agreeing with Alison and others: start looking. And once you’re ready to give notice go to the Board again. Give your notice. Explain why. Advocate for your great team to go to a reasonable manager until you are replaced. You can then walk away knowing that any further disfunction is definitely the Board’s fault, and you’ve done what you could to protect your old team.

  25. katkat*

    #2 OMG I feel your pain. You are totally reasonable. I too want to get written assingments that I can file and check later, or which get filed automatically. And this has been the system in all of my previous places (theres plenty of those…) I think it’s a very reasonable ask.

    In my current office the main way to share work is via…. Post-it notes and mouth-to-mouth. (or mouth-to-postit-to-mouth, we juggle tasks a lot…)

    I have tried to address it with my peers, but people are convinced this is the only possibility. We handle patient info, and people are 1) sceptical about working online and 2) don’t want to learn how to use our secure messaging system which is integrated into our platform where all the patient info is. My boss is also new, so even though she agreed with my point, she feels like there are bigger issues right now she has to focus on. (valid point)

    What I have done is 1) try to lead by example and share info by mail and personal secure messages rather than leaving a post it note on their desks. 2) moved one of the most chaotic post-it-note systems we had to the secure platform. I am tiny bit hopeful, simce people have taken these changes positively, but we have a long way ahead of us…

    Good luck to you #2, I hope you colleagues takes your suggestion and you get a better system!

  26. Turingtested*

    #3: I think it’s really important to call people by the name they want to be called by. I’m a bit biased because my given name is two syllables, common in English but unusual for a first name. (Rhymes with Mary.) It’s surprising and hurtful when people immediately say “I’m going to have a problem with that” or act like I’m being demanding if I correct them if it’s mispronounced.

    Anyway, I wonder if there was a bit of a negative feedback loop, where Babe was already primed to be a jerk, could tell people didn’t respect his chosen name and ramped up the poor behavior, which made people even less inclined to call him Babe…

    1. londonedit*

      I agree – I think it’s more a case of ‘Oh my god this man is insufferable and creepy and on top of all that we apparently have to call him BABE, ugh’ than anything else.

      And I also agree that we should call people by the names they want to use. My name is fairly straightforward but I hate its longer form and have used a shorter version for over 30 years. Unless you’re in my family, you went to school with me or you’ve seen some sort of official document, you wouldn’t know what my full legal name is. 99% of people are totally fine with this and call me by the name I introduced myself to them with and don’t even think about the possibility that it’s not the name on my birth certificate. Because who cares, right? But occasionally I’ll bump into that 1% who get weirdly fixated on whether my name is my ‘real name’ (er…yes?) and want to find out what my ‘real name’ is. I always try to just say ‘Yep, it’s my name!’ and move on, but some people get really invested in finding out what my ‘real name’ is, as if by knowing what’s on my passport they’ll somehow get one over on me or possess a piece of information that other people don’t, or something. It’s really weird and definitely more than a bit creepy. It doesn’t matter whether my name is Louise or Alex or River or Fanny or Satchel or Zowie, if I tell you that’s my name, it’s my name.

    2. straws*

      I grew up believing that I needed to use a nickname I disliked and didn’t identify with because my given name was “too difficult” and it was more important that other people be comfortable when referring to me. I still have issues as an adult with this. At one point in my 20s, I finally got the courage up to request of a group of friends that I considered myself to be close to, to no longer go by this nickname and to go by either my full name or another nickname that I did like/identify with. They flat out refused and it was devastating (they were not great friends for other reasons, but that was my first taste of it). I don’t know how people can think it’s ok to refuse to use someone’s preferred name. It’s one thing if he were only requesting it of certain people or genders, but if someone is stating their preference across the board to all people at the office, it’s not likely that they’re doing that for fun or gross reasons. I have a severe aversion to a very common name due to past trauma, but I don’t refuse to call people by it if it’s their name, even if it does make me uncomfortable – it’s just not their problem and it’s not right to make them uncomfortable too.

      1. Slightly Anon*

        I was told in high school that I was not permitted to use my first name because it’s “outlandish”. Outlandish. Yeeeeah.

