my ex-boss pretends I still work there, HR said my size is intimidating, and more

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

1. Can HR say your size is intimidating other employees?

My son, who is mid-20s and 6’5″ and weighs about 250 pounds, recently quit his job where he was disciplined on several occasions, mostly due to harassment. Without me knowing all the particulars, HR and executive management, in nearly every interaction, indicated that his size was a cause of intimidation for other employees, particularly women. He was always instructed to read and understand the harassment policy but was never specifically told what part he violated. My son was one of the longest-term employees (at five years), so he was expected to train new hires. He was never in a supervisory role but was asked to participate in peer-to-peer training, which included constructive criticisms regarding processes or procedures being followed.

While he’s moving on with a job, I’m curious how “legal” it is to cite harassment because of one’s size. He’s not interested in pursuing anything with his former employer, even if their behavior was actionable. He’s a socially awkward young man, and I’ve encouraged him to, perhaps, seek some outside guidance with appropriate work behaviors, regardless of the validity of their complaints.

It’s hard to comment on this without knowing specifics from the people involved. It’s true that some behavior can read as more intimidating from a large man (for example, raising one’s voice, moving too far into someone else’s personal space, or blocking a doorway during certain types of conversations) and there wouldn’t be anything actionable about your son’s employer suggesting that he be aware of that in dealings that were already fraught in some way. It’s also true, unfortunately, that people being disciplined for harassment don’t always give people outside of the situation a full, objective account of what happened (out of embarrassment, defensiveness, or so forth). I’m not suggesting that’s the case with your son — I obviously have no idea — but it’s worth accounting for that possibility as well.

2. Trainer keeps calling me by the wrong name

I have an incredibly common name that is gender-neutral and often a diminutive of a longer name (think “Alex” or “Sam”), but in my case it’s just my name.

I’m in the second week of training, and my trainer has been chronically mis-naming me by calling me a longer, feminized version of my name (like “Alexandra” or “Samantha”). That isn’t my name and never has been. I’ve corrected him repeatedly, sometimes multiple times in a day, but nevertheless he has persisted.

His name, Bob, is also a diminutive, though I’m not sure if it’s his full name or not. Would it be incredibly petty and unprofessional of me to mis-name him back by calling him “Roberto” or “Bobert” or “Robespierre” until he gets it right?

This has happened to me throughout my life and it’s a huuge pet peeve of mine, so I recognize I could be overreacting from a lifetime of people giving my name more syllables that don’t exist. I just don’t understand why it’s so hard to say such a short name! (Just kidding, I know the reason is sexism.)

I’d love to tell you to do it — and you’d be justified in doing it — and I would like to see you do it — but you risk it not reflecting well on you to people witnessing it. Or who knows, maybe not — it depends on the group of people involved. Some people might applaud it. But it’s a risk, particularly if “second week of training” means you’re in your second week at this job (and thus especially not well positioned to risk making an enemy of an existing employee, justified as you’d be).

Another option, if you haven’t already tried this, is to say, “You’ve been repeatedly getting my name wrong. It’s Alex, not Alexandra. I’ve reminded you repeatedly but it doesn’t seem to have stuck. How do I get you to call me by the correct name?” The idea here is to either embarrass him into correcting himself or make him say out loud whatever his weird thought process has been. In the latter case, if it turns out that he thinks your full name is Alexandria (and what, he doesn’t approve of nicknames? even though he himself uses one? and even though that’s not his call to make regardless?) that’ll give you an opening to say, “Nope, Alex is what’s on my birth certificate.” (In full transparency, I’m pretty uncomfortable with that since you should be called what you ask to be called regardless of whether it’s on your birth certificate, but it could be a useful fact to mention in this case.) Feel free to add, “This would be like me calling you Robespierre every time. It’s not your name. Alexandra isn’t mine.”

3. Is it unprofessional to sell/donate maternity/nursing items in local Facebook groups ?

I recently had a baby and have many barely used pregnancy/nursing items. I have been selling/donating in hyperlocal facebook groups. I recently received a message from a former colleague (male) asking if that person was me. I had not considered the impact on my professional image and got curious about it. I barely use facebook and no one from my professional network is my “facebook friend.” I recently started using FB again since it’s helpful to connect with local moms and parenting resources. Is it considered unprofessional to sell/donate pregnancy/nursing items in these hyper-local groups? Would it impact my professional image in any way?

Not in the least. This is a completely normal life activity! (I’m hoping your coworker’s message was just looking to reconnect and not creepy. I’ve been writing this column too long not to wonder.)

4. Explaining why I’m leaving when I don’t have another job lined up

I am planning on leaving my job in a few months with no back-up plan. I want to take some time off to travel, and regroup on what I want to do with my life (I don’t think this career field is for me). Is there a tactful way of putting in my resignation without having to explain why I am leaving? While truthful, I feel like saying something along the lines of “I don’t have a new job lined up, I just don’t want to continue working here” wouldn’t go over well.

“I’m taking some time off to travel and think about what I want to do next.” Some people will be surprised (because a lot of people can’t afford to do that so you don’t hear it a lot), some people will assume there might be more to the story that you’re choosing not to share (which is fine), and some people will just be jealous. If you think that in your particular office it will generate a bunch of comments or questions that you don’t want to deal with, it’s also an option to go with a white lie instead, like “I have some family stuff going on that I need time to deal with.”

5. My ex-boss pretends I still work there

I left a job in a toxic start-up a few months ago and went back to academia, where I took up a post-doctoral role. I’m loving it. The start-up was based out of another university to the one I currently work in.

Yesterday, I had a few messages from former colleagues and my wider network saying, “I thought you’d left company X, and taken the postdoc position at (new university).” I said I had. But according to those who got in touch, my ex boss is pretending I still worked for her. Apparently she was doing this in one-on-one conversations, and in a talk she gave at one of the biggest academic conferences. I’m flabbergasted.

I don’t know how to proceed. One of the reasons I left was that she had no regard for the truth and my scientific integrity was being eroded while I continued to work for her. I’m considering writing to her, copying in her academic line manager (she still holds an academic post at the host institution from the spin-out) to outline the reports I received and express grave concerns, and also ask her to remove me from her website. But that might be too far.

That’s not too far at all. That’s exactly what you should do. (Caveat: I assume “remove me from her website” means remove anything that might imply you’re still there. If it means something beyond that, like remove any mention that you were ever there, you’d need to balance that against any professional benefits of keeping that there, which is something I can’t judge from here.)

{ 623 comments… read them below }

    1. Dark Macadamia*

      Yeah I’m confused by this one. So he responded to like, a breast pump post saying “are you the same LW who worked at (company)?” … and then what? Did she respond? Did he say something to suggest the ad was unprofessional??

      1. Blooming Callowlily*

        It doesn’t sound like it. Also, if OP hadn’t been on Facebook for a while and someone wanted to keep in touch with them, or make contact again, finding them active on Marketplace is a very reasonable trigger to do so. Why assume something nefarious is happening or would happen?

      2. UKDancer*

        Yes. I’d assumed the colleague was reaching out because he wanted the stuff. Unless he said anything creepy or weird I don’t think there’s anything wrong with him doing that. I think there’s nothing wrong with the OP advertising and nothing wrong with the colleague following up.

        1. londonedit*

          I agree. In an ideal world maybe he’d have said ‘Hi, are you the Jane who used to work at Teapots Inc? My wife and I have just had a baby and we’d love to buy the bundle of baby clothes and the breast pump, if they’re still for sale?’ but a lot of people don’t do that, they start off with a ‘Hello’ or a ‘Hi are you the Jane who worked at Teapots Inc?’ and then wait for the person to come back to them before they get to the point. Unless he actually said something weird then I’d assume he’s just trying to get in touch to a) reconnect or b) because he wants to buy things for his baby.

            1. High Score!*

              Thanks to comments like this, I’ve started to initiate Teams chats with “Hello Daemon, plz let me know when you have a moment to discuss the blue dragon.” rather than just “hi” to see if someone is available.

              1. CaVanaMana*

                On the “Hello” If it isn’t someone I deal with regularly, I ignore those messages until someone tells me what they want and then decide if/when I’ll respond. Just “hello” gets no response. If it’s more than 30 seconds, “Hi, please email me and I’ll respond accordingly.”

                I bet the FB user just wanted to buy stuff or know someone who does and didn’t want to deal with some random.

            2. Koalafied*

              Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, some of us #tldr champions write small novellas all the time, often because we’ve tried to anticipate every possible question that a shorter message would have provoked and answer them up front. I marvel at people who write short messages without even trying to make them short.

              1. whingedrinking*

                “I’m sorry I wrote you such a long letter. I didn’t have time to write a short one.”

            3. MigraineMonth*

              One of my previous workplaces had a war between the people who thought one should never just say “hello” and the people who thought one definitely should. To the point that someone wrote up a wiki page of all the reasons it was stupid to just say “hi”, and people would respond to “hi” with a link to that wiki page. The counter-response, of course, was a link to another wiki page that defended the time-honored tradition of meaningless smalltalk.

              1. Mr. Shark*

                I do the “Hello” or “Hi”, and then in the next second, tell them what I want. The intention is that if they don’t have time to answer it, or can’t answer it right away, they can simply say, “Hey, I’m in the middle of something right now, let me get back to you on that.”

                I think that’s preferable to just waiting for someone to say something more than “Hi,” which just drives me crazy.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          Including the bit about “Are you Miranda from Handles? Bob from Spouts” or “Are you Joey’s mom? Nina’s dad, toddler gymnastics” to note our existing distant–but not zero–relationship.

        3. doreen*

          I wouldn’t assume he necessarily wanted the stuff. When I try to find people on Facebook or other social media, it is very common for me to find five or ten or twenty people with the same name – and not all of them have photos or a location listed. I’m sure I sent a few messages asking if this was the John Jones who went to the same school or worked at the same place as I did.

    2. Snow Globe*

      Either that, or maybe he saw the post, realized that a former colleague may be a new parent, and wanted to offer his congratulations, if that is in fact is former colleague.

    3. Marketing Unicorn Ninja*

      This was my thought, or that it had been a long time since they’d worked together and he wasn’t aware she’d had a baby and wanted to offer congratulations.

      I have sold lots of things on FB Marketplace, and bought things on FB Marketplace, relating to babies/children and never once even passingly thought ‘Oh, someone might think this is unprofessional.’

      Heck, when I was going through out-grown baby clothes I was too lazy to deal with marketplace selling or consigning them, so I reached out to a former colleague who has a daughter who’s younger than my daughter and offered it all to her for free, I’d even drop it off.

      1. lilsheba*

        Yeah I have to wonder why this is even a question. What you do in your personal life has nothing to do with your work life.

        1. Cmdrshpard*

          In this instance I agree, but not always.

          If you work in a job promoting x, but do opposite thing y in your personal life it can reasonable to take that into consideration. Think sales person for product x, but in their personal life they use competitor product y. If you are selling me product x and telling me how great it is why do you use competitor y?

            1. Yeah, nah*

              Yeah, the above argument really only goes for endorsement deals (ex. don’t get photographed wearing Adidas if you just signed a multi-million dollar contract with Nike), not garden-variety sales gigs.

        2. GreenDoor*

          “What you do in your personal life has nothing to do with your work life.” Hard disagree. There’s no magic wall that separates your personal life from your work life. Plenty of people have gotten into trouble had their professional reputations called into question at work. Just ask any school teacher who dared post a picture of themself in a bikini or drinking a beer.

          That said I don’t see how selling random household goods on an online marketplace is professionally questionable – unless they were things you stole from work. (And yes, our internal auditors had a field day with that employee! )

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Yeah, well I think it’s ridiculous that teachers can’t drink beers or wear bikinis, this should not be an issue at all.
            It’s maybe not advisable for you to bring your whole self to work, like that time I had to see a client who manufactured engines for warplanes, and forgot to remove the Greenpeace badge on my sweater. (Someone complained that they didn’t want political activists teaching their staff and the boss just told me to be careful in future, I got no flak whatsoever, which I think is perfectly reasonable)

        3. Marna Nightingale*

          Conversely: if it feels weird and you’re not sure why it feels weird, it often deserves interrogating a bit. Or asking an expert.

          Is it “I’m not used to the streams crossing like this, it took me aback, but now I think it through it’s ok” or is it “Something about the vibe of the question suggested that he thought it was unprofessional” or “Something about the way he asked gave me the weirds”, or something else?

          Like, no, it’s not at all unprofessional, but I get why it’s a question.

    4. Flash Packet*

      I get FB Marketplace postings in my feed all the time, even though I have never once used Marketplace to buy or sell.

      If one of the posts had the name of some long-lost work colleague who I’d enjoyed working with but fell out of touch with after we quit working together, I might send them a message saying, “Are you so-and-so who used to work at XYZ company?” no matter what item they’d put up for sale.

      There wouldn’t be anything nefarious about it. I guess it would be up them to decide if it came off as creepy.

    5. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      Yeah, that is what I was thinking. The message by itself doesn’t seem that weird. Maybe he has a sibling or friend who has a baby and wants to get stuff but feels uncomfortable purchasing online from a stranger (some people don’t like that ). Or maybe he was just looking at stuff and saw the profile and was just asking, “oh hey, is that you?” out of curiosity without really giving it any greater thought. Nothing about it seems creepy or nefarious at this point.

      Also, I genuinely do not think anyone, even coworkers, would be weirded out by OP’s selling baby stuff on marketplace. I think it more likely her wondered about the profile, knows she had a baby recently, saw she was selling/donating baby stuff, and decided that was the detail he needed to feel like there was a decent enough chance it was her profile to check and see. Some people just want to connect to everyone they know on social media, however generic the link.

  1. Junior Assistant Peon*

    #1 – there’s a good chance HR gave him vague feedback to protect the anonymity of the accusers, and he honestly doesn’t know who he offended or which interaction was problematic. I had a situation once where someone overheard a snippet of conversation out of context and was offended, and it made me paranoid as hell for a long time because I couldn’t figure out what I was in trouble for or who I upset.

    1. John Smith*

      I’d bet that the vagueness is because HR know they haven’t got a cat’s chance in hell of winning an unfair dismissal case if the full facts emerge. I might be cynical, as I have been on several disciplinaries myself where, in each and every case, the allegations were proven to be unfounded and the circumstances so petty as to not warrant disciplinary action but contrived to appear serious. But we don’t know the situation in the OPs case. Maybe her son is a secret tyrant. Who knows. Best thing is to just move on.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Assuming this is in the US (which Alison always does for legal questions so hopefully LW would have said so if that wasn’t the case) …what unfair dismissal case?

          1. Lacey*

            Mostly though, we’re an at-will country and there are a few exceptions like race, sex, & religion. Being creepy, but not criminally creepy is not a protected class.

            If 5 women come to management and say, “Bill hovers creepily, but please don’t say I said so” there’s not legal argument against them saying, “It’s easier to just fire Bill than to try to explain why he can’t hover over women and hope he stops before they quit”

            1. Sloanicota*

              Yep, in the US they can fire him for almost any reason including “bad vibes” and I don’t think you’d get far trying to use a disability (due to size) or sex (because he’d be less creepy if a woman – I just think this isn’t going to be the win here, given sexual harassment policies) case. If he’s creeping people out, he can be fired for that.

      2. Fluffy Fish*

        Being creepy or intimidating isn’t a protected class. Neither is being tall.

        It has nothing to do about losing an unfair dismissal case because there was no unfair dismissal legally speaking.

        More likely the OP’s son was doing things that were intimidating. My former boss (still employed I just don’t work for him), is a big dude. Tall and overweight. He likes to stand in your doorway with his arms braced in the frame while he aggressively verbally assaults you. He fully does this in such a way he can claim plausible deniability. He is absolutely being intimidating and he’s absolutely doing it on purpose.

        Now, does OP’s son do this type of thing? Who knows. Are people fired for things they didn’t actually do? Sure, there’s bad companies out there. But the fact that he was spoken to multiple times and claims to have no idea what the problem was is a yellow flag. Not to mention most kids aren’t going to fess up to their parents that they were fired for being intimidating for an actual reason – “Hey mom I was finally fired for cornering my colleagues and forcing them into conversation with me.” – is unlikely to happen.

        1. The Starsong Princess*

          If the son doesn’t have any more to go on, my advice would be to give people, especially women a lot more space. Stand another two feet away from them, don’t block doorways as you say, step back after you point something out on their screen. I worked with a guy many years ago who was 6’9” and just huge. He was so careful never to loom and stayed out of your personal space. He was a complete pussycat but said that he sometimes freaked people out.

          1. Fluffy Fish*

            Good advice.

            I hope OP is able to seperate “this is my son who i love and think is the bees knees” from who he may be in other situations. Based on the letter they are fully embracing the son is in no way at fault – perhaps and we all want to have our kids back – but OP isn’t doing him any favors by not fully assessing the situation and actually exploring *why* the employer could have seen an actual issue here.

            I’m a very short female and I work in public safety which is full of BIG dudes, egos and blatant sexism. Only one person has ever physically intimidated me and that’s the boss I mentioned.

          2. hbc*

            Yes, I’ve worked with a bunch of taller guys who would often kneel or crouch when coming into a cube and a chair wasn’t available. I wouldn’t mandate it (not everyone can do that for even brief stretches), but it can be an option to prevent looming.

            I’d also consider naming the issue. Either proactively encouraging them to tell you if you’re encroaching, or catching yourself and saying, “Sorry if I was looming” as you establish more space.

            1. Melon Collie*

              This makes me think of my old coworker who was an absolute giant but always made sure to crouch if he came up to someone at their cube and the conversation got in-depth. He was always so conscious and considerate of how he came across. I wish more people were like him!

              1. The Rural Juror*

                One of the many reasons I love our sit/stand desks! If someone taller than me comes over(which almost everyone), I’ll stand up and move my worktop up to a more comfortable level for them. We also keep a lot of extra chairs around that can be pulled over if it’s better for them to sit or someone doesn’t have the ability to stand. No looming over anyone!

          3. The OTHER other*

            This is making me think of the letter from the bodybuilder who was getting harassed by a bad nutritionist invited in by his company as a “benefit”. He mentioned being big, and taking pains not to act intimidating to his coworkers. Now I better get what that might mean.

            I do suspect that there’s a lot more going on w/ LW’s son than the son is letting on, but with so little info and it being 3rd hand now we can only guess.

          4. ferrina*

            This is great advice. I’ve got some trauma instincts left over from a bad childhood, and always having an exit is key.

            Also- Ask!
            If you’re training someone, ask “do you mind if I kneel next to you while we go through this process?” If possible, offer a couple options and show that it’s because you want to truly respect their wishes (as opposed to coercing them to say ‘okay’) “Do you mind if I kneel next to you, or would you rather I sit over here? Either way works for me, I just train a lot of people and know that different people have different preferences on this.”

            It’s generally better to over-ask when you’re first getting to know someone (and they’re getting to know you).

          5. MsClaw*

            That was my inkling as well. If you’re that much bigger than people, and you are giving them negative feedback, your size can indeed make that feedback come off differently regardless of your intentions.

            However close you’re standing, take a step back. Is is possible to sit in these interactions? Do not body block them in any way (blocking an aisle, blocking a door, etc) — that could easily be something you’re doing without even realizing it, so just try to be more aware of it.

          6. Cafe au Lait*

            My husband is a big guy, and I’ve discovered that when I say “hey, can you scooch over a bit,” I really mean “Can you move over 12 inches or more.”

          7. NotAnotherManager!*

            My spouse is close to the size of OP’s son, and he is very careful to do all of these things, as well as not cornering too quickly, being the most polite, friendly person on the team, smiling by default, and being solicitous of other people’s comfort levels. He’s a very laid-back, nice guy, but he is aware that his size is intimidating to others, especially people who don’t know him. He had a friend in college who was rather short and scrawny, and he used to be mouthier at bars and parties when my spouse was there, even though he’d have been absolutely worthless in any sort of fight.

          8. Kali*

            Sorry why are we all telling her son that he has to behave differently based on a characteristic (being big) which he has no choice over? How is this different from telling a black person to act extra friendly so that they not intimidate a white person ? Or telling a woman not to act friendly because men might think she’s interested in them? If the son is genuinely not doing anything wrong and is being fired for their appearance essentially, that’s just plain immoral.

            1. Idril Celebrindal*

              Based on the fact that the parent who is defending the son didn’t specify race, I’m guessing he’s a big white dude. That’s not the same as talking to a Black man or woman about changing their behavior, it’s acknowledging that there’s both a power dynamic going on here (he’s a trainer and presumably-white dude so has more social power) and also recognizing that “but I wasn’t doing anything!” is a very common excuse by dudes who intentionally loom over people they have power over.

        2. Lacey*

          Yes. Plus, people who behave this way often use not understanding to get away with it.
          My husband worked with a guy who made women uncomfortable by placing his hand on their back or trying to hug them.

          When confronted with specifics he would still claim he didn’t understand, pout that he guessed he just wouldn’t talk to women anymore, and then tell people who weren’t there that this person got upset even though he hadn’t done anything.

          He left before he could get fired for it. Because he’d been fired for it at other jobs.

          He knew exactly what he was doing. The confusion was a show.

          1. Former Young Lady*

            I have met those guys so many times, in so many environments, I’m half-tempted to carry around little handkerchiefs to pass out to them.

            Camouflage handkerchiefs, of course, with pine tar scent, so they can feel extra masculine while they whimper.

        3. learnedthehardway*

          If the son doesn’t know what he did – genuinely doesn’t know – then I would suggest that he source and complete some training on anti-harassment / anti-sexism / etc. on his own, and do the course with an open mind.

          He may find that he is doing something that other people do genuinely find intimidating. He may find that he could do more to put others at ease.

          No matter what, though, it will be good for him to learn about and understand other people’s points of view, and putting anti-harassment training / diversity training / etc. on a resume is not a bad thing at all. In fact, I was reviewing some resumes the other day, and it stood out to me that one of the candidates listed that they had completed this type of training, in addition to other training on their technical area and management skills.

        4. Despachito*

          I wonder why he had no idea after being talked to several times.

          One of the possibilities is that they did not describe clearly what the problem was, and this combined with him being socially awkward could have resulted in a very unpleasant situation “you are doing something seriously wrong, but it is up to you to figure out what it is”.

          It happened to me several times when I was younger, and it was awful, because I would have liked to do better but had no idea how. Up to now I have not decoded whether it was malicious passive aggressiveness, or whether they did have a point. I cannot exclude I am a bit on the Asperger side, so I might have really been slower in understanding social situations, but it was still very annoying.

      3. Meep*

        Considering how hard it was to get my harasser removed BOTH times at two different jobs (One when I was 17 and SA’ed, I might add), I am leaning towards the other way. They rarely fire men for bothering women even with buckets of proof.

      4. Meep*

        Spoken like a true man. When I was 17, I was SA’d by my 41-year-old coworker working in full view of a camera. He wasn’t let go for that. Most recently, I was told being asked if I was ovulating in regards to bronchitis didn’t count as “sexual h*rassment”. There are binders and binders of written history of men not being let go for this

        1. hot buttered anon*

          It’s even worse when the looming angry bully has a partner in upper admin who seems to use tall dude as a henchman. Thank gods for my personal violence-caused PTSD because if dude gets in my space like that I react instinctively and physically and it will hurt.