        My teacher meant “it’s not in English/ has no English equivalent/ isn’t easily nickname-able”. So I used a middle name for a couple of years, and now it’s slightly useful, if someone calls me that, to pinpoint where they’re remembering me from.

        But, even knowing how uncomfortable it is to be denied the use of one’s preferred name, I would probably have difficulty referring to a colleague as Bae Bae or Sugarpants or Ron-Jeremy. Despite my having successfully worked with Angel, Sunny, and Eminem at my last job. If someone’s chosen moniker sounds like “let’s go to the sexytime place!” in the local vernacular, I think I’d default to calling them “you” in person and maybe Mr. / Ms. Lastname to others? (But then I am sometimes more formal than my cohort because of when / where I was raised.)

        To me, the difference is that something suggesting sexual intimacy is too much to expect of a coworker. No, I do not have a problem calling people Beth or Kate, whether it’s on their documents or not. Something like Sweetie or Honey is borderline. I mean, if they are warm and charming right off the bat, and explain that it’s what they’re always called, then it wouldn’t be awkward. But still… months down the road we’re making a presentation, and I say offhandedly, “If you could just please set up the projector, Sweetie, we’ll get started,” how is the client going to perceive us?

        Well, I suppose we could make sure we hand out cards when we arrive.

        Oh — I’m not Outlandish anymore. It seems there was a television star, and now my name is fine to have. /s

  27. JM60*

    #4 It’s worth noting that short term disability doesn’t pay as much as your full salary (I believe only about 60-70%). So if her finances are tight, going on short-term disability might not be a very good solution for her.

    1. Lightning*

      Rather, short-term disability may not pay your full salary. Some policies don’t, some do. (Our does.)

  28. EvilQueenRegina*

    How long does your instant messaging program actually retain messages? I just had a look at my Cisco Jabber, and if I’ve exchanged a lot of messages with a particular person, I can’t see all the old ones from ages ago. Plus when I changed my laptop earlier this year I lost all my old chats. We also have Microsoft Teams here but my employer recently made a change to the chats on that, so again, it’s not always possible to access old messages. If I needed to go back and look at an assignment again at some later date, I would have no trouble with it via email assuming I hadn’t deleted it, but could lose access to it via messenger.

    1. Ferret*

      But that is an issue with the setup of the messaging systems and is equally possible with emails -my old company had a policy that all emails older than 6 months were automatically archived and not easily accessible.

    2. alienor*

      That would be a problem where I work also. Slack messages get deleted after a few months, and if you haven’t saved a link or other information someone sent, it’s gone forever.

    3. SomebodyElse*

      Yeah this is going to be risk depending on the IT policies at play. In my company IM/Chats are removed after 3 mo and email is 1 year. To keep anything longer you have to either store it in OneNote, save the email to your local machine or server folder, or figure out another way.

      Personally I’ve given up. If my company feels it’s prudent to delete email and chats- I’m not going through contortions to keep it. I’ve been saying “Hmm… I had that information in an email. But it’s gone now” to a lot of requests these days.

    4. Gatomon*

      I’m not sure what our Teams retention policy is – the search is so awful I can’t tell…. But our emails are supposed to be removed after two years. That’s generally long enough, but I still maintain folders in my shared drive for projects and I save any emails I think I will need there as well. It’s come in handy.

      In general I’m struggling with how to use Teams effectively. I find myself needing to reach out to certain coworkers and not sure which of the million teams we’ve set up would be appropriate, partially because they’re never used. But it also doesn’t make sense to make a team for a question on a single project. Boss has not given much guidance, he starts up a new system and then it slowly atrophies as his attention is pulled elsewhere, then rinse and repeat. We had our old VP as interim boss before him and he just used tables in OneNote organized by date of weekly meeting, and it felt like it worked.

  29. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #4

    LW, let your employee do whatever she feels is right for her. If she feels okay working from home while ill, let her. You’ve already taken some things off her plate and offered to check into other leave options, and she said no. And even though she sounds horrible, it might just be that she sounds a lot worse than she feels. Also, short term disability might not be an option for her. At my company you have to wait five days before it kicks in and those five days are using up your PTO or are unpaid if you don’t have any PTO.