      5. Starbuck*

        “HR know they haven’t got a cat’s chance in hell of winning an unfair dismissal case”

        Unless there’s a union or some other administrative body in this workplace, I’m not sure there’s any such thing? It’s illegal to fire someone for discriminatory reasons based in a protected class, but most of the U.S. employers are perfectly within their rights to fire someone for “unfair” reasons with no recourse from the employee.

    2. allathian*

      Yes, this. My unit was audited a few years ago, and in the audit a complaint emerged about my conduct with an internal customer. It was really frustrating to hear that a complaint had been made, because I had no idea who I’d offended and how. I’d like to think that I’m self-aware enough to know, even belatedly, that something I’ve said might land wrong. As it was, I didn’t even get a chance to apologize for whatever it was. The whole thing made me pretty paranoid for a few months, but in the end, nothing came of it, and at some point my then-manager asked that the complaint be struck from my record. It was suspiciously soon after a coworker who was notorious for complaining about pretty much everyone else whenever they could, whether or not they had any cause for complaint, retired.

    3. Beth*

      This is possible, of course. But if this reached a point where he’s leaving the job, my gut feeling is that there is actually something behind it (beyond just body size), and that he probably does have an inkling of why it’s happening. It’s much more believable to me that a young man might be embarrassed to tell his mother about the details of his poor behavior, than that he’d be disciplined multiple times and ultimately quit (or be let go? if he’s embarrassed, he might well not want to tell his mother that leaving wasn’t his idea, either) and never have even the slightest idea why it was happening.

      1. Captain+dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        My feeling was that for whatever reason, someone in authority (HR/management) has got a “bee in their bonnet” about his size and sees everything through that lens. So when they ask one of the new trainees “how’s it going, is everything making sense?” etc and the person responds with something vague like “yeah it’s all good” – it would be quite easy (if they have a pre-existing idea about this) to think “trainee is too intimidated to say they didn’t understand something”, similarly if they say they didn’t understand something it could be viewed like “they didn’t voice this to OPs Son, only to me, because they are intimidated by him” and so on and on.

        Why are they at a point where he’s been given multiple disciplinaries that seem (at least loosely but probably more so) related, without any “bigger picture” action having been taken such as escalating the warnings or naming the pattern and putting him on a PIP? I think that’s a yellow flag in itself. When I’ve seen this happen it’s been for small things all the time that were typically brushed off for other people.

        I think a new job is for the best – it will be interesting to see if this “problem” repeats itself there. I don’t think it will!

        1. TechWorker*

          I know the comments are full of speculation but this feels like a particularly big reach. (‘He was probably accused of harassment because a manager interpreted a solely positive comment as a negative’ – really?)

        2. Oui oui all the way home*

          I give this creative writing exercise a C+. While it was interesting and well written, using proper grammar and spelling, it unfortunately was not realistic. Your characters and their behavior need to be believable and relatable for top marks. Good luck with your next work!

      2. Rosacolleti*

        I agree, I can’t imagine a conversation on performance that indicates someone needs to re-read a policy without giving a reason why. He just hang fessed up or maybe didn’t take it in.

        1. ferrina*

          I’ve seen those conversations happen. There are people this incompetent out there. Sometimes it’s because they don’t know if they should actually be chiding you (or if you did anything wrong) but they’re doing it because someone else wants them to do it; sometimes it’s because there truly is an issue but the speaker is just really terrible at communicating.

          1. MsSolo UK*

            I do think size and weight interact with race. If people are saying they felt threatened because he’s a big guy, but what they actually mean is they feel threatened because he’s a big black guy, the feedback is going to feel vague because there’s a gaping hole in it.

            (obviously, we don’t know the race of the son here, but I wanted to flag it because ‘vague negative feedback’ absolutely has a correlation with ‘you’re not doing it whitely enough’)

      3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I’m thinking socially awkward+large man might have had him doing things he didn’t realize were intimidating. Possibly this could be because he’s mirroring behavior around him but it comes off different from him vs a smaller man/woman. I had an intern like that. He’d basically copy my behavior when talking to colleagues because he was nervous. I have a tendency to lean on cube entrances or stand behind someone to look at their screen or explain something. However, I’m 5’3″ and a known entity. He was 6’4″, built like a rugby player, and an unknown entity at the time. Luckily he was an intern so teaching professional norms was part of my job, and his coworkers asked me to do something before they went to HR. We were able to work out some alternatives that were comfortable for everyone

        1. Sloanicota*

          Yeah, if OP wants to take action here, that would be the direction I’d suggest; helping her son think about how he’s positioned in a room, how close he stands to people – building social skills which can be learned by route even if they’re not intuitive.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            It does from my reading of the OP’s letter sound as if they have suggested some training and professional practices courses to their son (and they also acknowledge that he can be a bit awkward in some settings).

            I think it’s possible that size plus young man plus awkward is the extent of the problem, but that the former company chickened out of explaining and training him on better ways to do things.

            1. Despachito*

              I am side-eying the company here – they could have told him what exactly was wrong (unless, of course, they did and he did not wrap his head around that).

              1. Reluctant Mezzo*

                Or he didn’t want to tell his mother what they gigged him for. That’s a possibility, too.

        2. Blomma*

          This was the sense I got too. And as a 4’11” woman who weighs half of what the son does…depending on how closely he was standing next to me and how he generally moved his body near me (and especially if he also was speaking loudly or forcefully), I could absolutely see myself feeling intimidated due to his size.

        3. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I think this is pretty likely. The son may well be thinking “I only did what other people were doing, why am I in trouble?” without realizing that some activities read differently when different people do them.

          OP, when your son was growing up, did you ever talk to him about what it’s like to be a woman in the world interacting with men you don’t know well? It’s not fair that people are intimidated by him just because of the way he looks, but it’s also not fair that women have to live our lives in a perpetual game of Schrodinger’s Big Creepy Dude trying to determine if the guy talking to us is safe or not. If you’re able to help him understand how some behaviors that feel innocuous to him can come off as warning bells for women and brainstorm a set of possible changes (can he sit beside his trainee instead of standing behind her and leaning over her?) he can keep this sort of thing from happening at future jobs.

          1. ferrina*

            YES! And teach him how to ask. The men who I (female) trust the most are the ones who ask before doing something that has potential to make me uncomfortable (even if they don’t think it will be an issue, if there is a chance, they’d rather ask). And they make it easy to say “no” for things that I’m uncomfortable with– so often a guy will badger a woman if she says “no”, so women are taught that they need to be careful with how they say “no” and even just deal with a certain amount of discomfort.

            Examples of good interaction:
            “Do you want me to sit here or here while I train you? Which is easier for you?” (One spot being closer, one spot having some distance)

            “Here, let me scoot over and give you some space.”
            (I love when someone actually notices and reinforces my personal space)

            “If you’d like, I can X. Just let me know. In the meantime….” Followed by continuing the conversation in a different direction and not doing X until directly asked. This way the default is to give wider space, and the woman can opt-in to the closer interaction (rather than being forced to opt-out by saying no)

            1. Not Jane*

              Seconded! I have a coworker who’s a big dude and I’m a fairly petite woman. We were actually friends before we worked together but he’s still cognizant about personal space at work. The other day he was helping me with something on my computer and before stepping closer, he asked “Do you mind if I move in and grab the mouse to show you?”

              1. Sally*

                Back when I started in IT, I learned that you never touch someone’s mouse or keyboard without asking permission. It was heavily stressed that grabbing someone’s mouse without their approval was a very serious error.

            2. MigraineMonth*

              Waiting for an opt-in is so important. Many women have been socialized to only give “soft no” answers, so it’s never a good idea to assume that they will speak up in the moment.

        4. Flash Packet*

          In my 56 years on this planet, I can sort really large men into two categories (with the caveat that this is a generalization, #NotAllMen, behaviors exist on a spectrum, nothing is ever black/white, yada-yada):

          1. Very self-aware, which includes their effect on other people in all aspects, not just physical size. These men make an effort to adapt to their audience. As in, they don’t just try to minimize their physical presence, but that they are able to read other people fairly well, want a positive exchange, and change up their wording, facial expressions, and body language as appropriate.

          2. Little self-awareness. Only know that they usually get their way when they express a preference and see that as the natural order of things. They become frustrated when someone appears to disagree with them, because they never saw the need to develop a full set of social and emotional skills so all they’ve got is “pleased” and “frustrated” in their emotional tool box. Their expression of frustration can intimidate people not just because of their size but because they get frustrated by situations that don’t upset most other people in a work environment.

          With the woefully little real information we have from the letter, I’d place my money on Son being in category #2.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            May I add category 3, the jerks who are very self-aware, which includes their effect on other people in all aspects, not just physical size. These men make zero effort to adapt to their audience. As in, they don’t just try to leverage their physical presence, but that they are able to read other people fairly well, want to dominate, and change up their wording, facial expressions, and body language as appropriate.
            I remember a colleague who came for dinner one night, with her BF, who was massive. He said that, while he knew it wasn’t good, he totally took advantage of his size when walking in the street (everyone else had to simply dodge out of his way) and at work (he was the teacher who bullied his students, gave them abysmal marks for their first homework to make them really worried, and laughed at them when they begged him to change their mark because after all he hadn’t actually corrected anything on their essay or made any suggestions for improvement).

      4. Smithy*

        When I was a teenager, my mom basically got me a job as a hostess in a restaurant that was just opening close to where I lived. As someone very tall for my age, I appeared mature and as someone with more authority- but as 16 year old girls go – I was fairly shy and insecure.

        In about a week I was fired, which was embarrassing and because my mom was so involved in the whole process I know I leaned a lot on my perceptions for why it happened and why it wasn’t my fault. However, my view that they never trained me (not untrue) was probably mixed with their need for a more assertive and experience hostess than what I brought to the table.

        The OP’s son being embarrassed or upset that this has happened and therefore not seeing his own potential weaknesses and/or skewing what he tells his mother I think is really likely. It may also be similar to my situation where the son’s management hasn’t been very clear about what’s happening and his warnings have been vague and hard to act on. All to say, I think there’s likely more happening that either the son hasn’t told his mother due to shame or can’t yet entirely see himself due to shame.

      5. Hannah Lee*

        I’ve seen everything from “guy with big voice and imposing presence purposely trying to intimidate co-workers” to “person decides some guy rubs them the wrong way, is their male BEC/reminds them of an old bad boyfriend and responds as though his listening with a serious look on his face is an attempt to intimidate and uses that to try to box the guy out of normal workplace interactions”

        Who knows what happened in this particular case, though my guess is that it’s somewhere in between those two extremes. The things I’d consider are

        1) if he’s young and new to the working world, what’s his emotional regulation like at work? eg is he regulating how he responds while at work vs just being himself, expressing happiness, irritation, anger etc freely like he would hanging out with his friends? With a physically non-imposing person, this can read as immaturity or self-involvement. In a larger taller person with a deep voice, it can be read more menacingly.
        1a) if he’s really honest, did he ever use his natural presence, size or big emotions (including storming off, obviously stewing or putting things down forcefully) purposely at work? Even once?

        2) does he pay attention to how other people are responding to his presence? is there a comfortable give and take in interactions with others or are people not quite at ease? eg if he’s talking to someone, do they physically back away, turn their body away from him? does this happen with several different people … maybe indicating his “normal” personal space or speech volume is not comfortable for other people? Or is he “all talk and no listen” not noticing people’s cues that they have something to say or are ready to move on?

        3) did this happen just at this workplace, or has he ever had feedback before that he needs to tone it down, be “less” whatever – imposing, intimidating, agressive?

        Thinking through those things may help him learn from the experience, even if he 100% was not in the wrong and behaved impeccably.

        Because, for example, if he makes a practice of paying attention to how others are responding, and adjusts his behavior in the moment to ease tension, their discomfort, it can make it less likely that someone misinterprets his intent.

    4. GammaGirl1908*

      LW also noted that the young man is a little bit socially awkward. It’s very possible that someone hinted at what was really going on (but, as noted above, being veiled to keep someone anonymous), but Son really had not picked up on what they really meant or what he needed to do differently. I can see how he would feel baffled and blindsided and like he couldn’t do anything right if it dragged on and he was still kind of in the dark, what with all of the awkwardness and hinting that he was wrong-footed, but no one ever came all the way out and said the thing.

      Also, to be really frank … I would not be surprised if what happened was that he was romantically interested in someone who did not reciprocate, and he was stuck in the no-man’s land where he was mooning around but not approaching her directly (so he plausibly didn’t think he was doing anything wrong BUT did not realize just how obvious his behavior was). Or, she’d given a bunch of soft nos but didn’t want to be firmer, and it was awkward for anyone to address it with him and yet he didn’t know how to get out of the loop. That’s what I jump to when I hear that women felt harassed. There may have been a lady or two that he found attractive and it made him even more awkward around them, and he didn’t quite have the social deftness not to telegraph his crushes.

      That is, unfortunately, not a problem with his work, but an interpersonal problem (and, indeed, one where his size might add a layer). I can see how no one ever came out and said, “You’re not allowed to have a crush on Meredith,” or “Serena is weirded out by how you make detours by her desk,” or “Claire feels like you kind of WATCH her all day and she’s creeped out.” These are things that are really hard to say at work.

      Sigh. I feel for him, but if anything in this vein is happening, I see how we got here.

      1. Meep*

        That is a possibility. Bless my SiL’s soul, but she is eternally single and will remain that way. She has been reprimanded for being a bit of a creep on new coworkers she has crushes on and even had to be moved locations because she made someone uncomfortable.

        I have also had male coworkers hit on me during training (when I have been providing it, and sometimes when another supervisor is present!). These are men I would consider pretty socially competent to boot.

    5. WishIWasATimeTraveller*

      The same thing happened to me (coworker overhead something, decided to make an unfounded complaint and got me into all kinds of trouble) and it felt so isolating. I no longer trusted any of my ‘work friends’ and found myself apologising to everyone for everything.
      I actually think that not being told what you’re been accused of violates the principles of natural justice. I don’t see how that can possibly fly in the work environment.

      1. Antony-mouse*

        We had a situation at a sports club I run where someone approached us to say the head coach had made inappropriate comments towards her. When we approached the head coach he was desperate to know what he’d said and who he had upset. And obviously we couldn’t tell him! She didn’t want him to know who she was and even telling him what specifically he had said might have singled her out. So I completely understand a situation where you might not be able to tell someone in detail what they’ve been accused of

        1. MK*

          May I ask what you were expecting to achieve by approaching him with such a vague report? What possible response could he make to “someone complained about you, but I can’t tell you who or why”?

          Look, I understand the need to protect victims. But reporting any sort of wrongdoing comes with some inconvenience for the one it.

            1. Clisby*

              But “inappropriate comments” is pretty meaningless. Antony-mouse says they couldn’t tell the coach what he had said that was considered inappropriate. If the coach in fact has no idea what this report is all about, he’s not going to be able to change his behavior.

              1. Lilo*

                It’s not HR’s job to specify to men exactly how not to make inappropriate comments to women. The whole “oh I didn’t know I couldn’t make those comments” is a horrible excuse.

                1. Whale I Never*

                  But “inappropriate” is a subjective word. What’s inappropriate to one person may be appropriate to another, and there’s a lot of grey area before you get to the obviously indefensible stuff. One time I worked at a place where two coworkers were chatting at lunch and one asked the other “oh, by the way, how was your date?” They talked a little while longer and then left. A third coworker in the room made a face and said she really didn’t think it was appropriate for a man to ask his female coworker about her dating life. Nothing graphic was discussed, he wasn’t hitting on her, a third party just had different norms than the two people involved (or me, a different third party!). If she had filed a complaint and he got no details, I doubt he would have figured out what it was about.

                  I can see a lot of grey area for coaches, too, given that in their jobs they might have legitimate reason to be specific about people’s bodies. “You should swing your hips more to get more power out of your swing” COULD be said in an inappropriate manner, but it could also be completely appropriate coaching. It’s not the same as blatantly said “you’ve got a great butt,” which is the sort of thing that, yeah, HR doesn’t need to spell out.

                2. Phryne*

                  ‘It’s not HR’s job to specify to men exactly how not to make inappropriate comments to women.’
                  It is not every man’s job to be a mind reader either.
                  What one woman finds inappropriate (or man for that matter) might not be an issue for another. I am all for believing victims and holding people to account for their behaviour, but that includes informing them what behaviour is objectional. It is not always obvious or objective.

                  I once had a man who did intimidating things, like being angry and standing in the only doorway right next to my desk. So I told him that his behaviour came across as threatening to me and I did not want him standing at my desk like that. And you know what? He reflected on his behaviour, explained that his anger had not be directed at me (he was complaining about a bit of bureaucracy that I was the messenger of) but he understood how that did not matter to me in that moment and he should not behave in that way in the future. And he didn’t.
                  Turned out lots of women had a complaint about his attitude, but no one ever told him. And one person pointing out to him how he came across towards them was all it took for him to not do it again.

                3. paxfelis*

                  Your vocabulary is not the same as my vocabulary, and it is entirely possible for one of us to say something innocent that the other disapproves of. An example that comes to mind is the word niggardly.

                4. Lilo*

                  Making sexual comments, commenting on women’s bodies, touching women’s hair, that’s all nit okay. So here now some woman has done the work of educating people how not to be creeps.

                5. sagc*

                  Lilo, I really think you’re not engaging with what people are saying here. It is, in fact, better to say “this thing you did on X day was a problem” than “You said something bad one time, bye!”

                6. Sylvan*

                  When HR has to tell someone to stop inappropriate behavior, they’re going to need to be able to pinpoint that behavior.

                7. Lilo*

                  Protecting the privacy and security of the person who made the complaint comes first. I’ve had it happen where what I thought was an anonymous complaint was forwarded to the person in question and it’s absolutely horrible.

                  This guy had multiple complaints. I’m pretty sure he was told at least vaguely not things but he doesn’t want to tell mom he was creeping on people at work.

            2. L-squared*

              Inappropriate comments is so vague it means absolutely nothing. What is inappropriate to one person may be totally fine to someone else. And people should at least know what things that are being said that people find objectionable

            3. Heather*

              That’s really vague though, you’d at least need to say someone complained about a sexual comment / swearing / aggressive comments about a coworker. People draw these lines differently, and just saying “someone said something you said was inappropriate” isn’t very actionable.

          1. Inspector Gidget*

            Sorry for grammar/typos- English is not my first language.

            Agreed. I think sometimes specifics need to come out. It also helps (me at least) for documentation and moving to next disciplinary step if the inappropriate behavior continues.

            “John, we are investigating inappropriate comments you are alleged to have made, stating that ‘squats must be working because those shorts look better than ever'” seems more informative than “John, we are investigating inappropriate comments made and a client you made uncomfortable. Don’t do that again”.

            In a perfect world, the second comment could work and John would self-reflect and be able to recall what comment he made that could’ve been perceived as inappropriate – even if he just meant to tell the client that he’s seeing results in her new workout routine, but I often find the people who so callously make inappropriate remarks are the same people who don’t understand the remarks they are making are inappropriate.

            It’s also kind of a test….when I ask him not to speculate on who brought the complaint forward (also reminding him that it’s not always the person to whom the comment was directed) will he oblige? Will he not confront the person who made the complaint?

            If I ever have to reveal the name of the complainant, or if the alleged harasser guesses, I do make sure the complainant feels safe and protected – whether it be with an Associate Safety Plan (close parking, escort to and from car), with paid time off, or with the alleged harasser on a temporary transfer while investigation is going on.

            1. ferrina*

              You can’t quote the exact complaint. Chances are, he would know who said that, and then you get possibility for retaliation (which you can’t fully guard against.

              Instead of giving an exact quote, you need to summarize. “A client said that you commented on how attractive they were, and that made them very uncomfortable. Please do not comment on the attractiveness of the client, even if you mean it in an innocuous way.”
              You can even give an example that is not a quote of similar statements that one could inadvertently make.

              1. Despachito*

                But even like that, he will be pretty sure to which client he made the comment about the attractiveness.

                And if he retaliates in a manner they have to escort the victim to the car, they should fire him on the spot.

        2. Caroline+Bowman*

          What did the person approaching you want you to do about it?

          I ask because to be accused of some nebulous ”inappropriate” thing by an unnamed person would be… disconcerting. You’d be unable to defend yourself in any way.

          Was the accuser wanting the coach to be fired or disciplined?

          1. Antony-mouse*

            To answer a lot of questions here, he was accusing of making a sexual advance on a 19 year old he was coaching as a 45 year old man at an after event drinks. We couldn’t tell him that because as far as we were aware this was the only woman he’d made inappropriate advances on and it would automatically single her out. He also had a past history of questionable decisions regarding jokes that were borderline sexual. The woman asked that he be removed from the club and after collecting anonymous testimony from others, it was decided it was best to remove him. He was never told who said what against him and to this day believes he was unfairly dismissed.

        3. Zellie*

          I was once told I forwarded an email to my peers that triggered someone. I worked with a lot of vendors and forwarded emails with relevant information about our to my colleagues. I finally got the name of the vendor and the email out of my manager. Still not sure how I was supposed to know what would trigger someone. Just by mentioning it to me, with no action suggested, I wondered if I was supposed to just stop forwarding all vendor emails, which would ultimately have upset someone else. No win.

          I get protecting people, but if no relevant details can be provided speaking to someone does nothing but harm to them and doesn’t really help the person who reported it, because it can, and probably will, happen again because the offender has no idea what they did that offended.

      2. Queen Ruby*

        Something similar happened to me. There was a social club I used to frequent which allowed smoking. I had one winter coat that I would wear there, so my other coats wouldn’t smell like a stale smoky bar. But during one particularly cold spell, I wore it to the club and it picked up the stink. Then I wore it to work the next day, including to a weekly meeting in another building. Someone told my boss I smelled like alcohol, like I had a beer before coming to work. I obv did not smell like I had been drinking, boss agreed. Then I realized it was my coat and we had a good laugh. Issue over, or so I thought. The next week, after attending the same meeting (with a freshly laundered coat), someone complained again that I smelled like booze. I did not say a word in the meeting, was drinking a Red Bull and eating cough drops because I had a cold, and took a seat in the back of the room, away from the people I sat near the week before. I didn’t drink the night before (or that morning), so no, I did not smell like beer. Even if I did, no one was close enough to smell me. I was livid! Boss’ boss went to the complainer, who admitted she said it because I looked tired. WTF! Never did find out who it was, and it made me soooo paranoid that I stopped going to that meeting unless I was needed.

    6. A Pinch of Salt*

      ooo I am struggling with some of these comments erring on “someone in HR just judged him by size”. I do think long-standing male privilege plays in here. He might not be consciously intimidating, but people are no longer willing to accept the status quo dominant male behavior (see also: bullying everyone allowed for decades and also: complaints about large initimidating women are far less common).

      My last boss (the Vice President) was also a huge dude (at least 6’6″…no clue on weight) and would play the “people are afraid of me because I’m tall!” card. Nah Bruh….its because you’re a bully. I’ve told you that, people have said it in exit interviews, it’s on glassdoor…all with very specific examples.

      So possible he was discriminated against? Sure. But with various complaints I doubt it.

      1. They Call Me Mom*

        OP here. He only knows his male supervisor was one of the complainants because son told him not to do something…something that was clearly against company and safety standards. If anything, I guess it could be insubordination, but harassment? That’s a stretch. Previous supervisors, and there have been many, have given him good reviews as helpful, loyal, quiet, accommodating, until now. Is he a bully? Not in any way, shape or form from where I sit, but I’m not an associate.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          Is your son physically larger than the supervisor who filed the harassment complaint? When he was telling the supervisor not to do the thing, was his voice raised? Was he stepping closer to the other person as he was talking? Is there anything he might have been doing in that moment that could read as “this person is upset and coming toward me and I don’t know what he’s going to do next and that’s frightening?”

          It’s possible that the supervisor was mad at him and knew of the other harassment complaints and decided to retaliate, but it’s also possible that the supervisor really did have a fight or flight moment during that conversation and didn’t feel safe.

          1. Julia*

            “Something that was clearly against company and safety standards” which is also a complicated thing.

            How was this conveyed and was it an urgent situation? Was it a “holy shit you’re about to do a thing that is immediately dangerous!”, “the thing you are planning to do is unsafe” or “that thing you want me to do is unsafe”?

        2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          So how did your son decide his height was an issue? Sounds more like A) retaliation for calling out a policy/safety violation or B) your son came off more aggressive than he thinks calling out the policy/safety violation and legit violated company policy. If it is A, he is probably best off away from that mess. If it is B, he might want to take some of the advice in the thread about modulating behavior in this type of situation

        3. Hydrangea*

          “He only knows his male supervisor was one of the complainants because son told him not to do something…something that was clearly against company and safety standards.”

          Wait, does he *know* the male supervisor made a complaint, as in, he was told “Male Supervisor made a complaint,” or does he suspect?

      2. Fluttervale*

        I can see a situation where a guy could be big and have the hots for a female coworker, who is too intimidated to say no or back off to him because of his size and lack of social awareness combined with his general male privilege and current social conditions.

        Some managers that are new to role or in less experienced companies feel very strongly about complaints staying anonymous and having no identifying features, but that’s not a practical take and the people lodging complaints usually need to be told that to properly address the complaint, the other person will be able to figure out who said what to HR.

      3. Lilo*

        Someone mentioned the dynamic where a man leans their crotch in too close to a woman who is sitting down. I once mentioned that happening when you sit on the subway. Surprise, surprise, every woman in the room had experienced that, not one man had.

        1. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

          This is something that used to happen at my old job! My boss for some reason liked to stretch his back when talking to people at their desks, so he would lean his head back and push his pelvis forward. You turn around while sitting and there would be his crotch. We had more of an open plan so the guys around me started mimicking him at their desks and to one another when he did it, so I think he got the picture that it was really weird to be standing at people’s desks like that because he eventually stopped.

          1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            There was a guy at one of my old jobs who did stretching lunges towards younger women in the office. He’d come into a cube, take the lunge pose, and start talking. He claimed it was because he was stretching after a tough workout, but somehow the urge never happened when he was talking to an older woman or any man. Due to that place being epically dysfunctional, after enough complaints he was restricted to an individual SMI role that could only communicate with other staff through his manager. I think they were hoping he’d leave, but he’s still there 17 years later

      4. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        I agree and also think it could be someone large with a poor sense of personal space might come across as intimidating where a smaller person might come across as annoying. As you say, he might not be consciously intimidating people, so it would be helpful for him to be made aware of what he’s doing that is intimidating people.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes. I think intent is not magic. You can genuinely not realise the impact of your behaviour may be intimidating someone by virtue of your size. But if the effect of your behaviour is that standing over someone makes them feel intimidated then I’d hope you’d adjust (stand back, sit down) when someone mentioned the impact your behaviour was having on them.

          1. Despachito*

            Provided they actually mentioned it to you.

            If your behaviour has an impact but you have neither the intent nor the idea you are doing it, how on Earth could you correct it?

            1. Librarian of SHIELD*

              I think you can only correct it if you’re willing to be introspective, and if you’re willing to consider the possibility that some people will perceive your behavior in ways you didn’t intend.

              So, you get the nebulous “some of the things you do make people uncomfortable” with no further information. If you want to stop making people uncomfortable, you start asking yourself questions about the things you do regularly. You google “what behaviors make people uncomfortable?” If your coworkers tend to belong to the same demographic group (women in their 20s-30s or married men or whatever is true about your workplace) find a person who belongs to that demographic group that you know and trust and ask them what kinds of things make them uncomfortable.

              When you land upon a behavior that people say makes them uncomfortable and you know that you have done that behavior, a)believe them that they’re uncomfortable about that behavior even though you didn’t mean for them to be, b)brainstorm some replacement behaviors that you could substitute for the ones you now know bother people, and c)don’t make a martyr of yourself or beat yourself up about it. You didn’t know before, and that wasn’t great but it didn’t make you a terrible person. You know now, and now you can start taking steps to be a better coworker.

              1. Despachito*

                That’s a pretty large emotional investment for someone who cared enough to give you a very vague information that something you do bothers some people, but did not bother to tell you what it was.

                The problem can be in you, but it can be in the other person as well (several women, some of them black, wrote here that they were reprimanded for behaviour that would be found acceptable in a man but was found aggressive for a woman. Should they also follow your advice and invest a lot of time in investigating what they did wrong, just because someone told them they make people uncomfortable, and change their behaviour although they do not feel they did anything wrong)?

                I think a person who is irritated by something you are doing should be able to kindly tell you what the problem is, and it is then up to you to judge whether they have a point or are wildly off base. You have no obligation to bend over backwards every time someone tells you they think there is something wrong with you.

                (And I am all in that reasonable requests should be listened to and satisfied if possible, but not every request is reasonable, and my hackles go up if I imagine that we should respond to EVERY vague reproach with massive self-examination, irrespective of whether the person has a genuine point or is a mere bully).

                If someone told me the vague “you are making people uncomfortable”, I’d first ask HIM/HER what exactly they mean by that. If I get a clear answer, I can act on it. If not, there is realistically not much I can or will do.

                1. Librarian of SHIELD*

                  I feel like the main point you’re missing here is that the person being discussed in this letter is larger than most of the people he interacts with and has been given many indications that other people find him intimidating. If you are in the process of being intimidated by a person who is much larger than you are, it’s incredibly difficult to verbalize that without fear.

                  At some point, if a person chooses to be someone who doesn’t intimidate everyone they come into contact with, they need to take their own initiative and change their own behavior.

                2. JM60*

                  I think it’s somewhat like being a journalist and having an editor tell you that there are typos in your lengthy article that you should fix before publication, but they won’t tell you where those typos are. Maybe you’ll find those typos, but maybe you won’t find them even if you try to proofread very carefully. If it’s the later, there’s not a whole lot you can do to address the problem.

        2. Smithy*

          To circle back to what A Pinch of Salt said….I’m a tall woman (5’11), who’s been made very well aware of her height in 101 situations far different than men of similar heights or taller. When I interact with children, in cramped situations where my chest or hips/crotch might be in an awkward placement – there have always been people more than happy to make me aware of how my height can come across and what I need to do to modify this.

          All of this to the point where it’s far more common for taller women to have to remind themselves to stand up straight because they’ve spent so much time trying to make themselves smaller.

          While I’m sure there are specific women of size who use their size as a point intimidation, it’s very likely intentional. However, “someone large with a poor sense of personal space” is almost entirely a man.

        3. whingedrinking*

          I have a friend I like to go to concerts with, and he’s a large and heavy man. As he puts it, “Everyone needs to be careful in a mosh pit, but most women are already aware they need to be careful so they don’t get hurt. More men need to be careful so that *other* people don’t get hurt.”

          1. Lilo*

            There’s this well recognize phenomenon where women walking down the street are just expected to move out of the way for men. Some woman did an experiment where she just simply didn’t do that and dozens of men just walked right into her.

            1. Tangential Tangerine*

              I found it interesting that my ex wasn’t a big guy — average height / slim — and he was also expected to move aside for *bigger* men. It really ticked him off! (It was a little funny to me, as I am accustomed to just moving aside and rolling my eyes but it offended him because men are used to being deferred to and he lost in the pecking order.) Sometimes he would just fail to yield and they’d run into him too.

            2. YetAnotherAnalyst*

              This is always amazing to watch if you get a real crowd, like heading to lunch during a conference. You can see men actually steering *towards* women, because the subconscious belief that the women will move is just that ingrained.

            3. Elizabeth Barnett*

              I’d love to read that write-up! I agree, women seem to be socialised to give way. Maybe there is some office personal space/movement etiquette that OP’s offspring doesn’t process because (he?) has always been used to being accommodated due to gender and size and hasn’t realised that co-workers won’t just fall aside from his psychological bow wave. (Not that female pedestrains should have to clear the path for male ones – it’s just that yes, they do so. To my huge annoyance I find my daughter will chastise me for not moving out of the way of oncoming people.)

      5. Johanna Cabal*

        I keep wondering what the other side of the story is. I feel like the son is leaving some things out. I’ve known men with similar builds and most of them were cognizant not to do things to come across as intimidating.

        Perhaps the son could benefit from some coaching? LW describes him as “socially awkward,” a term which could also describe me. I can’t tell you how many times people have told me to “be assertive” or “stand up for yourself” without telling me how to do that, resulting in my coming across as aggressive when “standing up for myself.”

        1. Anne Elliot*

          I agree. I feel like people are reading a lot of facts into this, when all we really know is what the OP told us. So we know the son was “disciplined on several occasions, mostly due to harassment” and the mother “doesn’t know the particulars.”

          The “several occasions” leads me to believe there was a legitimate problem, but it is also possible HR did not give the employee enough information to meaningfully address it. I think Alison is right that there’s too much unknown to offer much guidance.

      6. Sloanicota*

        I admit, I do not put a lot of faith in the idea that this was the main reason OP’s son was fired. If anything, being tall is generally an advantage in the workplace. It sounds a bit like denial to me. There are probably other explanations for why this happened. That said, when jobs are vague about the reasons for dismissal, it’s inevitable that people start wondering if the reasons are X or Y. There should probably have been (may have been) a PIP and a clearer expectation about the desired behavior change, unless the son did something egregious, which OP would probably not know about.

          1. Sloanicota*

            You are right, sorry; disciplined several times but then left on his own, I had forgotten the details.

    7. Sandgroper*

      My husband is six foot seven, and he looms. He doesn’t mean to, but he does. When we built our house we built it with higher doorways, and benches. With wider walk ways and a more spacious kitchen. All of this so there’s room to easily move around each other, because when he’s right next to you, he looms.

      Throw in the odd angry moment, or a grumpy mood even and the looming can feel positively aggressive. He has no idea how his size affects people around him, and I’ve had to explain to him that he’s far too large to be grumpy with people in public (or his small children), and that if he feels grumpy he needs to tone it down dramatically more than others. Rule one: You can’t be this big and grumpy. You come across as aggressive.

      If this employee has a habit of raising his voice, acting a bit grumpy, giving negative feedback ‘with a tone’ or other things that could be perceived as aggressive on a tall person then he needs to learn to moderate himself. It’s highly likely his larger than life body amplifies his other behaviours.

      Throw in if he’s ‘making small talk’ and trying to be sassy/flirty with new employees “for fun” he’s going to come across again as having amplified behaviour. It’s going to seem more serious than it is. Not only because he’s got power over their employment, but because he’s so damn large it emphasises his strength over them more than a ‘normally sized’ person might. Rule two: You can’t be this big and flirty, you come across as extra sleazy and a predator.

      The fact that HR has on multiple occasions waved the “harassment policy” at your son suggests he’s been doing more than being grumpy. He’s doing something he shouldn’t be, and his bulk/size is making him appear bigger at it than others.

      I do wonder why you are writing in (and not him). If he’s in his mid 20s he’s old enough to learn from this and sort it out for himself. Maybe you can help him learn about the impact of his size on his behaviour (I’m teaching my sons the same, given they are going to be like their father!) and guide him towards someone who can help him understand that better, and this qualified person can also look at this harassment complaints with him and help him work out where the line is. Harassment is beyond ‘grumpy’ and into “directed at an individual/s” … so the question is, was he targeting someone/people and why? He needs to face that.

      (Rule three: Never step in and save another person out drinking at night. You will be king hit/punched in the head, and when you are down kicked in the head. The littlest guy is always keen to prove his mettle vs the big guy but can only win by dirty tactics. Small guys learn to fight fast, big guys rely on brawn/bulk. They can’t beat a dirty fast fighter, don’t even think of trying to get involved.

      Rule four: Bigger bubbles. You are tall, you loom, give everyone a little big more room, or they crick their neck just looking at you for eye contact. Bigger paintings are looked at from a greater distance, so should you be!)

            1. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

              It’s healthier for other people, who don’t have to have objects thrown at them when someone chooses to have a tantrum, who don’t have to be beaten because their parents are enraged, who don’t have to be berated into tears by an angry customer. Overall it’s a balance.

              1. Kitry*

                That is an incredibly bizarre reaction too my comment. I was replying to a comment that literally included the sentence “You can’t be this big and grumpy.” I mean grumpiness is pretty much the mildest form of anger there is. No one was talking about berating anyone, throwing things, or beating anyone. For heaven’s sake.

              2. aebhel*

                There’s a vast distance between being visibly annoyed or impatient – which is what the above comment was referring to – and throwing things at people or beating them up (!?). The fact that you don’t see any distinction there is frankly bizarre.

            2. Le Sigh*

              It doesn’t mean you have to suppress all emotion, but it isn’t unhealthy to be aware of your impact on others. I’m overall physically small, but I’m naturally loud and can default to a loud, raised voice whether I’m excited or upset. I grew up with people who talk over each other and shout, even when they’re happy/excited. But that’s stressful for others. I’m cognizant of that when I’m in public spaces or at work or with people I don’t know well.

              I sometimes get called out for this more as a woman and might get pegged as aggressive/called a b**** when a man wouldn’t, so that’s not okay. I have a spidey sense for that. But it’s not the same as just being aware of my volume in general.

            3. Hannah Lee*

              “Experiencing an emotion does not necessarily require expressing it.”

              … at your workplace, with no moderation

              One thing I wondered, given his age, is what his emotional expression is at work. I’ve had a few people I’ve worked with who were early in their careers who didn’t yet understand that the range of emotions you can express hanging out with your buddies and the way you can express them (loudly, openly, with passion) are not at all what’s acceptable to express in the work place. Big emotions in the workplace are generally not a good thing: you can be frustrated, you can be angry, because that’s part of being human. Expressing those emotions loudly or explosively around others in your workplace is a no-go. Even if you’re just stomping or putting down your stapler emphatically as opposed to yelling at someone.

              Emotional regulation is something some people don’t really get a handle on until their early, mid-20s.

            4. Sandgroper*

              Actually, it is.

              We teach small children to self regulate their emotions.

              We expect adults to display “professional behaviour” at work.

              Professional behaviour does not include being grumpy. Being grumpy as an externally visible behaviour includes banging (not outright slamming) things, short clipped sentences, avoiding other people or tasks because ‘you feel like it’, and having a ‘grumpy’ slightly angry expression. It also usually includes ‘go away’ body language such as crossed arms, leaning and looking away from other people and scowling.

              I don’t think it’s ‘gross’ to expect people not to do these things in the office. I think it’s perfectly reasonable.

        1. ferrina*

          It’s not about what you are feeling, it’s how you express it. You can feel grumpy/sad/angry/elated, but you need to be aware of how you’re communicating that and how it affects others around you.

        2. Nina*

          I’m an average-sized autistic person. When I’m tired and not masking properly, I’m told I give off major uncanny-valley vibes that make people uncomfortable.

          I also get to experience the normal range of human emotions just like everyone else, but because I’m not alone in my own house with the door closed, I don’t get to express them exactly the way I want. I have to be conscious of how other people will perceive me, and make sure I’m not upsetting or unnerving them. I have to perform facial expressions, keep to quiet/small stims, and accept that people at work will talk to me about things that are not work, but I have to be polite and friendly even though it doesn’t come naturally to me.

          We live in a society and we have to be conscious of other people’s human emotions when we’re deciding how to manage and express our own.

      1. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

        We can’t know what doesn’t happen, only what does, but there are horrible things that could have happened that won’t because you’re teaching your sons so well. Thank you for doing so.

    8. Rain's Small Hands*

      A story unrelated to work. I have two children a year apart in age, now adults. One day my youngest came home with a note from the bus. “Dottie was bullied on the bus by another child. The other child was throwing pennies at her.” And my oldest came home with a note “Max was bullying another child on the bus, he was throwing pennies at them.” (Not their real names)

      My eyes rolled back into my head, as I’m sure happened to the poor school secretary who had to write both notes.

      1. Dr Crusher*

        I don’t understand, your child was throwing pennies at your other child on the bus and they each got a letter? I mean, what’s wrong with that? Schools have procedures, and the one child should not have been throwing pennies at their sibling on the bus.

        1. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

          Haha, I was thinking that Rain’s Small Hands was pointing out that there was no need to send two letters. Just say that one sibling was throwing pennies at the other, and they need to handle that. It wasn’t like there was any sort of need to conceal who they were from the other parent involved since they were the only parent involved.

        2. Willow*

          The ridiculous part is sending letters that keep the other child’s name “secret” while the presence of both letters makes it obvious who both were.

      2. yala*

        Obviously this would not be a good solution, but part of me can’t help but think it would be funny to solve this by telling the youngest to punch a bully in the mouth withing the oldest’s hearing, while looking right at the oldest.

      3. ferrina*

        lol! That’s amazing. And points to the school for how they handled this.

        When I was in high school, I used to play on a rec team with my mom. My mom and I don’t look alike, so most people didn’t realize we were family. My mom and I like to trash talk each other on the field (it was only to each other, never anyone else). After one such exchange, a member of the other team turned to my mom and said “I can’t believe your teammate said that to you! That’s so unkind!” My mom had to explain that it was fine, I was her daughter, and she was the one who encouraged (and had taught me) the trash talking.

    9. Random Biter*

      “I had a situation once where someone overheard a snippet of conversation out of context and was offended…”

      Oh BOY can I relate to that. I was the office person at a local restaurant. During Christmas the home office would send us the flimsiest of wooden ornaments to sell at the register. These things typically started falling apart the first time someone would paw through them meaning by the end of the season they were looking really shabby. One day while filling in for the hostess, I mentioned to the cashier that “…only the ugly ones are left.” meaning the busted up ornaments. She agreed and we never thought more of it until the manager pulled me aside and said a customer had complained about the hostess (me) calling the other employees ugly. I couldn’t for the life of me imagine what the customer was referring to and told the manager that. In later conversation with the cashier she said, “You don’t think she (the customer) dipped into our conversation about the ornaments, do you?” Yep….that was it. For pete’s sake, I almost lost my job over a conversation that not only had nothing to do with the customer, who was eavesdropping, and was completely off base. Ah..working with John Q. Public…good times..good times

      1. Junior Assistant Peon*

        I eventually found out what got me in trouble, but it was years later so I couldn’t defend myself. I had repeated verbatim some advice my grandboss had given me on what it takes to be promoted. The person who overheard a piece of it believed I was trash-talking lower-level employees. I’m still angry that my job was jeopardized for this, and that you’re pretty much guilty until proven innocent anytime someone claims to be offended. If they wanted to fire me for any other reason, HR would have required a lot of documented evidence.

    10. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      It is hard to say what is going on without more context. If there have been multiple complaints from multiple colleagues, then something is going on, though it might just be body size combined with social awkwardness leading to misinterpretation. Of course, the son will want to be cognizant of this, but he also needs more specific feedback on the behavior that, combined with his size and gender, led people to feel uncomfortable, since that is the only aspect he can or should be expected to change. Unless he knows more than he told OP, I would say that HR really failed him here by not directing him to behaviors rather than his size. But it is hard to know what they said, because we cannot be sure the son is telling his mother the whole story. And honestly, I expect that he is not telling her all, because he wants to forget it and move on; otherwise, I would imagine he would be telling her details he does remember and trying to speculate on what the issue could be.

  2. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

    #2 I highly recommend “Bobert” for your annoying nickname, if Bob is indeed the name of the trainer (though Robespierre is also brilliant!) My Bob (aka Robert aka spouse) has informed me that it’s the most irritating thing I could possibly call him, which of course I take advantage of as needed.

      1. it's-a-me*

        Or if it’s an ‘extra syllables’ thing, get silly with it and say Bobbidy-Bob-Bobberino.

        Or if he seems like he enjoys that sort of thing, just use the wrong name entirely. After all, he’s not using OPs name, so don’t use his. James. Frank. Kyle. Adrian.

          1. Hotdog not dog*

            that’s what I call my younger brother when he’s being annoying! (He’s Bob the rest of the time, and Robert to Mom.)

        1. Miss Muffet*

          I like just using a completely other name. Even when people spell my name wrong it irritates me, because it’s another name. It might as well be Kyle or Adrian. Just because you’re making it an “ie” at the end and not a “y” and it might be pronounced the same doesn’t mean it IS the same!

          1. Sara*

            I had a coworker at my last job who would address me as and refer to me as Sarah in emails right through the day I left. I was there for four years and it wasn’t a secret that I wasn’t her favorite person (long story, but we both made our fair share of mistakes), so I suspect she was being intentionally petty at least some of the time. I try to give people a lot of grace when it comes to the spelling of my name because I’ve definitely addressed someone as Matthew when their name was spelled Mathew, but this coworker and I had the same position and worked together on a daily basis

      2. xl*

        Or “the Bobby,” or “his Bobness,” or “el Bobarino,” if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.

    1. Bowserkitty*

      I haven’t known many Bobs in my life (enough to count on one hand I suppose) but every single one of them detested “Bobert” as a nickname of any sort. Heheheheh.
      (see also: Tedward for Teddy/Theo)

      1. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

        My fiancee has a friend named Matthew, goes by Matt, and frequently, by my fiancee, called Matholomew (pronounced like Bartholomew)

      2. Salamander*

        This cracks me up. We have a cat, named Fred, who we often refer to as “Fredward.” He doesn’t mind.

    2. LittleMarshmallow*

      I agree… Bobert… or perhaps Bobby. Or ya know, be real weird and call him Richard. Just for fun. I mean. I definitely don’t recommend that but it sounds fun.

        1. Merci Dee*

          I, too, read that as “Bob-ert”, mostly thanks to episodes of The Amazing World of Gumball, which features a robot named Bobert.

    3. Media Monkey*

      i feel like if you could say Bob like Blackadder (series 4 – followed by “that’s a funny name for a girl”. Possibly one for the British AAMers) that might hit malicious compliance quite nicely.

    4. Happy meal with extra happy*

      You could go with singing the first part of the opening number of Company. :)

    5. R*

      I was going to go this route at work with one of the managers. He constantly would abbreviate my name or just spell it wrong in emails when it’s right in front of him. He is a William, never Bill, kind of guy. I didn’t even say it to him, he overheard me say I was hoping to call him Billy until it was fixed and it never happened since.

    6. a tester, not a developer*

      My kid is a Robert, and for a while we did ‘Roberts of the World’ – my favourite was Brecht.

    7. Gracely*

      I vote #2 just adds whatever suffix Bob is using on their name to his name. Bobantha. Bobandra. Bobsephina.

  3. tamarack and fireweed*

    #5 – I’d definitely send this to the academic supervisor / dean, the provost (boss of the deans), *and the academic integrity office*. It’s of course not what you usually consider academic dishonesty, but blatant lying about your status of involvement with their project, potentially authorship (re: this happens at academic conferences) are in their purview.