    I just got over COVID and I, too, worked from home throughout (we’re hybrid). It was mostly like a cold for me, so I took one PTO day at the time I felt the worst. The rest of the time I worked on low priority task-based items (I’m a manager) rather than annual policy reviews and things that required more thinking. I also logged off a couple hours early for several days if I needed to rest. And towards the end I sounded worse than I felt simply because of the lingering dry cough and some nasal congestion. I would have been really annoyed if my manager wasn’t taking my word for it that I was okay to work.

    1. Elenna*

      I see what you mean that she might very well feel mostly fine and just sound sick. On the other hand, it’s also perfectly possible that she doesn’t feel fine and would have preferred to rest, but sees working as a less bad option than taking more sick days. Which I think is particularly likely because when OP suggested that she take sick leave, the employee didn’t say “oh, I feel fine enough to work”, she said “I don’t want to use up sick days”.

      “You’ve already taken some things off her plate and offered to check into other leave options, and she said no” I don’t see anywhere where the employee actually said no to other leave options, though? The letter just says that OP sent over information on short term disability, nothing about the employee’s reaction.

      I’d suggest that OP think about what they can reasonably do (which projects can be moved, what other options besides short-term disability may exist) and then ask the employee “Hey, I can [take these off your plate/start the disability paperwork/whatever], would you like me to do that?”

  30. Not THAT Sick*

    I am somewhat jealous of LW4’s employee! I had COVID a couple of months ago, and when I got back, my boss criticized me for taking sick time when I “wasn’t that sick” – even though I didn’t even take any full days off and logged in a couple of hours every day from home to cover important meetings that couldn’t go forward without me. Needless to say, I was pretty pissed and I’m hoping to be leaving this job soon.

    1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      Nod. People were confused when I took a week off for covid but i know my body will act a fool. Just brain fog, high heart rates, just nonsense if I don’t lay down.

  31. Ms. Moneypenny*

    I also have a strong preference to receive tasks by email. But there’s always someone who wants to give it to me some other way. So I put the information into an email to send to myself. Win/win.

  32. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

    LW1: you have a boss who acts unethically and at least one member of the board prefers to protect him and turn a blind eye becasue they think he helps the organization.
    You need to get out for your own health, your own livelihood and the possibility of his actions being leaked to the public and there being investigation and you being implicated.
    The board either prefers unethical actions or not rocking the boat. Whichever it is you should leave that dumpster fire ASAP. Win by getting a better job and moving up the ladder elsewhere.

    Consider letting your employees know why you are leaving and that you will give them good references if they choose to seek employment elsewhere and consider blowing the whistle (after speaking with a lawyer to make sure your protected). Either before or after leaving.

  33. bamcheeks*

    Both LW1 and LW3 seem to be great examples of letting A Jerk get to define the terms and caring way too much about their opinion.

    LW1, what if your crappy boss’s opinion and position isn’t the most important here? What if your happiness is? What if it’s making sure the board actually suffer some consequences for continuing to prop up this guy, because he brings in money and hey, you run that essential service despite his crapness so actually there’s no problem here? What if it’s demonstrating to your team that they don’t have to accept his unethical leadership?

    LW3, what if Babe’s reasons for changing his name aren’t the most important thing? What if it’s more important to demonstrate to that not-yet-out trans person in your team or the person who is fed up of having their name mispronounced that round here, we respect people’s names regardless of their reasons for choosing them or our personal feelings about whether it’s a valid name or not?

    Both of you are giving these jerks so much power, and like, you don’t have to do that! They’re jerks! You get to not care what they think!

  34. Asenath*

    I used to have a job in which I depended enormously on the use of email to keep track of tasks. Not just email – I wanted all emails to be send to an office email account, not some there and some to the personal email account I was also assigned. This was to keep them all in one place, which was also accessible to the co-worker who sometimes covered for me. I had to be absolutely rigid about insisting that all requests be submitted that way – I simply wouldn’t even make notes if someone phoned me or cornered me in the corridor – just “Oh, I can have a look at that when you email me the details (at Official Office Email)”. And if I got the request sent to me the “wrong” way, I would, when forwarding it to the correct email, copy them with a note saying something like “I got your request, and am forwarding it to the correct email address”. I absolutely refused to give out a number anyone could text to, and we didn’t have other communication systems. Almost everyone learned pretty fast how to get requests in to me. Some of them may have thought I was ridiculously rigid; but I had so many requests coming from so many directions I had to be organized.