    Of course they might suck, but you can’t presume that. They might not. My letter to the integrity office would start something like “I’m writing to you with somewhat of an odd situation… ,” then explain how it is related to academic dishonesty (misrepresentation of collaboration / authorship) and ask them to intervene. As you are a postdoc you are a fully fledged academic, and they’re usurping your participation. (Doing it to a student would be in some ways worse, but as a post-doctoral researcher you have better standing dealing peer-to-peer with the academic structures at that institution.)

    1. Well...*

      Hmm I’m not sure this will go anywhere, and also postdocs are usually in more precarious academic positions than grad students (the university does not owe them an education, mentorship, etc, and they are usually more temporary).

      I’d try talking to her directly before escalating. If previous boss is a tenured professor, it’s unlikely she will be disciplined. She can deny the one-on-one conversations. For the major conference talk, she could claim she’s recycling slides.

      There may be an angle of you’re in a field like computer science that tends to view conference proceedings on par with publications. In that case, I’d email the conference organizers IF you think she’s claiming you authored work you didn’t.

      That’s still shaky because you did work there, and so she can “credit” you on her slides for a while. But if she submitted the talk and listed you as a coauthor without your consent, that’s academic dishonesty, and the conference organizers will care. They are also better positioned to actually negatively affect her (not inviting her again, being annoyed by the hassle and spreading that info to their networks, etc) than any academic administrator is.

      1. Lilith*

        Is there a video of the conference talk? That particular presentation would be so helpful to see for yourself and have in case you wanted to forward a snippet to someone.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I second or third trying to get either a transcript or video of that talk. It could be really helpful in crafting any letters/emails to know exactly what the former boss said.

      2. Artemesia*

        This. I’d be a little careful as it is one person’s report and there is a chance it was benign like crediting work you already did and the person reporting it misunderstood. It is a serious issue if it is as it appears and you need to alert people up the line, but as a post doc which is a vulnerable position as you will be needing support to make your next academic move, you do need to be careful.

      3. Esmeralda*

        I absolutely would not talk to this ex boss. OP is trying to escape from them. Do not make any contact with this liar. Go thru channels

      4. snarkfox*

        I disagree about talking to her directly. Maybe in a more typical situation, but the claims she’s making are just bizarre. I would not trust her to do the right thing in this situation….

      5. Faith the twilight slayer*

        My first instinct would be to think that ex-boss is sort of riding on the clout coattails of OP’s name, and is relying on the fact that no one would think to fact-check.

      6. tamarack and fireweed*

        By all means the OP could write the email first to the former supervisor, but chances are they’ll shrug it off and do nothing. And sometimes bridges are well and truly cut off – I am not sure the OP *should* have to engage with the former supervisor. Thus escalation – HR/supervisor is an option, but so is the integrity office.

        I also don’t think it should be the OP’s goal to get the former boss disciplined. That’s a long shot and also, why would the OP care? The OP wants this to stop. (As for the website, listing them under “former members of the lab” or whatever is often done, and would publicly clarify their status.

    2. Esmeralda*

      Agreed, all of it. This is a substantial violation of academic integrity and that lying ex boss needs their ads handed to them in a greasy platter

    3. learnedthehardway*

      I’d investigate a bit more first, to make certain that the old boss was really misrepresenting the OP as a current employee. eg. look to see if the lecture was recorded, check out the website, etc. etc.

      After that, I would write a note requesting that my bio and information be removed from the website and that the old boss be clearer that I was a FORMER employee/researcher, “as this is causing confusion with my current research contract, and I am having to correct people about the situation.” ie. “if you don’t do something, I will make it crystal clear to people that you’re lying”, but not actually saying this, right out. I would couch it in “wishing you all the best”, lots of civility, etc. etc. but also cc someone who can make sure it gets done.

      See if that works before being confrontational about it – it could have been a genuine mistake / oversight. Some people in academia are fairly vague, and if the old boss said “Our researcher, OP…” they could have meant “Our researcher at the time, OP” or even genuinely not realize that OP is no longer working in their lab (Case in point, my husband’s PhD advisor kept mixing him up with another student, and then had to claw back funding from the other student because she had given it to the wrong person).

      1. Mid*

        And I think approaching it as “of course you meant to refer to me as a Former Researcher, it would be ridiculous to say otherwise” can help people correct their course before it gets weirder. Maybe the former boss is blatantly misrepresenting things, but approaching it with a lighter air of “of course you would never do such a silly thing!” can often be more effective than going at someone in a more “attacking” way, even if it’s not actually an attack.

        I’d probably start with a direct contact to the boss, maybe CCing someone if there was another level of management present at the conference or if there’s someone in charge of updating the website, depending on the politics of the office, saying something like “Hey [Former Boss], I heard the silliest thing from some colleagues who attended [Conference]–after talking with you/listening to your presentation, they were under the impression that I was still with [Start-up], and it looks like my information is still on the website! Do you mind updating the website so we don’t have any more confusion?”

        Assuming that someone will be reasonable first can often encourage them to be more reasonable.

  4. LittleMarshmallow*

    #1: I hope your son will be able to reflect on what happened. It is of course possible that the women he was working with were simply intimidated by his size and took action as such (which I agree isn’t appropriate-someone’s height can’t be helped anymore than say eye color and is ridiculous to judge someone for). I’m going to comment from my own experience on things that he may have done or should consider. I’m female and have been in the working world for 15 years… I’m also 5’2” and work in a male dominated manufacturing environment so I often work with men in the size demographic of your son and they are often not polished office folks. Size alone is not intimidating for me. As Allison says, size combined with other behaviors are where it can get intimidating. Here’s behaviors that I’ve encountered over the years that do indeed come across as intimidating: 1) standing too close (Allison mentioned this, but seriously) – now this alone usually isn’t… annoying yes, intimidating no, buuuut standing too close combined with loud talking or yelling, or a sort of towering stance like he’s trying to well… intimidate, is intimidating. Now I’ve been stood too close to and I’ve been towered over. Believe me, as a women in those situations I absolutely was aware of which ones were intentional intimidation and which ones were just social awkwardness. 2) slamming things or other “angry” behavior – this really should never be done especially in an office (although it’s more common in trades and manufacturing-you get used to it) and that coming from a large man can definitely be intimidating. 3) Yelling or talking too loudly for the situation, this one doesn’t bother me unless it’s done at me… near me whatever doesn’t bother me, but there probably are people out there that would be bothered by it. I don’t like loud talking really in general, but not so much because it’s intimidating, just overwhelming.

    Some tips for the tall guys: 1) this may just be me – but if you’re over a foot taller than me… sit down! Haha. Of course if it doesn’t make sense to or whatever it’s fine, but I actually like it when someone that is well over 6’ tall and is talking to me sits… it just sorta levels the playing field. I don’t intimidate easily and it’s not even that I’m “intimidated” if you don’t, it’s just nice when you do. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to see over your head or look you in the eyes. 2) Please stay out of peoples bubbles. This really applies to everyone. I don’t like when people stand really close especially when there’s a wall behind me. Just stay a few feet back. I can hear you just fine. 3) Watch how fast you walk… tall guys can really move fast! It’s impressive… I could see it coming off as intimidating if you are approaching someone. 4) this one’s gonna sound weird – watch the condescending “little lady” talk. Believe me, I may not be as strong as you but I have my ways of doing things and I’ll ask for help when I need it (as anyone should – and side not to manufacturing employers… get equipment that makes the horribly unergonomic tasks safer/easier for everyone. Can I move a 3000 lb IBC with a manual pallet Jack… yes… unless it gets hung up on something…then no… is it ridiculously easier to do with an electric pallet Jack or forklift… for literally everyone… hells yeah! Spend the money!). Being talked down to for being smaller isn’t really intimidating but after a while it does start to feel harassing. I just need a longer wrench!

    Anyway, this is an interesting letter to me because out of all of the men I’ve worked with that tried to intimidate me, all but one were shorter than average (we are really only talking like 3-4 over 15 years that were actually attempts at a sort of physical intimidation – it doesn’t happen that often – sneaky misogyny does, but blatant intimidation behaviors don’t). I really hope that your son’s female colleagues didn’t falsely report harassment but I’d also encourage your son to think about his behaviors. I don’t know many (if any) women that take reporting harassment lightly.

    If he gets similar reports at new job he should probably look inward. Just being tall/big is not likely the problem if it becomes a pattern that size is “an issue”.

    Good luck to your son in his new job!

    1. Myrin*

      Great and insightful comment, thanks for taking the time to laying this out so eloquently and thoughtfully!

    2. OneAngryAvocado*

      While some of these suggestions make sense, the idea that taller people should be policing their behaviour to such an extent (sitting down to speak to certain people, checking their pace when approaching someone else) just strikes me as ridiculous. It’s an unfair expectation to place on people.

      1. WS*

        Tall people in general, yes, I agree, but I don’t think it’s ridiculous for a tall person who’s already been managed out due to vague harassment claims and wants to reduce the odds of that happening again.

      2. TechWorker*

        ‘Sit down so you can be at eye level’ – noting that this was caveated with ‘of course if it doesn’t make sense to’ – reeeaally is not policing behaviour? It’s saying ‘the conversation is easier if we can talk face to face rather than both crane our necks’ – I’d imagine that’s also beneficial for the tall person too.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes I don’t think asking someone to sit down is an unreasonable thing to ask. In a previous job I had a really tall uber boss (let’s call him Elrond). He used to come over to my desk and stand over me and talk to me. He was 2 metres tall and I am an average height person so it made me feel like a child in front of the headmaster and made me feel defensive and worry he could see down my top. I don’t think he realised this was the effect of his action because he was a fairly decent bloke generally.

          I asked him “Elrond, would you mind sitting down when you come over, so we are eye level as I’d feel a lot more comfortable not craning my neck?” This obviously hadn’t occurred to him, but he was very happy to do so. We had much better discussions as a result because it felt more like an equal dialogue. I noted he started doing it with other people as well.

          1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

            Yep, this for boils down to, it’s more comfortable for the tall person to sit than for the short person to have to bend their head all the way back.

          2. Banana*

            Good point with the height difference making it feel like someone could be looking down your top! I’m a tall woman so I don’t encounter those height differences often, but when they do happen I am k e e n l y aware of them.

          3. Heather*

            Way to use your words instead of just assuming everyone around you should know instinctively how you want them to act :)

          4. St Lucia*

            Yes! Especially if you are a larger person, sitting down when talking to another person is a big sign of respect. And refusing to do so when asked is very offensive.

            In my previous job, I often had to deal with a senior professor who liked to criticize and complain about how I did things, even though I was the director and he was not. Somehow he thought his opinion mattered.

            He prefered to do this by barging into my office (he never knocked, although I repeatedly asked him to) and then he would stand over me and yell at me as I sat at my desk (he is a 6’6’’man and I am a small woman). Every single time he came in I immediately interrupted and asked “please, take a seat”, and “please sit down, Harry”, and “how nice to see you, Harry, can you please sit down?!”

            Of course, he never, ever would sit down, no matter how many times I asked. Even if he spent 30 min in my office complaining to me, he refused to sit down.

            It was so clear that he was using his size and ability to loom over me as a means of intimidation. I finally complained to HR and after that he never stopped by my office again. YAY!

          5. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

            You know how little kids’ drawing of adults always show the nostrils? That’s because seeing people’s nostrils is a constant in their life. And if I’m sitting down while someone close by stands over me, I get to see their nostrils. I don’t want to see anyone’s nostrils, thank you. Also my neck will hurt. There’s chairs everywhere — just sit down!

          6. tamarack and fireweed*

            This is how this should go, but I think this is pretty firmly in the realm of sorting out interpersonal relations rather than that of inequity or justice. It’s just the bodies we happen to have, or the clothes we happen to wear or other physical attributes, that we sometimes bring up to make work most comfortable for everyone.

            The problem with the post and question, and why it is so hard to answer, is that it could be one of two things:

            – The OP’s son *has* been physically intimidating (through his actions, not his body shape) or harassing their coworker/s and it’s pointed out to him that their anger / abuse / invective is extra intimidating because it’s coming from a physically large and powerful man.
            – The OP’s son has overall behaved appropriately, but for example (as it is suggested by the comment contribution) is being retaliated against after pointing out a safety or protocol breach by their supervisor, and the “you’re so intimidating” bit is mostly a deflection.

            We don’t really know which it is.

        2. Teach*

          Sitting down to eliminate a height difference is literally the first thing one does as a teacher to indicate collaboration instead of authority with students. It’s a great suggestion for people in other workplaces as well.

          1. Jay*

            It’s also my first piece of advice to docs, especially in the hospital. It indicates collaboration and also a commitment of time. There are studies that show that when patients are asked how much time the doctor spends with them they underestimate it when we stand and overestimate it when we sit. I have a colleague who’s about 6’4″ who started carrying a small folding chair with him on hospital rounds so he could always sit at the bedside. And I consulted at a hospital where they had folding chairs hung on the walls of every patient room to facilitate docs sitting down. It’s a perfectly reasonable and often doable thing to ask – and it’s the same reason parents and teachers often get down on the ground to talk to small children.

            One of med school classmates was an offensive lineman at a Division 1 school. Tall, big, wide, dude. Also quiet and sweet. He became a pediatrician and the first thing he did when he went into an exam room was to sit on the step of the exam table – as close as he could get to sitting on the floor. Kids loved it, and him.

          2. Charlotte Lucas*

            This! I am also 5’2″, & when I was a trainer, my leg muscles were in great shape from crouching near people’s workstations to help them.

            It generally considered polite to try to get on a level where you can be eye-to-eye with the person you’re interacting with.

            1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

              I do the same. I’m 4 feet 11 but many children aren’t taller so I often sit on the floor

          3. Irish Teacher*

            This reminds me of my supervisor (a college lecturer who was in charge of grading my teaching practice) during my teaching qualification telling me I was never to sit down in a classroom, as it reduced my authority. It struck me as ridiculous then and still does now, but yeah, basically, she was insisting we use the height difference in order to indicate authority and not collaboration. This WAS an indication of her attitude towards teaching and she marked based on her philosophy, so I had to pay lip service to it while studying, but have ignored it ever since.

          4. St. Mary’s Institute of Historical Research*

            So I am a 6 foot tall, plus-size woman who works with preschoolers. At first I was incredibly self conscious over the effect my size might have on them. I was constantly bending, crouching, kneeling, etc even when other adults stayed standing.
            Until the day I actually had to explain to my young son that Mommy is super tall for a woman. He honestly had never noticed. And I starting realizing that *none* of the kids noticed anything particularly unusual about my size because to them, *everyone* is huge.
            Honestly, it was incredibly refreshing and freeing. Now I still make the effort not to loom or hover, but for the first time in my life I don’t feel unusual or conspicuous for my size, ironically as I’m surrounded by adorable children who could fit in my pocket.

          5. Elizabeth Barnett*

            I’ve done the reverse – I’m a short woman and work in an advisory/compliance role in a male-dominated field. Part of my role involves telling technical/operati0ona/sales colleagues the limits of what they can do in some situations. Sometimes this means I have to insist that they don;t do X/should use Y approach. It’s harder to be authoritative when you;re talking up to somebody a head or more taller than you, so I suit up very formally, stiffen my shoulders and hold my arms out slightly away from my body and wear the highest heels I can stand in, all to increase my perceived body mass. I think it helps.

        3. Dinwar*

          Depends on anatomy. I can sit down and still be taller than most people, since my torso is very long. I’d have to sit on the floor to be eye level with some of the short people I know. Which is fine for casual situations, but in offices it’s considered weird. And besides, there are times I don’t want to sit. I sit too much as it is; sometimes I want to stand and stretch a bit, and chatting with people is a good way to do that.

          The fast moving thing is another area where the tall person is going to consider it unreasonable. My normal stride is 0.87 meters (had to measure it a few times for orienteering), which is pretty big. I also spent years hiking for a living–15-20 miles a day wasn’t unusual. The combination means that I’m used to a fairly fast stride. Walking as slow as most people do is physically uncomfortable for me. It’s not obvious to me that your discomfort over my gate trumps my discomfort going at a pace that you don’t find intimidating. This is especially true since by the time we know each other well enough for me to know how fast to walk to not scare you, you should know me well enough to know that I’m not angry or trying to appear threatening, I’m just getting a cup of coffee.

          Staying out of people’s bubbles and not talking down to them should be part of normal work culture. That’s not “Don’t be intimidating”, it’s “Don’t be a moron.”

        4. Yeah, nah*

          For every person who finds sitting down so they can be at eye level thoughtful, there will be another who finds it demeaning/infantilizing. Better to ask or wait to be asked than to just assume.

      3. bamcheeks*

        Everyone is expected to moderate their behaviour in the workplace, and these kind of things are much, much lighter than the expectations typically placed on women or people of colour.

        1. I’d Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

          That is true, although I think it’s also worth considering that those groups can overlap with the “tall/big” group being discussed here. Cultural perceptions of how “intimidating” tall men are is also something heavily influenced by race.

          So, for example, tall black men are likely to be judged more harshly than their white counterparts.

          1. UKDancer*

            Definitely and I think most Black men are well aware of the need to look less intimidating, especially the tall ones given the negative perceptions and prejudices they suffer. I saw an interview with an amazing Black British ballet dancer Joe Sissens who said he learnt early on to make himself look smaller and less threatening because as Black guy who grew tall early in life, he picked up pretty quickly that he’d be perceived as threatening where a shorter, whiter guy wouldn’t. So he tended to overcompensate. I mentioned this to one of my BAME colleagues (also a tall Black guy) when we were discussing inclusion and he said he did absolutely the same thing. This was eye opening for me as I’d never thought about it that way.

            In my personal experience, recognising that anecdotes aren’t data, the people who are less aware of this tend to be those with greater societal privilege. All the men who’ve loomed over me in my professional experience have been white. Obviously this is not an exhaustive list, nor is it supported by data. It’s just my feeling.

            1. I Would Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

              I think you’re absolutely right. In fact, part of my reply to bamchecks was from a memory of a friend who used to joke that people couldn’t see he was short (he was actually kind of a shorter black man, but he was broad and had a big afro and people – myself included -perceived him as several inches taller than he was).

              I don’t necessarily think the advice given is *bad*. It’s very practical, which is great. But as with many of these topics, I feel like the real change will need to be larger and more systemic. For example, workplace culture that has a clear and legitmate path for reporting physical intimidation, more gender equality in the workplace, diverse leadership, etc.

              All things being equal, I tend to agree with OneAngryAvocado that these suggestions make sense, but a cultural shift of putting more individual responsiblity on tall people to make sure women feel safe in the workplace isn’t a great solution. It’s ultimately just ignoring the areas where we really need change, IMO.

              And, building your comment, the people who take these to heart (and the people most likely to be policed on these habits) are likely to be people who have less social privilege, and I want to be mindful of adding to the list of things for them to be aware of.

            2. bamcheeks*

              as Black guy who grew tall early in life, he picked up pretty quickly that he’d be perceived as threatening

              I think this is a really key thing for me– if you’re a tall gender-non-conforming woman, a Black person (of either gender) or a neurodiverse person, being perceived as threatening is likely to result in consequences for you. Being perceived as threatening is going to hold you back and be held against you, so you learn pretty quickly that it’s on you to mitigate it.

              If you’re a cis white NT guy, the consequences are likely to be borne by other people. And some guys don’t want other people to feel bad so as soon as they figure that out they figure out what not to do! And others don’t really notice or don’t think it’s a big deal unless/until there’s some consequences for them.

              Obviously there have been consequences for LW’s son, and I think it’s kind of 50/50 either way whether this is the workplace making an oblivious guy aware of something that’s genuinely a problem, or he’s being targeted unfairly.

            3. Well...*

              Maybe on average people are overcompensating, but there is a lived experience that is an origin for their choice to overcompensate. I’m vaguely getting a sense from your comment that the logic is “black people know they are treated as too intimidatingly tall” -> “black people overcompensate to avoid being perceived as too intimidatingly tall” -> “this example of someone being treated as too intimidatingly tall must not be a black person” and that logic is a little suspect. The lived experience has its origin somewhere, after all.

              I also think women and people of color can be awkward too. Many have learned to overcompensate to move through society, but there’s also a spectrum of how many people take that up and how quickly, and a young man working entry level jobs isn’t guaranteed to have made that adjustment.

            4. Sloanicota*

              Yep, “I shouldn’t have to alter my behavior to accommodate the perception of others” is a pretty privileged statement to make! Only certain segments of society get to feel that way.

              1. Yeah, nah*

                Eh, while we know we have to alter our behavior, we also wish we didn’t have to. We diminish ourselves while knowing it’s bs that we’re expected to in order to make other people feel safe, instead of other people having to check their fragility so we can feel safe.

            5. Managing to get by*

              In general, I find tall black guys LESS intimidating that tall white guys. Now I’m wondering if this is because they have learned to adapt body language, tone of voice and other behaviors to appear less “threatening” and I subconsciously pick up on that.

          2. ThisIshRightHere*

            Absolutely. My first thought was “I wonder if the tall guy is also Black?” Studies (and my personal experience as a 5’10” Black woman) have shown that white people overestimate the height and size/weight of Black people and the reason has to do with the inherent intimidation they already feel due to skin color. I’ve had colleagues I’ve known for months or years exclaim “you’ve lost so much weight; I can’t believe how thin you are!” Nope, I’m the same size as always but you only processed big + black when we first met and are only just now choosing to see my actual self instead of defaulting to Madea.

            1. Well...*

              Maybe not, but the comparison of burdens as if they are completely unrelated is certainly more relevant if that assumption underlines the thought process.

              If the burden is smaller than others, but sits on TOP of a bunch of other burdens, then it definitely shouldn’t be dismissed. So while technically bamcheecks didn’t explicitly make that assumption, their comment certainly makes more sense if that assumption is lingering.

              Also I’d argue the burden and resulting violence inflicted on black men being “too tall and intimidating” is a pretty big one.

        2. SQL Coder Cat*

          When I worked downtown, a co-worker and I would always go out to grab coffees together. As a short white woman, I appreciated that when I walked with him I didn’t have to deal with the constant barrage of street stuff (not just harassment, but the panhandling miraculously stopped). As a tall, buff African-American guy, he appreciated that when he walked with me most people stopped giving him side eye. It was a great lesson in relative privilege vs burdens.

      4. Ellis Bell*

        It’s fairly basic body language though, that everyone should follow. If you are giving critical feedback to people that you are training, you need to have a “face to face” discussion, not literally stand over them like they are in trouble. I do this even though I am a fairly petite woman, partly because I work with children, but I also do it with the boys who tower over me, because in the power structure I am the one clout and I know they want my approval. Most teachers learn this early and notice a huge difference in paying attention to body language and eye level.

      5. Tau*

        I’m a little conflicted about this as well, but it’s worth noting that some of this advice is just about, like, physical comfort issues. Ex: sitting down – the thing is that with more than a foot of height difference, conversation at normal conversational distance while standing can become physically uncomfortable because you’re trying to keep eye contact with someone whose face is outside your standard field of sight. Backing up a little so there’s more distance between you also works, and tbh I personally would probably prefer us both sitting down than one person sitting one standing, but doing something is reasonable just so nobody gets neck strain. Other elements of the advice are about things that can be judged more harshly coming from a tall person but that really nobody should really be doing at work (getting into someone’s space, raising their voice, slamming things).

        (The space thing can get tricky though, because different cultures have differently-sized personal space bubbles and this can cause conflict!)

        And given that OP’s son got this feedback, I like the fact that people are providing practical advice for “here is how you might be coming off as accidentally intimidating and here are some ways to avoid that”. Talking about fairness is important, but sometimes this comments section gets tangled up in that when OP has to deal with the world as it is.