  35. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

    Re: LW2

    I have the same pet peeve (and also with texts) because IM/texting is not searchable or sortable to the degree email is.

    A workaround for the repeat offenders is when they IM you or text you, immediately copy the context and paste into an email to yourself with an obvious title like
    To: Me
    From: Me
    Subject: Fergus Llama Project Request 1/1/22

    1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      This is probably going to be the most realistic way to deal with it but it would be better if the whole team/company could establish a system and stick to it. I think any disability that OP2 has is irrelevant; the issue is that work is being assigned using a method that isn’t really appropriate.

    2. DD*

      I would also copy the requestor and a short line like – just wanted to verify your IM/text request.

  36. Medium Sized Manager*

    LW2: people absolutely get used to it. I ask for an email for things a simple as “can you follow up with Jane on x error” because, otherwise, it gets lost in the abyss. I’ve managed the same team for over a year now, and they will shoot me a message with any questions so we can chat about anything immediate but wrap the convo with “I’ll email this to you.” It doesn’t work every time, and some people need reminding, but it’s a good system.

    It’s also much easier to search for things in your inbox vs chat, which you can point out if people (unnecessarily) take offense.

  37. Marlene*

    I just got over COVID and worked from home when I felt well enough to, and took sick time the other days. I sounded absolutely awful but it was like a head cold, and there was no purpose for me to use my sick time when I had the ability to work from home. I worked from my bed as well, except for two meetings I had to run, and then I brushed my hair and washed my face and worked from a desk in my home.

    1. NoviceManagerGuy*

      Yeah, my 8 year old and I spent a day in bed playing checkers and napping, and then we were pretty much fine. Covid is a widely, widely varying experience for people.

      (We are both fully vaccinated and I’m sure that helped)

        1. Eff Walsingham*

          I am triple vaxxed, and still not doing great after 2 weeks. Making me really, really grateful that science exists! I’m not officially high risk, but always seem to have trouble throwing off respiratory viruses.

  38. JewishAndVibing*

    LW 3:

    I haven’t seen a lot addressing this, but I know for me, part of the discomfort would stem from the fact Babe is typically a petname between people in relationships or that, often, are used for flirtatious reasons toward another person. With the fact Babe acted badly toward women in general, I would definitely be both a tad uncomfortable and honestly a bit suspicious about the name.

    I’m very curious if he also requested the men to use Babe, or if it was just the women.

    If it was everyone, I’d feel discomfort but call him by his requested name. If not, well, there are other issues at hand.

    1. Luna*

      Given his attitude, especially towards women, I’d have no problem calling him ‘Babe’. But with a type of voice that makes it clear that it’s not an endearing nickname or done for his preference, but more in the sense of “I am calling you like the pig you are naming yourself after. And even that pig was a better person than you.”

    2. bamcheeks*

      It does actually say that:

      To be fair, he also asked men to call him Babe though I am sure without any sexual undertone

      To me, it’s pretty clear that if he asked men to call him Babe in a different voice / tone / manner than the way he asked women to do it, that’s the problem! Not the name he was using.

      1. JewishAndVibing*

        Ah, thanks, I missed that.

        Yep, this all goes into tone and other stuff, then. Still gotta call him by his requested name. I super understand the discomfort, though.

    3. Ridger*

      LW says “To be fair, he also asked men to call him Babe though I am sure without any sexual undertone.”

      So, yeah, I’d call him Babe, flatly and once per conversation.

  39. What else could I do*

    I worked through Covid (remotely). My organization did offer Covid leave that wouldn’t drain your PTO, but I just didn’t have the support to step away for two weeks. I was prepping for a big presentation and doing a lot of business development and marketing, and I knew if I was out the work just wouldn’t get done

    1. Please Mark This Confidential and Leave It Lying Around*

      Same. We were short-staffed and I knew it would be 10x worse coming back if I couldn’t stay current. It was pretty miserable though.