      6. Sandgroper*

        Trust me… when I’m sitting on an office chair, and a six and a half foot man is standing next to me to talk… I’m not happy. Not just for the looming, but because it places his male anatomy square in my face. I want to look at your eyes mate, not your balls.

        Tall people should make an effort to make eye contact easy.

      7. Lost academic*

        I’m a tall person and I do all of those things intentionally because they’re polite. Not ridiculous at all. Not doing so is rude.

        1. Anonym*

          Yeah, I’m a tall woman who wears heels, and it’s just inherently awkward to tower over people, so I usually back up or sit down so we feel more on a level. I’ve also noticed that some men seem to give off uncomfortable body language if my face is much higher than theirs. Less so with other women, although I’ve had a few work friends say “sit your tall a$$ down, you’re making my neck hurt” lol

          Maybe some tall men are used to it and don’t notice, but my partner is well over 6ft and is very conscious of avoiding positions where he’s looking down at someone. Figured it out as a thoughtful teen when trying to learn how to politely ask out girls. Although he’s also noted having issues with some men getting weird when he’s a lot taller than them, but that seemed to be in social (drinking) situations rather than work.

          1. Chauncy Gardener*

            Oh yes. Tall men of any color get fights picked with them at bars and clubs all the time. Usually from much shorter men. My husband is one big dude and when we were younger (i.e. and would actually go to said bars and clubs!) it happened constantly. And he is a very self effacing, gentle guy. I swear he bends his knees in his pants to appear shorter. Never looms, etc.

      8. Nerdgal*

        women have always been expected to “police their behavior.” As a chesty woman, I am expected to keep my bosom invisible, just for one example.

      9. Smithy*

        The suggestion for tall people – but particularly tall men – to sit when talking to someone sitting also removes the dynamic of their crotch being eye/head level to the person they’re speaking to. In addition to the aspect of “looming”, this is a dynamic that men are very often oblivious of and can be really uncomfortable for women.

      10. Generic+Name*

        Just so I’m clear, you are saying it’s ridiculous to expect someone (okay, a man) to modify their behavior to make people (women?) more comfortable?

      11. Iris Eyes*

        This applies to any situation where there is a significant difference in height, whether that’s because someone is bedridden, they are a child, or they are just significantly shorter than you.

        I remember an episode of Supernanny where she had the dad sit down on the driveway and showed him just how intimidating/uncomfortable it is for a young kid to be forced to hug or otherwise be really close to someone so much taller than them.

      12. Kevin*

        This idea was covered — humourously — in the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel when a tall man complains about not being allowed to express any anger.

      13. learnedthehardway*

        With my kids (both teens over 6 feet tall), we’ve emphasized that personal bubbles mean the length of THEIR OWN arm away from people. Their arms are longer, their bubble is bigger – for the convenience and comfort of the people they’re speaking with. It’s not difficult.

      14. Mid*

        I naturally want to speak very quickly, cut people off, and jump all over in conversations because I have ADHD. This isn’t a condition I chose to have, but I have to work to make sure I’m following social rules of politeness anyway. My friend who has a naturally booming loud voice has to moderate their volume constantly so people don’t think they’re shouting. People naturally develop body odor if they don’t bathe enough, so we expect people to bathe regularly so they don’t stink.

        Everyone has to police their behavior to exist in society. Some people have to do more to make sure people are comfortable around them, and while it’s not necessarily fair, it is how things work, and we should want everyone to be comfortable (within reason), and make small changes to adjust ourselves accordingly.

      15. Curmudgeon in California*

        I’m AFAB, 5’8″, fat and was socially awkward in my younger days. People get intimidated by someone who is bigger than they are. It sucks for the socially awkward young person who happens to be big (especially if they are a minority – then it can get them killed.)

        Things that are just courtesies for average height people become necessary for bigger folks – things like:
        * Allowing plenty of personal space – if you, the bigger person, can reach out and touch them, you are way too close. I try to allow twice my arm’s reach.
        * Watching body language to avoid stuff classified as “angry” or “aggressive” (folded arms, hands on hips, standing stiffly erect.)
        * Not raising your voice (this gets to be annoying in loud areas – you have to yell to be heard, but get chewed out for yelling at people.) This is actually hard for people with naturally loud and booming voices
        * Sitting down or even slouching when conversing with someone so they don’t get a crick in their neck to talk to you. Ideally your head and theirs are near the same height.
        * Not moving quickly. “Larger than me” and fastmoving triggers “danger” in most people’s hindbrain.

        I also have some younger friends who are male, and even taller. I know one guy who is seven foot tall! Even as socially awkward as he is, he has learned how to work with his height, and yes, can be deliberately intimidating or deliberately a mellow pussycat. But it took practice.

        Should bigger people have to do the extra work so they don’t freak out the smaller people in their lives? No. Do they have to, sometimes for their own safety and well being? Yes.

        If you are tall and large, lots of people will always read you as potentially a threat, and some of them take preemptive action. This means that, for your own safety and survival, you need to be able to moderate that.

        No, it’s not fair.

      16. DataSci*

        Women and Black men are expected to police their behavior to a far, far greater extent than “sit down so you don’t loom over a seated person” all the time. Tall dudes can deal.

        1. Despachito*

          I disagree.

          If women and black men are expected to police their behavior beyond what is fair, I’d better see them not having to do that than force everyone else to do the same.

          You do not beat injustice done to one person with injustice done to another person because if one suffers, the other has to suffer too. The ideal solution would be that neither of them has to suffer.

          1. Eyes Kiwami*

            Truly asking tall people to be aware of their body language and sit instead of standing is causing them to suffer. /s

      17. Despachito*

        I completely agree.

        Imagine that we were talking about policing other people’s behavior, but said “fat” instead of “tall”.

        Many comments would then be perceived as fatphobic or downright cruel. Yet being tall you can help even less than being fat.

        I do not think people should bend over backwards because of their appearances.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          Tall people do not get nearly the social stigma that fat people do. All kinds of discrimination that fat people suffer, that tall people do not. In fact, in US culture, being taller than average is seen as a positive trait. Having to moderate one’s volume and be mindful of how personal space dynamics are in play is a very small price to pay for the multitude of advantages tall people have.

          Signed, a tall (medium-build) woman with a fat girlfriend

          1. Despachito*

            It depends – I have a tall friend, who has been suffering from it since her childhood, and being tall for a woman is often considered a disadvantage. It is that you are different from what you are expected to be (of course women should be small and definitely shorter than men).

            I do not think it is just to make anyone behave differently because of traits they were born with and can do nothing about. If you are fat, it is possible to change it. But if you are tall or short, you cannot.

            In the personal space and dynamics you do have a point, because these can be annoying and can be changed. But this holds true for people of all sizes and I do not think we should police tall people more than anyone else.

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              Okay, so let’s not police tall people more than anyone else. Actionable advice might be to keep one’s voice below a certain volume, or try to avoid a difference in level of more than three feet (?) when one person is standing and the other sitting. Or not blocking doorways, and being mindful of personal space.

              Some of these things might take more effort from a tall person. The tall person may naturally speak louder, and will have to modulate. They might have the difference in head level come up more frequently, so they have to figure out if grabbing a chair works best, or kneeling, or whatever fits the situation. The standards are the same, but the tall person will have to alter their behavior more than others to meet them. As a tall person, I’m all right with this.

            2. Eyes Kiwami*

              Yeah if the issue were different, things would be different.

              You’ll note that tall women also sit or kneel when talking to children, for example. This is an incredibly normal thing to ask people to do.

    3. Phryne*

      Very true, but why give tips to tall people specifically about how not to be intimidating – even when you yourself are saying size is not the issue in itself? You would not tell a POC, or an overweight person, or a disabled person, that, yeah, maybe their appearance just is a bit intimidating and here is some handy tips to mitigate other peoples discomfort about that, I’m sure.
      If the reports against OP’s son really mention his size I would find that really problematic since, as you say, behaviour is either meant to be intimidating or not. And the fact that people are more easily intimidated by a big guy (or a POC…) should not have a part in the report.

      Most really big men (and I live in the Netherlands, so my sample of them is considerable) learn quite early in life to be gentle. They can afford to be since they rarely get challenged in the cockfights of adolescence (which is probably why, like you noticed, short men are more likely to be aggressive, ’cause they had to fight) but they also need to be because they are aware they stick out. This can in some make them socially awkward, so it is doubly painful then to be reprimanded because you are big (which they can’t help) and socially awkward too (which is a result of the constant social feedback they’ve been getting on their body).

      1. LittleMarshmallow*

        Part of me was trying to give some tips without jumping to “son is probably doing something else and the size is only a small part of it but he’s honing in on that as justification to disregard the rest of the feedback”. Realistically, I believe that is what is going on but was trying to give benefit of the doubt and some ways he may not realize he’s being intimidating. I do appreciate the discourse this has allowed though and I agree with most of the comments about essentially “tone policing” tall people. It is problematic to have to do that culturally.

        The only time in my 15 years that I ever reported someone for harassment, and not to HR, it was a conversation with their boss, did include an aspect of “he uses his size to try to intimidate me”. Now this was only one example of a page of inappropriate behavior including micro aggressions towards women (not just towards me… all of the women at our site), barging into meetings he wasn’t invited to and disrupting them, being generally argumentative especially with the women, blatantly and intentionally violating safety rules, and yes, taking an aggressive and towering stance when he was mad at one of the women – he did not do this to the men (this was usually accompanied with borderline yelling). I would absolutely not be surprised if someone told me that he was telling people that I reported him because his size is intimidating and honing in on that one thing that he doesn’t have control over to disregard the page of other non-size related feedback. It is also worth noting that this guy was white. And this behavior went on for over a year before I finally decided it was time to say something to his boss (the tipping point was witnessing him scream at another lady because he didn’t get his way on something). Someone else noted that the only time (or at least most of the times) where the intimidation thing was an issue was with white men and that has been my experience as well.

        That experience definitely makes me suspicious that there is more going on here, but if there’s not (or even if there is) I figured it wouldn’t hurt to give some examples that might help him.

        I’ve also experienced the cultural thing where it’s truly an accident and I absolutely give all the grace and understanding there. I may still ask someone to take a step back because that is a reasonable request but definitely do understand how cultural norms can struggle to mix.

        I also wanted to give the counter to tall people adjusting things. I also adjust when I’m working with tall people sometimes. I mentioned I work in manufacturing which means I often am out in the field with these guys. I fit easily in places they don’t. So sometimes I have to change my normal walking path to accommodate their height so they don’t hit their heads on things. I am definitely conscious of that when training tall guys or giving tours. It’s just polite… plus I always feel badly when I forget and walk someone under a low hanging pipe… Haha.

        Generally I love tall people and do indeed work with them all the time!

      2. L-squared*

        Your first paragraph is exactly what bugged me about the response. People can’t help their height, but apparently its on them to make others feel more comfortable.

        Being a black man myself (but only slightly above average height), this comes across very much as a white woman (not saying the commenter is definitely is definitely a white woman) telling a black man how he needs to change himself in her presence so she is more comfortable. And I have a feeling people would be much less in agreement if someone blatantly said that.

        1. Risha*

          Thank you. I was waiting for others to say something similar before I commented. First, let me give my disclaimer–I’m a white woman. But my husband is a 6’6″ black man and is quite stocky too. He tries to come across as gentle, and he tries to alter his behavior around (mostly white) women, he crosses the street when he sees (white) women so not to scare them. But guess what? There’s always someone at work saying he’s intimidating, or he walks too fast (he doesn’t walk fast at all), or he’s too loud (he’s soft spoken). It’s usually white women making these complaints, since his workplace is like 95% white. His boss will talk to him and tell him to change without actually saying what it is he needs to change. He always gets these vague complaints on how he make a woman uncomfortable. He’s not a creeper, I would not be married to him if he was. It’s just because he’s a tall black man around mostly white women. The tall white men he works with never have those issues (he asked them).

          In the year of 2022, why can’t women also speak up if a man is making them uncomfortable at work? Why is it on the man to be a mind reader? We have made great strides in the workplace and need to assert ourselves. I’m not saying there aren’t’ creepy men of all races, of course there are. But usually you can tell if someone is clueless or creepy. Just ask the man to sit down or back up off you if he’s too close. Simple.

          To LW1, it’s possible your son did actually do something, but it’s also possible since he’s a tall man he’s just getting crap. Discuss this with him further to try to get a feel, but leave it off advice columns because men are always wrong nowadays. Talk to him directly and try to dissect what actually happened, if he remembers anything at all.

          1. Irish Teacher*

            I agree with almost all of your post except that I don’t think most people, male or female are going to speak up when they feel somebody is intimidating. If somebody finds another person threatening and is afraid of them, the last thing they are going to want to do is provoke them in any way.

            Now, it sounds very much like the reason your husband’s coworkers find him threatening is racism, but they probably don’t realise that themselves. They probably think he is likely to be dangerous, ridiculous as that may be.

            I very much doubt the people who are reporting the LW’s son think he is clueless. I don’t know if they are correct or not, but I assume they at least believe him to be creepy and possibly a physical threat to them. This may be due to prejudice (whether because he belongs to a race or a class or an ethnic group they perceive a threatening). It may be because he is truly doing something that IS creepy or threatening and his mother sees a very different side of him than they do. Or it may be because he is socially awkward and honestly, most people are NOT good at telling the difference between social awkwardness and threatening behaviour. This is a real problem for many people on the autistic spectrum, for example, that people often perceive their actions to be threatening or creepy or suspicious and genuinely believe them to be dangerous or untrustworthy, when the opposite is true.

            I think mostly when people report things they believe the man is creepy and not clueless. Sometimes they are right and sometimes they are not. The issue is that if they ARE right and the guy truly is dangerous, then speaking up may provoke the dangerous person and make them a target, so most people will not want to do that.

            This is not to justify the reactions your husband got which are really problematic but I don’t think the issue is that the people who viewed him as dangerous because of their own prejudices didn’t speak up and say that to him. I think the problem is more the prejudices/stereotypes that caused them to stereotype him in that way.

            1. Despachito*

              “honestly, most people are NOT good at telling the difference between social awkwardness and threatening behaviour”

              How true is this?

              I genuinely do not know. Several people here mentioned that they were very well able to tell the difference between “socially awkward” and “deliberately threatening”.

              And I think it is perfectly possible that I perceive someone as threatening because of my previous experiences which however do not have anything in common with him, and that he is unaware in this and innocent. I do not fully support the idea of “intent vs. impact”, because sometimes it can be true, but sometimes the other party can be completely innocent (if I am a racist and am scared of black men without them doing anything suspicious, I hope nobody in their sane mind would say that in such a case impact is more important than intent).

              I agree that we do not have enough information here and cannot say what really happened (was Son’s behaviour really creepy? and if so, was it intent or awkwardness? was someone judging him injustly?). I think this information should have been clearly conveyed to him for him to be able to know what he did wrong and correct it. But we cannot exclude they did tell him and he either did not grasp it or is wilfully dissimulating to appear nice to his mother.

              I do not see much his mother can do about it. To have him police his behaviour just because he is tall seems overkill and unfair to me. And she has no possibility to find out whether there was more to it.

        2. LittleMarshmallow*

          I am white. Sorry. If it helps (and it probably doesn’t), I actually assumed the “son” was white… biased by my own experience with white guys in the work place. I’m not actually intimidated by big guys typically. I would not be able to function if I was because that’s mostly what I work with, but I have definitely experienced times where big plus other body language could come off as intimidating.

          I don’t have a good answer for what should and shouldn’t be normal etiquette for body language and what is essentially “tone policing” for body language.

        3. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

          I both agree and disagree with you here.

          I’m a Black woman, fat and short. And on the one hand it really is so unfair that we have to so carefully watch ourselves to not be seen as “intimidating”. I never raise my voice at work, I smile till my face hurts, I’m deliberately funny, and I see the Black men I work with doing even more of this. It takes so much energy. It’s exhausting to deal with atop everything else.

          But on the other hand I’m a woman too, and I’ve had men I worked with (mostly White, as I recollect) back me into walls, lean over me and yell down at me, block the room’s doorway and yell at me, stand 2 inches from my ear with their crotches basically in my face, and so on. And I shouldn’t have to put up with that just because I’m supposedly “tough enough” to deal with it.

          So basically, we all have to modify our behavior for work, but how much of the required modifications are governed by factors we can’t help (our physical size, our gender, our race, etc) and how much modification is fair to request vs unfair? These are complicated questions, I think, not well served by brief answers either way.

          1. Yeah, nah*

            Amen to all of this. I think that’s why I’m so uncomfortable with all the fanfiction being written in response to this question, because the answer to “are you making people uncomfortable or are people unfairly judging you” depends on far more information than we have in this situation, to the point where I almost wonder why a letter this vague was published.

            1. Eyes Kiwami*

              Agree. I honestly think the real issue is totally separate from height, but we’ll never know.

      3. skadhu*

        I would disagree that intimidating behaviour is always intentional (i.e. that if it is not intentional it can’t be intimidating). Dominance/submissive behaviour is often culturally conditioned and people may not always be aware of what they’ve assimilated.

        Simply being big (or a POC) is not a dominance behaviour (though of course it can be read that way for sexist/racist reasons). However, shoving your junk in someone’s face or forcing someone to crane their neck to look up at you by standing too close really is, and it is a behaviour, not part of who that person is. But things like personal space are also strongly affected by culture (I was once backed across a room and made highly uncomfortable by a tiny woman whose personal space boundary was smaller than mine) and you can’t assume that the person doing it is always aware that they’re doing something that has the effect of dominating others.

        I think it does a disservice to both big and small people to say that nothing about a big person looming over someone can be problematic unless it’s consciously intended to be intimidating.

        1. Smithy*

          I do think it’s entirely fair to acknowledge that POC, are more likely to be labeled as threatening just for existing.

          However. I do think that it is often a blind spot for most men, and particularly taller men, that when they are standing and talking to someone who is sitting – their crotch is in that person’s face. And when the person they’re talking to is either a subordinate or in a training context, this can be uncomfortable.

          Bending at the waist when having this conversation, helps in positioning your crotch away, but can position your face closer into someone’s personal space than you or they may desire. Squatting/bending at the knees is a position many adults find uncomfortable for medium periods of time. So in open office plans/cube farms – being able to bring over a chair or stool is just a design element that doesn’t always exist and therefore dismissed as necessary.

          This isn’t to say that discrimination against bodies for existing doesn’t happen, but there are also issues at play that can be cross cutting.

      4. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

        ? You would not tell a POC, or an overweight person, or a disabled person, that, yeah, maybe their appearance just is a bit intimidating and here is some handy tips to mitigate other peoples discomfort about that, I’m sure.

        Actually, as someone who’s two of three of those, I have indeed been advised and had to work on how I present myself to mitigate people’s discomfort. A lot. And it’s not just me.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*


          Tall, heavy, disabled or minority get singled out as “intimidating” because they are seen as different and a threat. In our society, the one who is determined to be “different” bears the burden of mitigating that impact. It sucks, but it’s reality.

    4. Liz*

      I don’t normally comment but wanted to agree. I had a student in a tutorial I was running – aka I was in the position of power – who did not like me. He was taller than me and had a habit of getting into my personal space when he was annoyed that I didn’t agree with him. I don’t think he was doing it on purpose, but I realised at one point that I felt more intimidated than usual by him. I believe his size was a major factor.

      Also, I did wonder if he had had a bit of a privileged upbringing where no one told him no. It was like he was unaware of boundaries and thought he was the smartest person in the room. Other students told me later they got sexist vibes from him and thought he didn’t like me because I was a woman. I didn’t talk to him about it, and wondered who would ever get around to breaking that habit of his.

      My instinct when reading this was someone was trying to tell him that he needed to be extra careful because of his height, which I agree smells like victim blaming. I do not have any clever suggestions. Being aware of how others are impacted by you is always good knowledge to have. He might not feel intimidating, but he’s got some feedback now that people think he is, and he can use that feedback to try to lessen that impact.

    5. Sandgroper*

      I just found this, after putting very much similar information into a comment higher up.

      Good to see I’m not the only one realising this and articulating it about Very Tall Men.

      Spot on sister!

    6. Just Another Zebra*

      I was coming here to write something similar, but you phrased it perfectly. I (5′ and a bit, female), work in a trade with some very, very large men. Tall, broad shoulders, loud voices, the works. In the 5ish years I’ve worked here, I’ve had probably 100 of this type of man as a coworker.

      Only 2 have ever made me feel truly intimidated.

      1. They stood too close to me. There is a distinct difference between existing as a tall person, and looming over me. There’s even a distinction between intentional looming and looming because of height. They were very intentionally looming.

      2. This is definitely more subjective, and I don’t want to be all “they had that look in their eyes”, but I don’t know how else to explain it. Something about how they moved toward me and around me and how they looked at me made the reptilian part of my brain panic and think “Danger!”

      Again, I’ve worked with 100ish men built like OP’s son. 2 have made me feel like this. It’s not social awkwardness. It’s being intimidating because they can be.

      1. Lilo*

        The only time I’ve been intimidated by men like that was when they were far too physically close.

      2. bamcheeks*

        This is definitely more subjective, and I don’t want to be all “they had that look in their eyes”, but I don’t know how else to explain it. Something about how they moved toward me and around me and how they looked at me made the reptilian part of my brain panic and think “Danger!”

        I mentioned this further down, but I have a relative who does exactly this. IMO, it’s a kind of physical confidence which isn’t just enjoying being active and big and strong, but enjoying it comparatively— actively enjoying being The Biggest And The Strongest and being aware that other people are by definition not the strongest in the room and it’s aggressive af.

    7. Student*

      Small woman here, too. One of the things that gets on my nerves, but is difficult to explain to large guys, is when they accidentally hurt me by virtue of the size or weight difference.

      I’ve had guys step on my feet while standing near me, or step on my heels as they walk too close behind me. I’ve had guys crush my hand in handshakes. I’ve had guys hug me too hard (…would rather not hug to start with!), and/or lift me off my feet during a hug. I’ve had guys hurt me ripping things out of my hands, or lobbing things at me that I’m intended to catch. I had a guy elbow me in the face hard enough to cause a nosebleed (he didn’t even notice; I had to take an hour in a restroom to get the bleeding to stop). I’ve had guys basically trample me because they were in a hurry and weren’t looking where they were going.

      When I try to explain to guys that they are accidentally hurting me, they tend to get very defensive or aggressive about it, so now I choose my battles (and thus, my bruises). I’ve had very occasional success by explaining the size difference in terms they can relate to – told one guy that the size difference between him and me was similar to the difference between a pro (US) football player and him. Had better (but still spotty) luck just yelling angrily and exagerattedly at guys who injure me – then they at least get sheepish and slink off instead of trying to argue with me.

      Never had a woman do any of that, I think it bears mentioning.

      1. Just Another Zebra*

        Absolutely. And I know it isn’t always intentional. But when I say “you are doing X, can you please stop”… after so many times, it feels intentional.

      2. Former Young Lady*

        All these behaviors might be excusable in a guy who is a newly-minted giant — like, a teen or a college student who has hit a growth spurt in recent memory. Young dudes are like adolescent cats who roll off your lap because they don’t know how big they’ve gotten. That’s a benefit of the doubt I’ll grant to OP’s son.

        The number of middle-aged men I’ve met who play dumb about this, though, is staggering. Most of them are happy to acknowledge their superior brute strength WHEN IT SUITS THEM. They only conveniently “forget” the power differential when it means an opportunity to push women around.

        Those guys are a scourge. The crushing handshakes are deliberate.

  5. Magenta Sky*

    #2: I have no advice to offer, but I do sympathize. Both my first and last names are relatively common first and last names, and both are not gender specific. And my first name is a common nickname for a longer version, which does have gender specific variants. It’s mildly amusing (to me) most of the time, but getting first and last names reversed on legal documents, no so much.

    1. it's-a-me*

      For some reason, people constantly assume my name is short for something completely different than what it is (think if my name was Kylie, and someone thought that was short for Caroline).

      My official name *is* technically a shortened form of a longer name, but it’s rarely if ever used that way any more, and is generally considered a totally different name – my best friend was actually baffled when I mentioned the relation to the longer form.

      1. Kwebbel*

        LW 2 – I have a less common name, myself. Something like the Irish name Niamh. Definitely a female name, but one that most people I meet have never heard before. I also live in a country where people always refer to each other as Mr./Ms. + Lastname in formal communication.

        A man names Ralph Smith used to email me every 3 months to ensure I was doing my mandatory compliance courses. And he always, always called me Mr. Kwebbelson. I tried calling myself “Ms. Kwebbelson” in my email signature. I even told him that I was Ms. But, every 3 months, regular as clockwork, he’d send an email to Mr. Niamh Kwebbelson.

        So, after around 9 months, I decided to start sending emails back to Ms. Ralph Smith.

        Solved It immediately. He totally got the message, it was memorable to him, and he always called me Ms. Kwebbelson from then on.

        So, I guess what I’m saying is that, if you want to try a funny long Form of his name, you should! Since you’re new, try it it in a lighthearted tone? Maybe that works?

      2. Misquoted (Heidi but sometimes I wish it were Addy)*

        Same here. My first name is Heidi, which technically is a diminutive of Adelheid (or Adelaide). I love both of those names, and would love to have been called Addy, but alas, my legal name is Heidi, which I also love. (Sorry, tangent — I love names and their origins.)

        My point is that Bob has no way of knowing what LW’s full name is. Alex, for example, could be short for Alexa, Alexis, Alexandria, Alexandra, Alexia, and so on. And if he DOES have official paperwork for his trainees, then even worse. (Though I fully agree with Alison that people should be called what they want to be called, regardless of paperwork!)

      3. Tangential Tangerine*

        Sounds similar to Peggy / Margaret. I understand how that dimunitive came about, but it’s pretty convoluted to modern ears and something that a lot of people wouldn’t know at all!

    2. SelinaKyle*

      OP2 I feel your pain. My first name is also a name that is usually a nickname. It’s been the bane of my life. People I’ve worked with have called themselves by the nickname and expected me to go by the longer version (that’s not my name), and I once spent a whole lesson arguing with a teacher about what was on my birth certificate.
      My Dad has the same issue, why he agreed to call me a name that’s usually a nickname I don’t know.
      I agree with the others Bobert is the way to go!

      1. Jay*

        Fistbump of solidarity. I took the SAT at a different HS because mine was too small to offer it. The proctor happened to looking over my shoulder as I filled in the demographics at the top of the first page and she stopped the whole process to lecture me about using my full name. She would not believe that my name *is* my full name. I was 15 and had no ID (my HS didn’t issue them) and she kept at it for a full five minutes. Finally the guy behind me said “I’ve known her since we were five. That’s her full name.” Don’t know why she believed him….

        Ran into the same thing when we applied for our marriage license. Why do people think I don’t know my own name???

        1. Lily Rowan*

          I got that voting one time. “Are you SURE that’s your full name??” Um, yes. As is the elections department or whatever.

      2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        My son has a “nickname” as his first name, also, and one of the credit reporting agencies decided that his name was actually the formal version, despite him never having been listed under that name anywhere, ever. So, if he was Al Smith, they listed him as Albert Smith. Then they wouldn’t fix it because he couldn’t prove he was Albert Smith. It did get worked out eventually but it was a headache.

        1. Polly Hedron*

          And most “nicknames” could apply to more than one name. Using the “Al” example, even if the first clerk at the agency had been right that “Al” couldn’t be the full name, how would that clerk know the full name wasn’t “Alan” or “Allen” or “Aldo” or “Aldwin” or “Alex” or “Alexander” or “Alfred” or “Ali” or “Alistair” or “Alphonse” or “Alvin” or …?

      3. Miette*

        OMG you have my sympathy as well. My name is also a nickname for a longer one, and in grade 3, my teacher (a nun, which should surprise no one who’s ever gone to Catholic school) started making me use the longer one everywhere. My father noticed it and took care of it–gave her quite the earful in their shared native language lol–and so I was allowed to keep on using my given name. The kicker was that this woman had also changed my name on all my permanent records (not difficult–they were all on paper, it was the 70s). When I went on to high school, I was forced to prove my name was something else before I could be enrolled. It was ludicrous.

        I have the added annoyance of having a surname that also sounds vaguely like a female name–think “Nicholson” vs. “Nicole”–and people will very often call me Nicole, including people that I have worked with for years. It got to be so exhausting to correct people that I finally just started rolling with it. It’s fun when there’s a legit Nicole in the mix, because then other people think the mis-namers are idiots and correct them for me.

        I must say, I love the idea of a clapback using names like “Bobert” and I hope I can have my wits about me next time.

        1. Irish Teacher.*

          I think it’s extra-bizarre for a nun as nuns often tend to choose names to go by that aren’t their birth names. We had a Sr. Patrick and a Sr. Peter when I was in primary (and hmm, I bet many of those who object to calling trans or non-binary people by their correct name would have no problem calling either of those women by their chosen name which read generally as male, but that is another story).

          1. NotMy(Fancy)RealName*

            Those names were often imposed on them rather than being chosen, especially prior to Vatican II. In college my supervisor was a nun who had chosen to go back to her birth name.

        2. alienor*

          I used to work with someone who also had the surname problem – imagine her first name was Emily and her last name was Miranda – and not a week went by without someone calling her Miranda in an email or meeting. I think she’d given up correcting them too, just waited for them to figure it out through context (probably didn’t help that the email system displayed people’s names as Lastname Firstname instead of Firstname Lastname).

          1. Pathfinder Ryder*

            My work’s email system also reverses names so when it’s my colleagues (ie. people who really should know better) who call me my family name in their emails, I take pleasure in calling them by theirs in my reply :D It usually gets me an apology.

      4. Another Kate*

        No real advice, just solidarity. My husband’s name is Gregg. If we had a dollar for everyone who addresses him as “Gregory”…

        Anyway, I might call Bob “Robin,” just to be different.

      5. Sloanicota*

        I think you can’t win on this one, as my name is a long very feminine name that I actually like, but I immediately get called the short n snappy version that I don’t care for (so assume people are cheerfully deciding for themselves to use “Kate” for Katherine). I’m sure anybody legally named Kate also gets it the other way around. Humans are bad about names. (In this case I do suspect the trainer dislikes the gender-neutrality of the nickname and wants to insist on the femininity of the long name, but sadly that would be difficult for OP to prove).

        1. Camelid lover*

          This happens with my daughter’s name, although she has not yet expressed frustration over it. I had always planned to use her full name, while her father preferred the shortened version (she was named after my grandmother, who hated the shortened version, and was only so-so on my spouse). In preschool she went by the shortened name. In kindergarten, a classmate had the same name and nickname, and when the teacher asked if she’d prefer to be called the nickname plus last initial, or her full name, daughter chose the latter. She now introduces herself by her full name, but will respond to both.

          1. Commenter*

            My daughter has had a same-name classmate (or 2!) for several years. Luckily, her nickname + last initial and full first name sound exactly the same when said aloud! She doesn’t mind either way. Sometimes she switches back and forth when writing her name on papers at school. Her teacher doesn’t seem to mind.

        2. Mill Miker*

          You really can’t win. I’m actually 100% indifferent to the short or long form of my name, but for some reason I always get asked which I prefer, and the person will just stop the conversation until I pick one. I’ve never been bothered to pay attention to if they respect that preference or not.

    3. Baroness Schraeder*

      When we had our daughter we were determined she would have a name that was well-known but not currently popular, easy to spell and a total no-brainer to pronounce. So we called her Anna. What could go wrong?

      I’ll tell you what could go wrong. A few months later, Disney released a movie with a heroine called Anna, pronounced Ana (it’s pretty popular, you might have heard of it). Now our poor child with the very simple, well-known easy-to-pronounce name is regularly informed by everyone under the age of 30 that she is mispronouncing her own name. Sometimes you just can’t win.

      1. Princess Leia*

        Ummm… I’ve only ever heard one pronounciation of the name Anna! Maybe it’s where I’m from or whatever, but I really don’t see how else to pronounce it! Can you explain please? (Side note: LOVE your name Baroness!)

        1. bamcheeks*

          Anna as I know it (how it’s pronounced in Britain and Ireland) is Anna, short initial a sound like apple. Anna in Frozen is Ahhnna, long initial a sound. I have no idea whether that’s the usual US pronunciation or not, but it really stands out over here!

          1. Princess Leia*

            Oh thank you! Yes, that makes total sense! I guess I didn’t pick up on it, but you’re right I would have used the short initial sound version without thinking, but that’s not the way they say it in Frozen!

          2. londonedit*

            It took me forever to work out that this ‘Arner’ character people were talking about was actually Anna, because I’d never heard that pronunciation (and have never seen the film). It was totally bizarre to me when I figured it out!

          3. JustaTech*

            My (American) aunt was thrilled when that movie came out because she’d changed the pronunciation of her name from Anne -a to Ahhnna way back in college, and now finally other people were pronouncing her name the way she wanted!

    4. Bacu1a*

      I sympathize as well. My friend has the same/opposite problem (his name is Alexander, only wants to be called Alexander, but people still call him Alex). The first few times he’s called Alex, he’ll leave it at “It’s Alexander.” But if someone becomes a repeat offender, he’ll say “I know I’ve told you my name is Alexander. It is not Alex. I would really appreciate you calling me by my name and not shortening it.” Usually people get it by that point, but I think he did have to include someone’s supervisor on an email about it once.

      1. Bernice Clifton*

        I have the same issue – though my common first name actually ISN’T shortened that often. Older family members call be Bern or Bernie as a nickname, but I’ve had (always male) coworkers start addressing me as Bern or Berns for no reason. I just roll my eyes to myself.

      2. Douglas Mosier*

        I have the same problem with my name: Douglas. I introduce myself as that and correct one time. After that I ignore. If introduced as “Doug” I correct and then ignore all further infractions.

    5. Anon for this*

      I also sympathize. My name is in the Alexandra/Alexa/Alexia/Alexis/Alex/Allie etc family of names and for some reason it is so hard for people to get right. I get all different versions. Most of the time it’s just people who only half remembered my name or didn’t read an email quite closely enough and take well to being corrected. I can think of a couple of instances of some obnoxious person thinking it was amusing to call me by the wrong version. My go to is to pretend I think they’re talking to someone else. For example, “Oh sorry, were you talking to me? My name is Alex, not Alexandra. I figured you must have been talking to someone else because I know you know my name.” or “Wait who are you talking to? I don’t think there is anyone here named Alexandra. Or am I mistaken?”

      Also…..if one more person makes an Amazon Alexa joke to me, I might murder someone, but that is a different rant

      1. JustaTech*

        One of my friends was delightedly describing the name of her new student “It’s Iris, which is Siri backwards, isn’t that cute?”

        “Uh, Iris is the Greek goddess of the rainbow, and a kind of flower.”

  6. Elm*

    #1 “Disciplined on several occasions” for harassment, and yet he only tells you it was for his size?

    Yeah, he’s only telling the part that can give a parent righteous anger and not the rest of it.

    IF thet mentioned his size, it was likely in combination with a behavior.

    And if he is tall and is training women…I kind of wonder if he stands while they sit, making their heads be at a certain height constantly.

    Plus, even if it’s not that kind of harassment, getting physically blocked from going somewhere by a person of ANY size is scary. When that person is big and in a position of power over you, yikes.

    1. Well...*

      This and other comments are sitting weird with me because I know tall black men in particular can be accused of physical intimidation for just existing, so I don’t agree that just being tall and taking up space alone can’t trigger these complaints. I also feel weird about the possible implication that being tall means you need to significantly alter your behavior in order to meet the standards of professionalism.

      OTOH, OP didn’t mention race and probably would have since that’s a more obvious illegal form of discrimination. On the off-chance that in OP’s situation, “size” is a dog-whistle for “black and the wrong size,” OP may have a case.

      1. Warrior Princess Xena*

        The fact that OP describes him as socially awkward is a yellow flag. I’ve heard that to describe guys who are bad at small talk. I’ve also heard it to describe guys who sort of socially ooze all over the place. I don’t know which it is but it’s not a ringing endorsement of OP’s son.

        1. OneAngryAvocado*

          Why is being bad at small talk ‘not a ringing endorsement’ of OP’s son? That doesn’t mean he’s doing anything wrong – it’s not a crime or a firing offence to be physically large and socially awkward.

          1. TechWorker*

            No, definitely not! But for some people ‘socially awkward’ gets used to mean ‘gets way too physically close to people and doesn’t understand their social cues that they are uncomfortable’. Still not a crime, but something that employees might reasonably complain about.

            1. Dr Crusher*

              Yes, while there might be some overlap, especially in the young, there usually is a detectable difference between the genuinely goofy and socially awkward of any size or gender and a glassbowl who uses it as an excuse to engage in bad behaviour or who has not bothered to take on feedback from others that what they are doing is not welcome and just continues to behave how they want.

            2. OneAngryAvacado*

              Yeah, but unfortunately ‘socially awkward’ also can translate to ‘shy/dealing with anxiety/on the ADHD or autistic spectrum’ – or even, hell, just not that confident. None of those things are fair to judge someone for.

              Now based on the information given by OP1, her son *could* be harassing others, or he *could* be being pre-judged because of physical size and social demeanor (and as other people have said, race could have come into play as well). We don’t know either way, so we can’t judge. But the number of people on the comments going ‘big and socially awkward guy must equal nefarious in some way’ isn’t cool.

              1. Joielle*

                I don’t love when a harassment complaint is met with “well what if he’s autistic or anxious??” I know plenty of autistic and anxious people who don’t necessarily have an instinct for social cues but still manage not to be creeps because they’ve *learned* to read social cues. For example… remember to give extra personal space, notice if people are backing away, learn how to recognize a “soft no,” etc. It sounds like the OP’s son should spend some time deliberately working on that type of thing.

              2. bamcheeks*

                It’s specifically “big and socially awkward with multiple harassment complaints to his name” though. I mean, I think it’s the multiple harassment complaints that are making people think he might be doing something nefarious, not simply that he’s tall and awkward.

                I think there’s a pretty even balance here between “harassment complaints can be discriminatory against people outside the norm” and “just because he’s outside the norm doesn’t mean the harassment complaints are discriminatory and unfounded”. They’re both possible and quite reasonable interpretations of the evidence.

              3. Former Young Lady*

                I am neurodiverse (hyperactive-type ADHD), and I would appreciate if people would stop raising this particular hypothetical when someone is called out for inappropriate behavior.

                It doesn’t actually mount a compelling defense; it just reinforces ugly stereotypes we work all our lives to overcome. Most of us have been shamed within an inch of our lives for far smaller sins than workplace harassment, and we’ve internalized those lessons.

                Using us as a fig-leaf for creeps and bullies hurts us and enables them. Cut it out.

                1. Elm*

                  “Fig leaf for creeps” is now a mainstay of my vocabulary, thanks!

                  Yeah…I have a variety of issues people use to “excuse” bad behavior, from not doing basic work tasks to just making people uncomfortable to literal murder. Whenever I see a…large scale incident…on the news, I just cross my fingers they won’t name a diagnosis and make things worse for everyone *again.*

              4. snarkfox*

                “‘big and socially awkward guy must equal nefarious in some way’ isn’t cool.”

                That’s not what’s happening here… No one is assuming anything because he’s big and socially awkward. They’re assuming things because he has been reprimanded for harassment MULTIPLE TIMES without a change in behavior.

                Further, sure, he could be autistic. If that’s the case, he should have worked on learning to read social cues and modifying his behavior the FIRST TIME he was accused of harassment. Additionally, autism isn’t an excuse for harassing behaviors. Autistic people can harass others….

            3. Falling Diphthong*

              “Socially awkward” can code for “the missing step dude in our social group, who is causing all the women to leave. But he can’t help it, he has social awkwardness.”

              I feel like the message has passed through too many layers–from someone at work who was upset, to someone who issued corrections, to the son*, to his mom**, to Alison and us. The original actual behavior is behind so many smears of interpretation, and could range from “existed while being tall and awkward at small talk and annoying to someone who could use the system to strike at them” to “anyone here watching the interaction would say ‘well there’s your problem’.”

              * Who has social awkwardness, which makes it hard to understand the flexing, unspoken rules you have transgressed. Social behavior rests on context, something that is okay with Glen doesn’t fly with Felix, etc.
              ** “Young person lies to mom about why they got in trouble” is a reeeeeeally common thing. For all sorts of reasons, in many directions.

              1. londonedit*

                Yeah, you’re not exactly going to tell your mum that you’ve been rightfully disciplined for harassing your co-workers. You’re much more likely to say ‘Oh, yeah, there was some thing with HR but they’re fixated on my size, all they’ve done is tell me to read the employee handbook but I don’t even know what I’m supposed to have done’.

              2. Smithy*

                And even if it’s not lying….just telling that version of the truth that puts us in the kindest light possible. Or is the full truth, but omits a few other truths.

                This kind of stuff is embarrassing. And so going into “defense mode” to protect ourselves, our ego, how our friends/family see us is really really normal.

                1. Irish Teacher*

                  Or even telling what he BELIEVES to be the truth but which might not be. I mean he may truly believe/have convinced himself that the reason Anna was intimidated by him when he yelled at her was because of his size and not because he was yelling.

                  That’s just an example, obviously. I’m not in any way suggesting that the LW’s son WAS yelling threateningly at coworkers, just saying that it is entirely possible for somebody to believe they did nothing threatening and that if somebody smaller than them was intimidated it MUST be due to their height when in reality, they were being intimidating.

              3. wordswords*

                Absolutely, and thank you. The rampant speculation (often framed as absolute certainty!) in all kinds of directions about this letter that’s going on in the comments today is really something to behold.

                1. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

                  This happens a lot with fraught topics. I think one reason is that, consciously or unconsciously, many of us take the fragment of a story we get here and map it onto an experience we’ve had, and discuss as if the two are identical. So one person discusses the situation from the perspective of when she was sexually harassed and when she complained to those in charge the only answer she got was “he’s just socially awkward” , while another person’s perspective is based on when he had a growth spurt and was baffled and dismayed when people started treating him as threatening, and so on. Both these people exist (in multiple iterations) and both their experiences relate to this issue but neither is the whole of it.

              4. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

                I totally agree that the message has passed through too many layers and too much information is missing for us to formulate any really reasonable opinions or judgments.

            4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              It also frequently gets trotted out a lot when men are sexually inappropriate with women, so it is a yellow flag for me. I’m not saying that the OP’s son is one of them, but that is an umbrella term that gets used to excuse gross behavior by people so often that I always take it with a grain of salt, especially when coming from a relative

              1. snarkfox*

                I’ve noticed this…. “Socially awkward” is often code for “hits on women and either doesn’t understand social cues or chooses not to understand social cues and won’t back off.”

              2. Ellie*

                Yes, where I work virtually everyone is socially awkward. Multiple harassment complaints means something else is going on. If he was a six foot four black man in a sea of white then that would explain it, but I would think the OP would have mentioned that. More than likely he’s aggressive, or creepy, but I don’t think there’s a lot OP can do without him being willing to work on it.

          2. Wants Green Things*

            He wasn’t described as bad at small talk, but as socially awkward. That “excuse” has been trotted out constantly to wave away legit complaints from girls and women about men’s intimidating and threatening behavior for decades. A boy is stalking you in social media and harrassing you to go to prom? He’s just socially awkward! A boy keeps pulling your hair and snapping your bra straps through your shirt? Socially awkward, and he likes you! Your new coworker won’t stop asking you on a date and follows you around the office? Socially awkward! A man kills the woman next door because she started someone he doesn’t like because he decided they were meant to be? Well, he was always so socially awkward in school, you see, never had much a chance with girls and so never learned how to act with them….

            So yeah, the dude’s had multiple harrassment claims against him and Mommy’s calling him socially awkward? He was absolutely harrassing people and Mommy’s either willfully ignoring that or is content to believe his lies.

          3. Sloanicota*

            It can certainly be a firing offense to be socially awkward in a job that requires good social skills, at least in the US where most employment is at will. I would say training is one such role. If OP’s son needed accommodations for some sort of neurodiversity he would have needed to request that in advance of being fired and gone through the mediation process.

          4. Mid*

            Warrior Princess Xena said that socially awkward is used to describe a range of behaviors from harmless to not, and people often excuse creepy and unacceptable behavior under “socially awkward” when it’s really the missing stair.

            But in his case, it clearly was a firing offense (or at least a several write-ups on the way to being fired offense.) Which is why people are inferring that there’s more going on here than just a socially awkward tall dude being socially awkward. There’s a lot of room between “socially awkward” and “harassment to the point of getting written up multiple times” especially since multiple people were involved in these write ups and there were multiple write ups for different things but “mostly” harassment.

            And while it is *possible* that one manager decided they wanted to ruin OP’s son’s life, that’s not the most likely scenario here. Clearly OP’s son needs to reflect on his actions, and possibly get some coaching or professional help so he can work on whatever he’s doing that’s repeatedly harassing and intimidating people around him.

        2. well..*

          Yes, but then management shouldn’t be just referring to his size as a proxy. For the reasons I outlined above, I’m not super cool with how many people are jumping on the “tall guys can be scary tho!” bandwagon.

          If OP’s son is being awkward, just say that. It’s problematic (though not illegal) IMO to start defaulting to “can’t guys who make me uncomfortable just take up less space?” especially when race is involved.

          1. Everything Bagel*

            It’s not too hard to fathom that the son is not telling the mother everything about the complaints.

            1. Well..*

              Yea, it’s definitely (as was well-put above) a yellow flag. There could be something nefarious going on, but isn’t that more reason to establish clarity around the problematic behavior itself rather than saying big, tall guys are inherently unprofessional?

              I’m not out here to defend men over women, but the “tall, intimidating” man has other problematic racial/classist connotations that white women in particular have been complicit in upholding. As a white woman myself, I’m trying to keep some awareness of this problem active in this space.

              1. nope*

                Your comments are really showing that you are here to defend men over women. Why isn’t it more reasonable to believe that yes this person was harassing his coworkers and didn’t detail his behavior to his MOM?

                1. Well...*

                  Not sure what to say here, I was clearly identifying the racial axis of oppression over the gender axis of oppression. White women have a pretty awful history with overreacting to black men existing to the point of inciting violence against them. Neglecting that history in the name of feminism isn’t the feminism I’m here for.

              2. Antilles*

                There could be something nefarious going on, but isn’t that more reason to establish clarity around the problematic behavior itself rather than saying big, tall guys are inherently unprofessional?
                Are we sure that management didn’t actually establish that clarity? It’s entirely possible that management *was* perfectly clear that it’s about the behavior and the son is shading the way he’s telling the story so it seems more ambiguous than it actually is.