  40. elizelizeliz*

    LW1, while I read the staying out of spite is honestly its own way of letting your boss win because you’re letting him make your life worse, I also saw where you said that if you did leave you would have to change jobs or maybe move, and that you like your team. I think to me the other option, then, is deciding that being effective at your job isn’t actually your highest priority because there’s enough other good things you get from being there. I don’t know if that’s true for you, but I just want to say that deciding to care less about being as good as possible at your job because you’re getting other ways that your life is good from it is a totally valid and reasonable decision also. I think of the things you said in this situation, the only bad option that you’re considering is being miserable by trying to spite him. That one feels like the one that will end in the worst set up for you, who is really the only person that you can make decisions around here.

    1. Addy*

      Hey i am LW1. Thanks for this perceptive comment , this type of acceptance seems like the closest I could get to making it work. Bc yes, part of what makes me feel stuck is that I don’t want to deal with all the ancillary life changes that go w a new job. My hours, salary, my city, my coworkers- I am satisfied with all of that so do get some happiness from my situation. But I can’t accept not growing at my job or not trying to do better work – it makes it seem pointless to go to work at all! sometimes things just don’t work out.

  41. Squishy*

    OP2 – I admit the first thought I had when I saw the headline was “Yeah, and I’d like to own my music collection.”

    I think it depends on organizational norms whether it’s OK to push back on the channels through which work is assigned, but given this is an important accommodation for you, do you have an IT department that might be able to help look at a quicker solution? I’m thinking specifically about Slack, which has email integrations that allow you to type a simple command that immediately converts a message to an email sent to your address. I expect its major competitors have similar features.

  42. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

    For the record I 100% agree no one should have to work while sick and of course we should always be advocating for better sick leave. If that’s really the main factor in her working, she shouldn’t be working.

    That said… I had COVID before vaccines were available for my group and I worked through the whole thing because I needed to pretend one thing was normal. It was a mild case but COVID mild doesn’t exactly mean trifling. I spent a lot of time being very afraid, and didn’t have the energy to do much to distract myself- my creative hobbies took too much detailed attention and there’s only so much Netflix you can watch in a week. So I worked. At least it was a few hours a day where I wasn’t thinking mostly about my own mortality.

    I’m very fortunate because everyone kind of understood this and was fairly gentle with me, since I absolutely was not on top of my game. I did take quite a few naps and worked slightly odd hours, and I suspect if you looked at my actual accomplishments on paper they weren’t worth much, but I showed up at meetings and kept things moving and honestly felt a little more in control for being able to do so.

    So I am not exactly disagreeing with Alison’s answer, but if you manage to get things sorted so this person can take more time and they’re still reluctant to do so… I just wanted to flag that it could be more complicated. To whatever extent you can make it possible for her to rest but still give her the power to make her decisions, that is good, too.

    1. pancakes*

      I appreciate what you’re saying, but I think finding oneself in a situation like that is a good reason to make a list someplace of things you can do that aren’t Netflix or demanding hobbies when you’re sick. I say that as someone who’s had Covid twice (once before vaccines came out and once after I’d had my booster, fwiw), and who had a lot of down time during chemo and recovering from various surgeries years before that. Identify some magazines interesting enough to flip through, get some easy crossword puzzle books, find a couple not-Netflix sources of programming (Tubi is free!), etc. You gotta have things you can do that are not work. It’s not healthy to assign it such a big role in life as that, where it becomes something to turn to whenever you’re not eating or sleeping.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        Nod. We all need to fill our lives out beyond work especially as this will be a mass disabling event.

      2. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

        I appreciate your kind intentions but I’m not sure I conveyed the issue well.

        Normally I have lots of hobbies: I knit, I garden, I read, I play games. These hobbies are not demanding in the way you might have assumed. I think I tried sewing something and after one inch couldn’t keep going. I could not make myself focus on any of the things available- I could maybe knit two stitches before the process exhausted me, and the brain fog meant that after two or three paragraphs of a book I was already tired and had half-forgotten what the first paragraph said. These things were not rewarding at the time, and my inability only called attention to how poorly I felt. I don’t think I could have done more than a clue on a crossword if I’d tried, and it would have felt like work, not relaxation. I had nothing going on to talk about to anyone other than my assorted fears, and dwelling on those fears did not help, so I ended up very socially isolated as well as physical isolation.

        My options were pretty much stare at a show on TV, or play truly mindless games (think things like Bejeweled: no narrative, little real progress, no stakes, just repetitive motion.) And that’s fine, but you can’t do it indefinitely. Adding another six hours of reruns (I did not have enough focus to watch something I wasn’t already familiar with) instead of staring at my email would not have made me feel better.

        Having a concrete world of things to distract myself with was helpful, because otherwise- to be blunt- I spent most of my time that first week wondering if I was going to die. I’m not arguing that it’s an ideal situation, or that everyone should do it- I definitely think people should take time to recover if that’s what they need- but sometimes you need something to focus on, even if it’s kind of make-believe.

      3. Observer*

        I appreciate what you’re saying, but I think finding oneself in a situation like that is a good reason to make a list someplace of things you can do that aren’t Netflix or demanding hobbies when you’re sick.

        True, but not really relevant. Sure, if I were talking to the person who is working sick, I would bring this up – assuming I had the standing and relationship to do so. But the thing is that the OP does NOT have the standing to say this to their employee. They CERTAINLY don’t have the standing to push their employee on the matter.

  43. Harper the Other One*

    LW1: I agree with those above who say that leaving your job is not letting this manager win. But an additional thing to add to your thinking about this: you sound like a person who is passionate about your cause. Doesn’t an ethical organization deserve your passion more? Is there another NPO or a social entrepreneurship near you that you could take your talents to, who would appreciate your devotion to both their mission and to doing things right rather than the expedient way?

  44. Gnome*

    Re: names. First, my grandmother was named something, say, Florence. Apparently she had very red hair and got the nickname Cherry. I had no idea that name could have sexual connotations until I was well into my 20s. It was just so normal (also, the nickname Dick, right?). You can normalize names that have or develop sexual connotations.
    Second, I go by a name that is entirely different from my legal name. Say going by Tara when my name is something like Elizabeth. It is entirely normal for people to ask about it, which can make it more normal. So, the guy is a creep, sure, but if you directly ask how he came to be called Babe, it is likely he’ll feel he has to give an answer and that will normalize it. Like that Babe Ruth thing or “my Dad picked Michael BUt my mom didnt like it and just called me Babe”

    1. Kayem*

      Nicknames like that are really common in the southern US. I’ve known a couple people called Sissy when one was Kara and the other Barbara. Lots of Juniors when none of them were Bob Smith, Jr. There was a Jimbo who was a Bryant and an Brainy who was a Jim. A Deuce who was Nathan and a Natty who was a Stephen. I knew two people who went by Eggy, one was Miriam and the other Joseph.

      I mentioned downthread that my father in law is Milton, but an uncle one day declared he was Pete and it’s stuck ever since.

      1. Eff Walsingham*

        My mother went to school with an entire family called Smitty. They were Smiths, and “Smitty” was whichever of the young Smiths was present. This was a village tradition. It is interesting that my mother and her best friend always called each other by their legal first names, and not “Smitty” and “Baby” as they were called by their elders.

  45. Elaine Benes*

    LW1: I do think you have to leave, but since you’re already at that point, and this guy isn’t going to give you a good reference anyways, why not try one last ditch effort at getting him booted? You know how one board member feels in a loose way, that’s not indicative of the other members.

    Why not write up a really succinct letter of his behavior over the past year, with email evidence, and send it to the board? Give them a chance to see what they might do if the facts are really clear in their faces. Maybe they’ll fire him and you can stay, probably they won’t but it might help some poor future employee’s case against this guy when it inevitably goes sour.

  46. Katie*

    Short term disability often doesn’t pay 100% of wages either.
    Does your company have a PTO share program where people who have way too much PTO can donate? The one at my work takes a little while so that may not be viable in this situation.

    1. Cj*

      Normally I’m somebody who would give PTO to a sick colleague. But with covid-19 knocking on everybody’s door, including the vaccinated, I’d really hesitate thinking I might need it for myself.