                1. Well...*

                  Yea, I mean we don’t have much to go one because we’re dealing with his mom’s account of his account of management’s vagueness. I’m trying to challenge some of our assumptions around whether or not tall men are inherently intimidating and what level of adjustment they are required to adhere to in order to achieve a standard of professionalism more generally.

          2. Ellis Bell*

            True, but there are also men who aren’t coached to take care of social cues, or their eye level when having sensitive conversations, or their awareness of personal space. Lots of men are just handed out a free pass on this for years, because we excuse men for more things, especially soft skills and social awareness. I honestly can’t tell from the details of the letter whether it’s “please pay attention to your eye level and standing too close because you are using your height to loom over people. Please don’t.” (a standard which applies to everyone), or whether it is “Ugh you are tall and scary and we are being racist.” It’s very vague, because either the son has been vague, or the company.

          3. Nesprin*

            “can’t guys who make me uncomfortable just take up less space?”

            Why yes, they could.

            They could sit down when talking with another smaller person, or avoid standing in doorways or between the person they’re talking to and their way out, or always give their arms-length of personal space to everyone, or squat down to talk to someone seated, or avoid making big arm wavy gestures, or whenever possible ensure that conversations are group conversations, or default to standing against the wall/as far from the door as possible.

            I bring these up because tall + socially awkward + multiple complaints about harassment is likely to be a bad combination- I have no evidence that OP’s son is a problem, but I do have a lifetime of experience as a woman in a male dominated space.

          4. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

            As a Black woman I appreciate that you’re reminding people that rrace can have a massive effect on our reactions, especially in judging who is/might be “dangerous” or “intimidating”. As a woman I have indeed been physically intimidated by men who used their greater height and strength as weapons. Both are true! Despite being short I contain multitudes, and so does this issue.

          5. Rose*

            Tall guys, autistic people, butch women, queer people, and intelligent competent women, can all be scary to some groups of people for reasons that are more or less understandable, more or less reasonable, and more or less controllable.

            I’m not a tall guy but I am all of the others and it is not that hard (for someone whose neurotype famously makes it harder than normal) to code-switch and be aware of where you are in space relative to other people to mitigate their discomfort.

        1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

          Yeah…that’s the go to excuse, they can’t be fully responsible, they don’t know any better! Or they are the type of person who, when given valid criticism, interprets it as “They just intimidated by me!”

          It’s possible the son didn’t do anything and it was 100% just his hight. But it’s not probable. It’s way more likely that a self described socially awkward person is being an unreliable narrator here.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I mean, we’ve seen offices where Uriah the Toxic Coworker bullies New Guy With Wrong Haircut, and management is like “well Uriah is unreasonable, we can’t ask him to be reasonable; new guy needs to be less annoying so the drama reduces” maybe combined with “Uriah is the only one who can do updates so we can’t lose him.” In which case Son is well out of there because His Management Sucked And Wasn’t Going To Change and that’s about all you can do.

            I don’t think that’s impossible. But as a mom to adults, I know that “As a mom, I am laying out how my child was misunderstood at work” is just never convincing. (See also the letter from the woman whose brother broke up with his girlfriend at work, and there was a lot of “she made him yell at her in front of the bosses, clearly both sides.”

            1. ScruffyInternHerder*

              ….I know that “As a mom, I am laying out how my child was misunderstood at work” is just never convincing…..

              Yup. This tracks. Entirely. Having dealt with a couple of interns, made it clear pretty early I did not need to hear from “Mom” unless they were not able to call in for physical/illness reasons.

              See it as a youth sports coach too. If a Mom is attempting to explain to me (who was on the field of play with the kids when it happened and SAW it) what happened and why here child was doing “nothing wrong and its all the other party’s fault”, 9 of 10 times, that Mom’s kid instigated it.

        2. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

          Yeah, this piece of information was weird to me combined with the request from the company for him to read the company manual. Correct me if I’m wrong, but a lot of the more ‘he’s just a little awkward’ type of stuff isn’t normally spelled out in the manual. It’s more of the ‘these things are definitely not ok.’

          Hopefully the company did in fact give him as much feedback as possible though, because I do recognize that if it is something that is a problem and mom has always been writing it off as ‘he’s just awkward’ he might not have the understanding needed to correct the issue.

          1. sagc*

            I have never seen a company handbook that lays out things that would be covered by “social awkwardness”? They’re generally pretty straightforward lists of policies, not “here’s how to make someone more comfortable with your size”.

            1. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

              Yeah, so that’s why I’m questioning if it was less ‘he’s awkward’ and more ‘there is something that you are doing that is more blatantly wrong’.

      2. YetAnotherAnalyst*

        So, I come from a tall family. As a tall woman, I’ve never been accused of harassment related to my size – though as a tall/large woman, I have an awful lot of thoughts about “professional” norms and the expectation that women don’t take up space. My tall brothers haven’t been accused of harassment either, except for the tallest… who routinely yells in people’s faces but insists he wasn’t yelling/they’re just intimidated by his height/he can’t help being loud he has big lungs, and once actually threatened a coworker but insists it was a figure of speech and that getting reprimanded was part of a targeted harassment campaign against him by a specific woman in HR who doesn’t like him for unspecified reasons.

        There’s not enough here to tell what’s going on with this guy. It’s definitely possible there’s a height+something bias here (height+race, height+disability, etc), but for white men in the US height is usually a social plus. And while 6’5″ is pretty tall, it’s not that unusual!

        1. Gracely*

          Yeah, I have several family members over 6’4″ of varying weights, varying social adeptness, all pretty mild-mannered, and none of them has ever been accused of harassment because of their size. Their height has pretty much always been a plus (except in airplane seating).

      3. TallWhiteMan*

        It hasn’t happened often, but I have received occasional complaints for “looming”. The last time this happened was in a very crowded kitchen as more people came in while I was waiting for coffee and we all had to dance around each other to get what we needed (I moved out of their way).

        > I also feel weird about the possible implication that being tall means you need to significantly alter your behavior in order to meet the standards of professionalism.

        Definitely; it is a concerning implication (to me, at least).

    2. J.B.*

      Socially awkward can be used as an excuse – whether or not it is appropriate, men with that label can get more leeway in behavior that crosses the line to harassment.

    3. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      I’m uncomfortable with the idea that a man who claims to have been unfairly treated MUST have been actually doing the bad thing he was accused of. A lot of men (a lot of people in general) do lie about bad things they’ve done, but we have no evidence that this particular young man, in this particular case, is one of them.

      Yes, his mother should keep the possibility in mind, but there is also a real possibility that management sucked at management and communication.

      1. doreen*

        But there’s a difference between saying that he must have done what he was accused of and saying that it’s unlikely that he was accused of nothing more than being intimidating simply by virtue of his size. I mean , it’s entirely possible that he was disciplined for standing and blocking the entrance to the cubicle of a smaller person while yelling at that person for some mistake – and even if he was not in fact doing that, he still wouldn’t have been accused of being intimidating just because of his size.

        It just doesn’t add up to me – he’s been there for five years and is one of the longest serving employees and is expected to train new hires but has been disciplined multiple times for the same behavior and he was not fired but rather quit. Something seems to be missing – I’m not sure exactly what, but something.

      2. Lilo*

        There were multiple complaints against him and he quit after 5 years. That and his mom calling him socially awkward and, yeah, I’m going with horses not zebras.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          And he only started having issues where he was in 1:1 training situations. That makes me thing it is something with how he interacted 1:1 and not his height

        2. Maladroit Anon*

          As the Black commenters on this thread have mentioned, being a MOC is enough to get certain people to see you as intimidating. And as a trans man- being a LGBT+ masc person, whether you’re a gay man, a trans man, or a butch woman, is often enough to get certain people to see you as intimidating. Even if you work really hard to be as mild-mannered as Clark Kent- bigots are going to see you as a threat, whether you want them to or not.

          As other posters have pointed out, we really don’t have enough information to judge OP’s son- it’s third-hand hearsay. But I’m really uncomfortable with the way y’all are flippantly deciding that it must be creepiness when we don’t know what other factors are involved here.

          Bigotry is not a zebra. It’s everywhere.

          1. Lilo*

            There’s nothing in this letter to indicate the son is a POC. FWIW every man who has harassed me at work has been white.

            A man who gets multiple claims of harassment at work needs to examine his behavior. Women have had to put up with so much of this stuff.

            1. Well...*

              Can I push back on the idea that if there’s no information, we assume people are white?

              Women put up with too much of this, I agree (believe me, I know, and I have been harassed at work). At the same time, white women’s unfounded fears have resulted in black men dying. I think a critical eye to charged language about men’s size in particular is valuable. Men scare me because of their immense privilege and (generally) lack of restraint because they tend to get away with stuff. They don’t scare me because they are tall superpredators or some weird essentialist/dogwhistley nonsense.

              1. Mme. Briet’s Antelope*

                I think in this case we’re assuming the son is white because the mother was asking if he can be discriminated against because of his height, and if he was a POC, that would be a WAY more obvious avenue for discrimination, so the reasonable assumption is that she would have said so if he was.

                Speaking of assuming white is the default, though, I’ve noticed you bringing up white women’s fears of Black men in multiple points in this comment section, and while it’s a valid point in general, you do seem a little fixated on assuming that it’s the case here even though there’s nothing in the letter to suggest that the complainants were white (or women, for that matter, and the one known complainant was a man).

                1. Well...*

                  hah, fair enough. It’s the example I try to be cautious about, but it certainly could be centering my own experience.

              1. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

                Broadly speaking, US society tends to consider “White” as default and other racial groups as “marked”. For example, when someone is mentioned as a “m,an” the assumption is that he’s White unless otherwise specified.

                This obviously came about and is sustained by unfair and bigoted societal constructs, but it’s also part of the reality we currently grapple with. The young man under discussion could be a POC — his mother didn’t mention. But I think it’s likely she would have mentioned if he is.

      3. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

        In all technicality, his parent is the one saying that he was treated unfairly. There is no statement whether or not the son felt that way. All we know is that he told his parent that it was noted that his size was part of the reason why things like this were brought up.

    4. I Fought the Law*

      Yes… there is a zero percent chance in my mind that this guy was disciplined because of his size. His size, combined with “social awkwardness,” plus multiple complaints of harassment, plus the fact that his *mother* is writing into an advice column about it… it’s all just too weird. I understand why people would want to consider whether race is a factor, but there’s MORE than enough here to demonstrate that this person is objectively problematic, and we’re probably not even getting the whole story. When will people stop making excuses for men who behave badly?

      1. Well...*

        I think what’s rubbing people (at least me) the wrong way is some of advice in the comments about what tall men should do, above and beyond what other people do, to appear professional and to not intimidate/frighten women. I think you’re probably right about this specific case (I wouldn’t go as far as zero % but generally, yea).

        But the reactions to this story and the implications for people at large are a little troubling to me. I don’t think what should come from this is a sense that tall, large men need to behave more professionally because of their size because I really doubt that standard going to fall fairly on the worst offenders, white men.

    5. Kitry*

      I’m a tall woman from a tall family and I don’t know anyone substantially over 6′ tall who has made it to the age of 30 without significant back and/or knee problems. Some of that just comes from from being large and moving constantly through a world that is just not built for us, but a lot of it is attributable to poor posture from constantly trying to make ourselves smaller for the benefit of others. All of these comments suggesting that a tall person should squat or bend for the length of an entire conversation are making me cringe. For heaven’s sake why not offer them a chair? Or you could stand up yourself! Or as a last resort to avoid the face at crotch height problem, why not adjust the height of your own chair? Tall people are not being tall AT you, I promise.

      1. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

        Tall people are not being tall AT you, I promise.

        One issue is that some tall people actually are “being tall AT” other people, which is absolutely not the fault of the considerate tall people. How we get those tall deliberately intimidating people to stop without blowback and misplaced blame on the tall people who behave is, as this discussion shows, a complicated question. But I don’t think it can be solved by declaring that the bad experiences some people have had simply don’t exist.

  7. Nelly*

    I had a Bob who couldn’t get my name right, either, kept using a feminized diminutive. I started calling him Tinkerbob until he got it right. Then continued doing it because at that point it amused me. After a while, everyone called him Tinks.

      1. Rob aka Mediancat*

        Depends whether Bob was bugged by it. He may have found it hilarious.

        (If he didn’t, you’re correct.)

        1. Tau*

          Which is actually one of the ways the Bobert strategy can misfire. If Bob genuinely doesn’t care if you get his name wrong or thinks it’s funny – or at least pretends that’s the case – then you’ve managed to undermine yourself: “see, it’s not a big deal, why are you making such a fuss when I call you Alexandria?”

    1. EmmaPoet*

      My old coworker John kept calling me Mary (not my name), and would always be embarrassed when I corrected him. Finally, he told me, “If I call you Mary again, you can call me by another name too!”

      I spent the next month calling him Charlie.

      It worked.

  8. AcademiaNut*

    For LW1, it sounds like the employer did a really terrible job of explaining what the problem is, but I do have some friends who are in the same size range as in the first letter – tall, large men with naturally loud booming voices, who have run into issues where they’ve unintentionally intimidated people because of that. They’ve needed to learn to adjust their behaviour, particularly when in a position of authority.

    So that’s something to think about, particularly as it sounds like the LW’s son was in his first position of authority over other people, as a trainer. Adjustments include being careful about personal space (not looming or crowding people), keeping his voice calm and moderate in volume, and being careful about appearing angry or frustrated in tone or body language. In some ways it’s the inverse of petite young looking women who have to learn tricks to get taken seriously professionally.

    1. Genny*

      I think this is the crux of it. The specifics at the last job almost don’t matter. What does matter is that, son now know that, because of his size and gender, he has less leeway to raise his voice or express frustratation and must be more vigilante about his body language. Rather than ruminating on the past, he needs to figure out how to adjust going forward. It may not be fair, but people have to make adjustments for their natural traits all the time.

      1. Warrior Princess Xena*

        Or that his first workplace was full of crazy bees, which is not impossible and is also a good lesson to learn.

      2. Sandgroper*


        As the small slight woman has to compensate for appearing young, or the mature person has to ‘learn the lingo to hang with a younger crowd’. We all adjust in workplaces (or choose not to, and live with the consequences of that). Humans are social animals, and fitting in socially is very important. (Socially as in ‘getting along at work’ not ‘drinks at my place on Friday for my friends but not this person or that person’.)

    2. MicroManagered*

      it sounds like the employer did a really terrible job of explaining what the problem is,

      Or HE did a really terrible job of explaining it accurately to his mother. Or his mother did a really terrible job of listening objectively. It could be a lot of things and it’s hard to know for sure from just the short letter with a second-hand account that we have.

  9. breamworthy*

    I see a lot of suggestions that LW1’s son might have just received overly vague feedback because they don’t want to identify who it was that he made uncomfortable. That’s possible, but size discrimination is real. I’m not even a bit surprised that someone would be told they have to behave differently because of their size.

    I’m a fat woman who was told openly by my manager that because I took up more space physically, I had to take up less space verbally. (This was after I got feedback from the VP that I needed to talk less because he remembered me talking too much and interrupting someone at a meeting… a meeting that I hadn’t even attended.) My manager explained this to me as though my size was a perfectly reasonable justification for why I was perceived as “taking up more space in the conversation” than I actually did and why I needed to speak less than thin people.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I did not expect to be this enraged this early in the morning, but here we are. I do hope you didn’t take your boss seriously, and that you have moved on to better things.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      This happened to me a few months ago. I was told that I scare other people because of my appearance and voice. I’m over 6 foot tall, obese, disabled, female and I don’t shout but I don’t whisper either.

      Suggestions included: modifying my voice so I don’t say as much (no), not standing near people who are shorter than me (which is half the office so no), sit down the entire time (mostly I do! Re: disabled), get rid of the cane (apparently it makes me look like a dictator!), don’t wear high heels, lose weight.

      Oh and be ‘more like a normal person’ (give me a definition of normal that’s not insulting!)

      I said that I’d wear shorter heels. The rest is either stuff I’m already doing or have no intention of changing.

      Weirdly, our director is a woman who is almost my height but is slim, white, able bodied etc and nobody has said a word to her. Or the 6 foot 8 rugby-build head of programming.

    3. Anon scientist*

      yeah, people are focusing on the tall part but not the big part. Dudes who are tall and skinny are generally fine. Dudes who are big/muscular/fat are not. Take it from someone married to a lawyer desperately trying to find a job who is the approximate size of a NFL player. He does great in the phone screens, but when he walks in he gets an obvious “nope” immediately. He’s been that size since high school and trust ne, he does everything possible with his posture and voice to be unthreatening.

    4. Sylvan*

      You work with idiots. Worked, I hope — that sounds like a place to run away from as fast as you can.

    5. Cataloging Librarian*

      I think people can’t differentiate among people of size. We all look just the same to others. Among the people I’ve been mistaken for: 1) someone mistook me for my sister at my niece’s wedding (I think the problem was that we were both wearing yellow dresses), and 2) a co-worker of mine, who hasn’t worked here for over 15 years.

    6. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

      I want to hope I also worked for that manager rather than that there are multiple people out there making horrid fatphobic pronouncements, but alas I know better. It is awful. I hear you.

    7. Curmudgeon in California*

      As a fat person AFAB I have gotten this brand of flak before, but not with the specifics.

      I had one toxic boss at one toxic job decide he was going to “fix” my personality so I was more “professional” => feminine and subservient. He literally tried to make me into a doormat – nothing I did was right, he gaslit me constantly (he’d tell me to do a thing a certain way, then berate me publicly for doing it that way), and kept telling me I had to change my “attitude” when I was simply trying to do the job correctly. Every time I didn’t act the mousy, insecure little woman he gave me more flak.

      I am still angry/hurt over that situation, and it’s been 35 years. I literally took 6 months after getting fired to not even look for work and reset my head, because he did a number on me. I think I have PTSD even now from it.

  10. Captain+dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP4 (leaving without a new job to go to) Ultimately people won’t really think that much about it so a generic answer is fine… I think OP may be focusing in the wrong place though, because the harder questions are going to be asked if/when they want to find a new job.

    1. Not teenage but still ninja turtle*

      OP even said this was for the resignation, where no explanation is needed. Alison has given multiple examples, but those just need to be two lines: “I have enjoyed my time at company X, but I am leaving to pursue other opportunities. My last day will be Y.” Maybe throw in a “please let me know how I can make this transition as smooth and efficient as possible,” but you don’t need to tell them any other information.

    2. Rain's Small Hands*

      I’d say “I’m giving myself a sabbatical.” For coworkers who are just interested, you can either talk about the tradition of the sabbatical, or what you are going to do with your time.

      When interviewing, I’d use the same words, but talk about the opportunities you were able to take advantage of – increasing your experience with a diversity of cultures, getting your high school Spanish to a better level of fluency, expanding your knowledge of the field you decide to enter, taking a course to better your skills, writing a book, whatever. (A friend of mine just left for a six month low-cost see-where-our-money-gets-us trip – I think he and his wife are starting in Thailand. Another just rented an Airbnb and spent a month living in Europe, this isn’t uncommon – and my friends are all in their 50s)

    3. Antilles*

      I agree, but I’ll add that Alison’s scripts can be tweaked to work fine on the other end too – when future interviewers ask why you left your last job with nothing lined up, you can explain that you didn’t think that field was for you or that you really needed time off to decide what you want from your career or etc.
      Of course, you then need to be prepared to follow up by explaining what you learned and how this new place is a better fit.

  11. Iron Chef Boyardee*

    #2 – Why not call him Frank? It’s a nice name. Robin Day’s got a hedgehog called Frank. Frank, Frannie, little Frannie, Frannie Knickers, little Frannie-poo…

  12. Mangled Metaphor*

    #4 Saying “family stuff to work out” isn’t really a white lie. You are part of your family, and you have some stuff to work out. It’s a technicality rather than a gentle fib, and should help signify that it’s really none of your (soon to be) former co-workers’ business. It’s not even any of your (soon to be) former bosses’ business either, despite their feelings to the contrary.
    Good luck with your future endeavours, whatever they turn out to be!

  13. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    LW2 – I had this from a former boss, though in my case my actual name is far more commonly used on its own than as a diminutive, which added extra annoyance. Think Amy but he tried to call me Amelia.

    Anyway after the millionth time of politely correcting him, I did exactly what you propose, but with entirely unrelated names equivalent to Bobarella, Bibbity-Bobbity-Boo and so on. It still took a while, but at least I was less frustrated by the interactions.

    However, we had been working together for over a year and had a good working relationship (he had already promoted me) so I was using established capital to make my point. LW2 deserves to have her name used correctly but I don’t think she has the standing to do it the fun way yet.

  14. Lily*

    yeah, almost all of the “big men” I know personally/profressionally have learned to, say, tone down their presence to not be intimidating. That means being aware that things might look/feel more dangerous from someone who looks like they would (start and) win a fight, that means being hyper aware where the doors are to not block them, that means any discussions happen in an extra calm way and not while the other person has their back to the wall etc.
    Many offhand jokes that are not exactly professional but no big deal are different in those cases – if your body looks intimidating you can’t make any jokes about bodily harm, violence, or probably sex (I mean you obviously shouldn’t but the once a time dark humor will land differently if you look decidedly undangerously).

    1. Blooming Callowlily*

      This makes me think of how women are sometimes asked to speak and behave less assertively so as not to come off as bitchy or overly aggressive.

      I don’t think it’s right to expect women to be their true selves and not alter their personality because of perception while asking men to do that very thing.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Big women get told to moderate or even diminish themselves so they aren’t “aggressive”, “butch”, “bitchy”, “angry”, “offensive” All. The. Time.

        Why shouldn’t we share the misery? /s

        But seriously, some things are hindbrain stuff, some is social, some is sexism or other -isms. It has taken a long time for me to figure out which is which. Body language stuff is often hindbrain stuff.

      2. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

        Is it really as innate a part of someone’s personality to block doors as it is to speak forthrightly?

        1. Sandgroper*

          I’m going to say ‘yes, for some people’.

          The reality is that over time, from childhood, we all learn (are rewarded in various ways and reinforce) certain behaviours. Small girls are often told they are cute and get what they want if they act coy and fairy like. Big strong boys learn to stomp and stand and intimidate. These are mass generalisations to make the point, not all people.

          So yes. Some people have probably learnt, at some point in their lives, that standing in the way gets them what they want. This might be entirely subconscious and not intentional, so pointing it out can help. When they learn they are doing something that is intimidating then how they react (do they actively try to break the behaviour habit?) is very telling about their personality overall.

          I say this as a parent of two future very large man, one of whom is going the brawn route, and the other doing a conflict avoidance strategy. Parenting them is an Olympic sport sometimes for a variety of reasons, this being one of them. Brawn boy is not learning subtle communication at all, and it’s frustrating! He’s brash and in your face about everything, he pushes and storms the gates. It’s absolutely his personality, but it’s also the habits of behaviour he is learning (trust me, I’m working on them!) and the kids he hangs out with (socialisation is where most learning happens – with peers!). Conflict avoider is the extreme opposite, and I’m having to teach him to stand up and have a voice, how to project his voice, how to manage people like his brother. Ah brothers… the best therapy you could ever have!

      3. Lily*

        I honestly don’t see any problem with “urging people to not accidently threaten people”. In a world where mostly men do violence it’s the job of men who perform like they would be violent to change that. This is not complicated.
        In fact, I’d rather have nobody block doors and have awareness for that but everyone else probably just learned that way earlier.