  47. Bookworm*

    LW1: Leave. There’s nothing you can do, especially if the board isn’t interested in your concerns. If they don’t care that he is affecting the organization, then you don’t gain anything by staying.

    I wasn’t not quite in this position but do feel a lot of what you said–about maybe making changes (not out of spite but because of the mission, making it better for my co-workers, etc.). The equivalent of HR was completely uninterested and by that point there was no one left I could go to because our turnover was becoming obscene by that point.

    It wasn’t much (and maybe you couldn’t if there hasn’t been as much churn) but I made sure to leave a review on Glassdoor. It was therapeutic and I actually did see very small changes made (think wording on a job posting for more accuracy type of thing). I’d like to think this may eventually open the door to more change because appearances/reputation seem to be important to them (eyeroll) but it’s out of my hands. And I’d argue that’s probably similar for you.

    I’m sorry you’re going through that and you have my sympathy. Wishing you good luck in however you decide to proceed!

  48. What even*

    #1

    I’ve been in a similar situation. My boss also hadn’t spoken to me in a year, the board didn’t care, and she was overbilling on a State grant to prop up the organization she had slowly been running into the ground for 20 years. In the end, she couldn’t fire me… Though she did spend a year trying to find a reason to. My position was eliminated, as was everyone underneath me, and the work contracted out to a private company with connections to the board… They were able to get rid of me and funnel more government money, meant for people living with HIV and AIDS, into the pockets of board members. The Attorney General barely cared.

    In the end, she was removed from her position. It wasn’t worth it. It has been two years since it all went down, and I would not do it again. Get out now.

    1. addy*

      oh boy. Yes that is a similar situation, but with such a dark turn! I hope you’ve landed somewhere better. -LW1

      1. What even*

        I did! …Eventually. Staying and seeing the whole disaster through really did a number on me. It took me about 18 months of managing a boutique children’s store before I was able to heal enough to get back into the non-profit sphere.

  49. KellifromCanada*

    Re OP3 … I agree that we should call people by the name they go by, like King from the previous letter. That’s just basic respect. But Babe isn’t a nickname (at least since Babe Ruth died). It’s a term of endearment. I call my husband Babe. Imagine if this guy came in asking to be called Sweetie, Honey or Darling? It’s the same thing.

    1. FedVet*

      I served in the Navy with a “Sweetie” and a “Darling”. Those were their actual, legal, names.

      Should I not have called them by their names and just never addressed them, then? You call people what they want to be called; it’s the most basic form of respect and everyone is entitled to at least that.

      You don’t have to be *nice* about it, like, “Oh Sweetie, I just love what you did with the goat herding report, you wrote it so passionately,” but you *do* have to acknowledge the individual’s name on a base level. “Thank you for the report, Sweetie. It looks like everything is in order; the goat herders should be happy.”

    2. MicroManagered*

      Actually it’s not unusual for African* women to have names like Beloved, Beauty, Precious, Treasure, etc.

      (*It may not be exclusive to one culture, this is just my experience with actual individuals I’ve worked with.)

      1. londonedit*

        And really, those names aren’t all that different from names like Grace, Hope, Prudence etc – all of which are quite usual in UK/US culture. There’s a footballer called Marvelous Nakamba – I think that’s a great name.

        1. Kayem*

          Charity, Mercy, Faith, Felicity, Patience…

          One of my friends is a bit of a US-centric name snob. Whenever he makes fun of someone named Destiny, Justice, etc., I’m like oh, you mean like Hope and Grace?

        2. UKDancer*

          I think Marvelous is a wonderful name. How happy his parents must have been to decide to call your child that? It makes me smile whenever I see his name written down.

    3. anonymous73*

      You don’t get to choose what nicknames are appropriate for others. Period.

    4. EventPlannerGal*

      The interesting thing is that almost every time one of these name-related letters comes up people comment to say “well what if they wanted to be called [X name], wouldn’t that be so crazy and ridiculous! Haha imagine if people were actually called [X name]! So weird!” And pretty much every time, [X name] is indeed a real name used by many people. People are indeed named Honey and Babe and Darling! I have worked with guys called Fuk and Dick! The world is actually full of interesting and diverse naming practices and sometimes they sound a bit weird in English but are nonetheless people’s actual names.

      1. londonedit*

        I have a friend who believed she’d made up a completely new name for her daughter. The shorter version, which she was planning to use as her daughter’s everyday name, was something not at all unusual for the UK (something along the lines of Tash or Ellie) but she didn’t like the usual longer forms of the name, so she – as she believed – constructed a new name that included the shorter version. Then she met a Gujarati woman who cooed over the baby and asked what her name was. ‘Oh! A Gujarati name!’ There really is nothing new under the sun.

        1. Kayem*

          I have a friend who likes to make fun of other peoples’ names if they aren’t US-centric, like Bob or Linda. Drives me bananas because he’s just willfully clueless (and apparently can’t Google). He finds it especially “hilarious” if he sees a name that appears to be a misspelling or mispronunciation of a common name. Like if it looks/sounds like it’s said with a lisp or has a consonant in the “wrong” spot.

          99% of the time, names he thinks are bad misspellings are actually traditional Greek, Hebrew, Finnish, Namibian, etc names. I take great joy in educating him. I don’t know if he’s gotten better or just stops talking about it around me, but I’d like to think he’s learning that the world doesn’t revolve around Bob.

      2. Eff Walsingham*

        I have an unusual name, as in, I know it’s out there but I’ve never actually met another one. I used to make the bank deposit every Friday for a business I worked at in the 90s. The bank teller I saw most often, one week asked me how my name (which was on the account forms) was pronounced. When I told her, she said that her sister was having a baby and was looking for a name that was unusual, but beautiful, and would I mind if she suggested my name?

        Naturally I was very flattered, and said that she could. I mean, she didn’t have to ask if *she* didn’t think she had to, and I would never have known.

        When I came back the next week, she asked if I would mind very much if she asked my middle name? It seems that my first name was the first name that the expectant parents both loved, but they couldn’t find a middle name to go with it.

        Long story short, in a city far away from where I now live, there is a young woman of about 25 who is named after me, first AND middle. She is of African descent, I am of Scottish descent, and the name is from a third part of the world. I don’t know why it should affect me, why I think this is wonderful, but I do. I hope I remembered to tell my Mum… it would have made her happy too.

      3. SnappinTerrapin*

        There is a Pakistani diplomat whose name is Arabic for Large Penis. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for whatever reason, chose several years ago not to accredit him to his country’s embassy to Riyadh.

        It is his legal name from birth. Of course, diplomatic protocol follows different rules from general etiquette.

        1. Lucy Skywalker*

          I remember reading an article about him, or maybe someone else with a name that also means Large Penis in his native language.

    5. Cat Lover*

      Not really? I work at a doctor’s office and we have two patients who’s preferred name is Babe.

    6. Rocket*

      ….I don’t have to imagine, I know people with all three of those names. It’s not a big deal.

    7. Lucy Skywalker*

      My grandparents had a neighbor who went by Babe, even though it wasn’t his given name. But to be fair, he is deceased as well.

  50. L-squared*

    #1. This is really a “cutting off your nose to spite your face” situation . (I have also officiall become my grandfather apparently). This isn’t about “winning” or “losing” or upper hand. Its about your own work satisfaction. How does sticking around to spite him help you in any way? Let it go.

    #3 I agree with Alison. The guy may have had his issues, but that doesn’t give you the right to not call him by his chosen name. I have a very good friend whose legal name and nickname are TOTALLY different. So much that when people see his legal name they have no idea who it is. But if he is asking everyone to call him that, just deciding not to is crappy. If you have other issues with him, you should’ve gone to HR. But I don’t agree with your manager saying you didn’t have to use his preferred name. As Alison says, that really opens the door to too many other issues.

    #4 I really feel this depends on the job. She sounds horrible, but is she able to do the work? I get how if she is in sales or something customer facing, its not realistic for her to be just as effective. But if her work involves just writing or doing spreadsheets all day, and she can function, why do you care if she takes sick time or not? Its her time to use as she pleases.