  15. CurrentlyBill*

    LW2: Can you try ignoring him when he uses the wrong name and just pretend he isn’t talking to you? After all he isn’t.

    Or turn around in your seat when he calls you Alexandra and ask to the others in the room, ” Alexandra? Is Alexandra here? Bobbie wants to talk to you.”

    Or perhaps Alexandra can be the stand-in fake co-worker you can blame things on.

    1. Workerbee*

      This. Just don’t respond as long as you can, then look up with a puzzled air and say loudly enough for the rest of the trainees to hear (if such is the case) that your name is ALEX, A – L – E – X. Repeat as needed. Add in a commiserating tone every so often as if you are sympathetic to his failing.

  16. OneAngryAvacado*

    As a tall and slightly overweight woman who’s always been encouraged to take up less physical space, the comments that argue OP1’s son should be policing himself by sitting down to talk to peers, checking his pace to make sure he’s not approaching too quickly, etc, really don’t sit well with me. Of course if there’s other behaviour that would be inappropriate from *any* individual in the workplace (eg invading personal bubbles, inappropriate jokes) then he should be changing those behaviours, but just existing as a big guy in a workplace environment is not a bad thing. Some people are just going to be bigger than you, it’s not a crime.

    1. Big girl*


      I’m a slightly overweight woman who walk fast (I always outpace other people and have to pause to wait for them to catch up), those comments rubbed me the wrong way too. Sorry not sorry, I’m not gonna slow my pace down. That’s just how I walk.

      1. TechWorker*

        I don’t think you should have to worry about your pace when ‘approaching people’ (I mean, don’t run at them, but you’re probably not doing that).

        But if you’re walking in a group and keeping up with you means other people have to power walk or awkward skip… is it that rude for someone to ask you to slow down?

        1. OneAngryAvacado*

          Oh definitely, keeping pace with a group is just consideration. :) My comment was in response to someone saying that because tall guys can move fast you should watch how fast you approach someone because it would be intimidating if you approach quicker than normal…which just struck me as incredibly bizarre!

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            It can be a real thing, especially if you have the body language equivalent of resting owl face. (Intense, ready for action.)

            From the other end, I know two very bubbly energized people who also happen to be very short (one male, one female). I figured they adopted the bubbly thing to effectively occupy more space and not get overlooked in a group. If each of them suddenly grew 15″ and added 150 lbs, I think they would adjust their bubbly energy because it would hit differently from someone large.

            1. Qwerty*

              Oof, you may be on to something about the bubbliness. I’m a small woman in male dominated space who used to be very bubbly and bouncy when I was an IC. Manager version of me is much more boring because those behaviors come across differently from a manager vs a peer. I hadn’t put that together until now and had wondered where all my bounciness went!

        2. Falling Diphthong*


          I trigger muscle spasms in my legs if I try to speed walk, and recognizing the warning signs and asking the people I’m walking with to slow down is now ingrained. If this was someone’s professional hill to die on, we probably would not make good team mates.

        3. Sylvan*

          +1 from a larger woman. If I’m talking with someone who’s slower than me, walking at their speed seems like the only thing to do. Although I can’t get very fast in the first place, lol.

    2. Happy meal with extra happy*

      Well,,the thing is, we don’t live in a vacuum and there is a difference between criticizing the behavior of a privileged group (men) while not criticizing behavior of a less privileged group (women). (Yes, intersectionality is incredibly important but there’s nothing in the letter to indicate that this isn’t a white dude. Because of the ongoing racism that comes into play with how black men are perceived, I expect that race would have been mentioned if applicable.)

      ALSO, most of the suggestions given aren’t bad – one should try be on the same eye level when having an extended conversation, and one shouldn’t rush at others.

      1. Curious*

        And, the good news is that, because they are a member of privileged classes, it is totally legal to discriminate in employment against an individual who is a white dude! /s

      2. MF*

        “most of the suggestions given aren’t bad – one should try be on the same eye level when having an extended conversation, and one shouldn’t rush at others”

        I think it is absurd that people are objecting to these suggestions. They don’t only apply to tall dudes–these are good things for EVERYONE to do when there’s a size difference. When I am interacting with a child, I (a short woman) try to lead or bend down so I can make eye contact with them. Is it so outlandish to expect a tall man to give me the same respect that I give a child?

        1. Well...*

          This example is interesting, because I’ve heard this specifically used as a way NOT to interact with wheelchair users. Crouching down to talk to them like their children is seen as inherently *disrespectful.*

          I think that speaks to how complicated this can be. If a tall man crouched down to talk to me, I don’t think I’d like that very much (full disclosure, I’m pretty tall, but I’ve also like… never seen anyone interact with short people this way).

          1. Just Another Zebra*

            Speaking as someone who is a whisper over 5ft, most people who are substantially taller than me will do things like step back, so they aren’t peering down their nose and I’m not staring at the ceiling. If I’m sitting, they usually sit in a chair or crouch by my desk. I’ve never had anyone crouch down while I was standing – that would be weird.

        2. Kitry*

          Of course trying to get roughly on eye level with someone you’re talking to is a good idea; I think it’s more the “how” that some people are objecting to. I’m a tall woman from a tall family and I don’t know anyone substantially over 6′ tall who has made it to the age of 30 without significant back and/or knee problems. Some of that just comes from from being large and moving constantly through a world that is just not built for us, but a lot of it is attributable to poor posture from constantly trying to make ourselves smaller for the benefit of others. All of these comments suggesting that a tall person should squat or bend for the length of an entire conversation are making me cringe. Why is the onus on the tall person to make themselves smaller, rather than on the small person to offer them a chair, or to stand up for the conversation?

          1. Just Another Zebra*

            I think part of the reason the onus is on the taller person is because the shorter person has limited options. If we’re standing next to each other speaking, which is easier – taking a step back, or me pulling over a stool or box to stand on?

      3. Someone Online*

        Yeah, tall or larger bodied women are penalized for not performing feminity as expected.
        Large men can be intimidated because there is a long history of men using physical aggression against women.
        The two scenarios are not comparable.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Yeah, tall or larger bodied women are penalized for not performing feminity as expected.

          This is the story of my life.

    3. L-squared*

      Right. I have a feeling if this were about a tall woman getting feedback and being told to police her behaviors around people smaller than her, people would react very different.

        1. L-squared*

          But if the issue is someone’s size, that should be a gender neutral thing, right? Shouldn’t we treat a 6’4 woman and a 6’4 man the same? If telling a 6’4 woman that her general appearance and body makes people uncomfortable and she needs to make herself seem smaller is wrong, it would make sense to me that its also wrong to say that to a 6’4 man.

          1. Porpoise*

            If men and women occupied a level playing field at work, everything you say would be true. However, men and women do not occupy a level playing field at work. The exact same heights are viewed very differently on men than they are on women.

            1. UKDancer*

              Definitely, also there is a lot of power imbalance dynamics. Men can be a lot more unintentionally intimidating because women have more experience of gendered violence and abuse / threatening behaviour by men than by women. So (to me personally) a tall guy looming comes across as inherently more threatening than a woman of similar height because of the experiences a lot of women have had of men pressing their way into their space, making inappropriate comments etc. It puts one on guard a bit more. I’ve never had women behave inappropriately but I have had men, so I’d tend to be more relaxed around women as a result.

              Also I don’t think anyone is saying “be smaller” they’re saying “be aware of your height and do things like sit down, stand back etc to make the other person more comfortable.”

          2. Qwerty*

            The default behaviors of a large man and a large woman are different though due to how people are raised / what expecatations society has. Especially when interacting with women – the group that HR referenced as having issues with OP1’s son.

            Take the example of “tall person standing too close can see down my shirt”. I was originally going to compare that scenario between a male and female offender – but honestly that scenario is usually going to be a white dude. It’s not just that it comes across differently across the genders. Just, large women have their size and how they are perceived regularly pointed out to them and they are already adjusting their behavior constantly. Plus they’ve had to deal with dudes making them uncomfortable, so they are aware of and attempting to avoid repeating any of the dude-like actions.

            White men, on the other hand, are not held to high expectations of situational awareness. A lot of stuff they do gets dismissed as “social awkwardness”. The reason dudes stand with their crotch next to a sitting person’s head is rarely intentional and usually just “this was a convenient place to stand”, but it doesn’t change the impact on the person with the awkward view point. Asking them for more personal space can often turn into a debate or them demanding to know why. Even if we assume that OP1’s son never did anything in the work context to make anyone uncomfortable, it is still worth him learning how his size, voice, volume, etc affect perception so he can be more intentional with his interactions.

            It’s also not race neutral, but there are other comments explaining that better than I can.

    4. Large adult son anon*

      I’m glad you brought this up. I was just thinking about the argument that ensued in the comments last week about whether OP from that one letter was right to assume that not having plus-sized shirts in her size was based on the idea that “people like me don’t look like leaders.” Here we have someone EXPLICITLY being told “you are being perceived differently for your body size, and we are punishing you for it” and people are arguing that that’s fine, actually. I’m sure the son could learn some of the social skills required to intimidate people less but it’s odd to me that some people here are so ok with assuming he’s done something wrong.

      1. The Person from the Resume*

        We’re saying what the son told the mother and what the mother is telling us might not be what actually happened in the workplace.

    5. Fluffy Fish*

      People are trying to point out that it is very unlikely OPs son was fired for his *size* but rather his behavior. They are being kind by pointing out ways that he may unknowingly be intimidating people and since mom is seemingly convinced it is his height and nothing else, people are framing it that way for the OP’s benefit.

      If you are looming over me while I’m sitting, I don’t care if your 5’4″ or 7’8″ – it’s intimidating. If you are cornering me and blocking my exits, same.

    6. Marna Nightingale*

      This is what I’m thinking about: given confidentiality, what can your son work out about this from information he DOES have? Like, how long did he work there versus how long the complainants were happening? Were there any open conflicts that seemed suspiciously similar in timeline? How many other jobs has he had? Were there issues there?

      Because I agree with everyone upthread talking about the importance of understanding how you’re coming across, but:

      In terms of physical characteristics that lead to you being read as aggressive or intimidating, size and height absolutely doesn’t ride to the level of gender or race in terms of discrimination. It absolutely does NOT.

      It IS similar in that if the problem is someone else’s response to your body rather than to your objectively appropriate behaviour, you yourself can only do so much.

      And trying to change or fix behaviour when you’re not doing it wrong in the first place is a dangerous rabbit hole, both mentally and because of the high chance that what you pivot to WILL in some way be weird or off.

    7. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

      This discussion has been interesting to me because I’m on both (multiple) sides of it.

      I’m a woman of color and size, as they say. I’ve had people tell me in various ways to take up less space.

      I’m also a short woman, and a woman in a sexist society. I have had multiple men deliberately use their size to intimidate me, especially when I was younger and hadn’t learned to push back.

      So there are so many different ways this young man’s experiences could have played out, from that he was deliberately backing his female coworkers into walls to that he did no such things at all but his work superiors have been fatphobic towards him. All of us are filling in the missing puzzle pieces with our own experiences and so we’re coming up with very different completed images and solutions, which then don’t work for others’ situations. I think that happens a lot with fraught topics like this.

      It’s simultaneously true that people shouldn’t deliberately intimidate or harass AND that people who have done no such misdeeds shouldn’t be accused of being about to do them just because of physical characteristics. Now the question is how to balance these multiple truths to find justice.

  17. D’Arcy*


    Unfortunately, there’s pretty good odds that this behavior is about the coworker *very intentionally* misnaming you because he believes your gender neutral name indicates that you might be transgender and therefore is taking it upon himself to “correct” you back to what he assumes is your assigned name and gender.

      1. yala*

        I mean, I’d put money on it. Not a *lot* of money, but still.

        It’s just such a *deliberate* action. If it was a matter of shortening OP’s name, well…that’s pretty common. It still requires a conscious effort for me to remember that some of my friends prefer Gregory to Greg and Michael to Mike. Nicknames/diminutives are common. And they’re part of the name itself. So when someone introduces themselves as Gregory, you hear the Greg already, if that makes sense.

        But if someone says their name is Alex, and someone else takes it upon themselves to call them by a long form of their name that they were *never* given…that’s a really odd choice. Alexandra? Could be Alexis. Could be Alexandria. Could be just plain Alex, and it’s super weird of someone to assume they know someone’s “real” name if they were never given it.

        It’s weirder still to KEEP calling someone that name if they’ve REPEATEDLY corrected you.

        It’s not inherently malicious. But it smells a bit off.

        1. Yeah, nah*

          I see where you’re coming fom, but people’s insistence on using what they think is your full name in the workplace is unfortunately common, and they’ll just go with the one it’s most likely to be. Some people just think nicknames are unprofessional. And some people assume gender norms in gross ways that have a lot crossover with transphobia but that don’t mean assuming that a co-worker is trans. There’s a lot of space between “This person isn’t being feminine enough for my liking” and “This person must be secretly trans.”

          1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

            I recently read a pair of books where the main character’s name is Gretch. Not Gretchen, because her mother figured, ‘I’m never going to call her anything but Gretch, so that’s what I putting on her birth certificate’. She spends a decent amount of time correcting people who call her Gretchen, and they’re usually people in positions of authority to her. “No, it’s just Gretch. That’s what my mom put on my birth certificate.”

            (The first book could have been a standalone, but there was a 2nd book and it ended on a cliffhanger, so I’m a little impatient to read the 3rd book, which I’m hoping will tie up all the loose ends.)

          2. Rose*

            I have a feminine nickname which is an abbreviation of a feminine long name (but not the long name people usually assume it is).

            Dear everyone: stop trying to be formal by calling me Rosalie.

    1. londonedit*

      Pretty good odds? That’s way, way down my list of possible reasons. Some people just have a thing about names – I had a couple of friends at school whose full names (on their birth certificates and everything) were traditional ‘nicknames’ – like Tom or Katie. They were forever battling with teachers who insisted that they had to go by their ‘full name’ in school and insisted on calling them Thomas and Katherine even though that wasn’t their name. I use a shortened form of my full name, have done for 30+ years, and yet I occasionally meet people who get weirdly invested in wanting to find out what my ‘real name’ is so they can call me that instead. It’s weird and personally I find it disrespectful (though I know other people don’t really mind) but there’s no way I’d leap to someone assuming someone was transgender and refusing to use their name because of that.

      1. Asenath*

        The opposite exists. My brother had a slightly long old-fashioned family name, and from earliest childhood the family used the full form, and he also used it. Unlike some other family members, he never picked up or used a nickname. Teachers were generally understanding, but he also spent a lot of time in hospitals where he was dealing with a LOT of different adults, and it was absolutely astonishing how many adults would apparently look at the name on the records, think “Oh, such a small boy can’t possibly go by such a formal name” and spontaneously call him by a nickname, usually the one he hated most. It was infuriating.

        Even today, I meet someone every so often who either calls me a completely different name (same one each time), or catches herself, and, either way, explains to everyone in hearing “I always think Asenath’s name is Esmeralda! I can’t think why, unless it’s because there was an Esmeralda here a few years ago, and maybe Asenath reminds me of Esmeralda. Do you (addressed generally) remember Esmeralda?” and so on and so forth. At this point, I ignore the mistake and comment, giving no more than a weak smile. I did not know Esmeralda. I could speculate on what it is about me that reminds this person of her, but I just put it down to people’s weirdness about names.

        1. londonedit*

          Heck, I worked with a woman years ago who flat-out refused to call my colleague by her proper name – and it wasn’t even a case of ‘oh your name is too foreign for me to say properly’. The colleague’s name was Zara, but the boss for whatever reason struggled with the Z sound and it would come out more like ‘Sara’. So she decided she was just going to call my colleague ‘Sarah’ (not even Sara) because it was ‘easier for her to remember’.

          1. Lisa*

            I worked with a Deirdre who hated being called “Deedra” but wouldn’t correct people and I made it my mission in life to fix that for her every time it happened.

            People are so weird about other people’s names. My name is 4 letters long and yet somehow some people need to shorten it to Lis or lengthen it to Elisa or Alissa. Make it make sense.

        2. seeeeeps*

          Other parents in my kids’ school district who I have met through new activities the last two months call me by the wrong name regularly and always laugh and laugh when they make the mistake (the same one, and the one I’m commonly called because both names start with the same letter and are decidedly feminine). I’m just like…learn. my. name. It just signals to the other person that they’re really not important enough for you to remember a silly thing like their name.

        3. doreen*

          My husband gets it from both sides – his actual name is the equivalent of ” Tommy”. Sometimes he gets people calling him “Thomas” (payroll at a new job, etc) and sometimes he gets ” Tom” from people who assume his actual name is “Thomas” and if he’s OK with “Tommy” he will also be OK with “Tom”. He’s been telling one person his name for 20 years- hasn’t sunk in yet.

        4. alas rainy again*

          Oh dear! I’m frequently guilty of calling an Asenath by Esmeralda’s name. It usually happens for people I met simultaneously for the first time, and not too frequently afterwards (think 3-4 times per year). Even after 25 years, I stress and hesitate between both names. It does not happen with numbers or things. Only names of people. A real problem as it is interpreted as lack of respect! I could try and avoid using their names, but I prefer to apologise and keep trying. I am better at it when I am well-rested.

      2. I'm just here for the cats!*

        Yes there are some people that are really weird about nicknames and demand that they call someone by the name their parents gave them because its rude/disrespectful otherwise?!? Just call people what they want to be called.

    2. slashgirl*

      This sort of thing has been going on long before there was any real awareness around gender/transgender issues.

      I have a cousin who’s first name is Will. Not William or Willard, just Will because that’s what his mother chose. He’s in his late 40s and has had a constant battle with not being called “William”–folks always assume what they consider a nickname must be short for something else.

      1. KateM*

        I had this happen about 30 years ago, thankfully just once and the person probably sincerely believed that everyone is calling a colleague’s teen daughter working a summer job by diminutive nickname but she’ll take me as a real adult colleague.

      2. bamcheeks*

        I agree that “they think you’re trans” is probably a leap, but “I perceive a woman using an androgynous name as gender-non-conforming and I want to re-assert her femaleness” has been going on a loooooooong time, and might be part of it.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            Yeah, I’m AFAB, enby, and go by my initials. I constantly have to correct people who know my (gendered) wallet name that I don’t go by it, just my initials.

    3. Douglas Mosier*

      Or maybe………….the guy feels calling people by what looks like nicknames shows a degree of familiarity that he is not comfortable with?
      I personally despise nicknames for anyone not of my family or friend circle, especially because of the implied familiarity thing. If your name badge says “Robert” (or Alexander or whatever) and you’re not my friend, then I’ll be calling you Robert. I mean, if you REALLY prefer “Bob” and never use Robert unless, e.g., on government forms, then why not just officially change your name to “Bob”? It’s all a minefield: does your right to be called what you want to be called outweigh my right to talk the way I talk or is it the other way round? My feeling is calling by the legal/proper name is always correct and any nickname (shortened or lengthened), even if it’s the preferred nomenclature, takes a backseat.

      1. sagc*

        um. yes, people’s right to be called their usual names outweighs your comfort with shortened names?

      2. Kevin Sours*

        Your feeling is wrong. It’s one thing to get it wrong initially — we all have implicit assumptions about social interaction and unfortunately those assumptions tend to conflict — but once somebody tells you what there name is you use that. Full stop. It’s not your name. Deal with it.

      3. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

        In this case LW wants to be called by their actual legal name, so your argument is not only wrong for reasons others pointed out but doesn’t actually apply here.

      4. Beebis*

        Yes, yes it does

        If you try to call me my full legal first name at work instead of what I actually go by because you think it’s correct, I will raise all the stink I need to up to and including speaking to your boss to get you to speak to and about me correctly.

      5. whingedrinking*

        My feeling is calling by the legal/proper name is always correct and any nickname (shortened or lengthened), even if it’s the preferred nomenclature, takes a backseat.
        I’ll be blunt with you here: no. Your problem with calling people by nicknames is just that, your problem, and it is extremely disrespectful to basically declare that you have a right to rename people because of what you’re comfortable with.
        My name is a regional diminutive of a very traditional women’s name. (Think something like how “Sasha” is the nickname for Alexander/Alexandra in Russia.) The traditional name is not on my birth certificate, literally no one has ever called me by it, outside of this one region most people don’t even know my name *is* a diminutive, and in fact both my parents and I really dislike the traditional form of the name and none of us would choose it! But you’re suggesting that if I were to go to that region, a random person could simply decide to call me by a name that *isn’t mine*, because my actual name is somehow “inappropriate” to them.
        That’s without even touching on people whose names are not respected because of racism, xenophobia, sexism and transphobia, which are extremely real forces in the world.
        As for saying people should have to legally change their names before you’re willing to call them what they prefer – do you have any idea how ridiculous you sound?

      6. Curmudgeon in California*

        Hello, what?

        If my name is Josephina Christine, but I want to go by either Jo or JC, what in the living hell gives you the right to demand that I legally change my name in order to have you address me as I prefer? Are you going to pay the legal fess and cover my time off to go to court, when you could just, you know, address my by the name I wish to use?

        I really don’t GAF that you “despise nicknames for anyone not of my family or friend circle”. Really. It’s not YOUR decision how a person gets to be addressed That decision belongs to the person whose name it is.

        For example, if you really want to be addressed as “Doug”, I don’t have a right to call you “Douglas” or “Dougie”.

        … does your right to be called what you want to be called outweigh my right to talk the way I talk or is it the other way round?

        Yes, my right to be addressed the way I wish outweighs your prejudices. IOTW, if you misname me, deadname me, or otherwise address me in a manner that I do not want, I reserve the right to:
        a) correct you, with increasing severity if you continue,
        b) refuse to answer to a name I don’t wish to use, and/or
        c) report you to HR for harassment.

        Does this make it clear to you?

        My feeling is calling by the legal/proper name is always correct and any nickname (shortened or lengthened), even if it’s the preferred nomenclature, takes a backseat.

        So what? Your feeling is not what the other person wants. It’s their name, so they can change how they want to be addressed. What you feel is immaterial – it’s their f’ing NAME, and they have the right to use what they wish.

        There’s no “minefield” here – you simply address a person in the way that they have asked you to. It’s that f’ing simple.

      7. Nina*

        > I mean, if you REALLY prefer “Bob” and never use Robert unless, e.g., on government forms, then why not just officially change your name to “Bob”?

        Beeeeeeecause changing my name is expensive and annoying and all my professional qualifications are unchangeably under the ‘Robert’ name and I don’t want to have to explain that every time I deal with a new manager? Call me what I introduce myself as. It’s not that hard.

  18. bamcheeks*

    moving too far into someone else’s personal space, or blocking a doorway during certain types of conversations

    I have a relative who isn’t stand-out tall, but is over six foot and well-muscled. He has done all these things to me, sometimes without any obvious awareness that he’s doing it, and sometimes deliberately as a “joke”. It is AWFUL. I’m 5’7″, so not particularly small, but it is still really horrendous and intimidating. He just has no experience of or empathy with being the smaller person in a conversation and enjoys being the biggest and strongest in the room. He thinks it’s harmless and funny because he would never *actually* hurt someone, and doesn’t perceive intimidating and making someone else feel physically weaker as a real harm.

    Whether he’s more careful at work I don’t know. But I do think this is a real thing that some men do, and it’s profoundly obnoxious, and could absolutely contribute to someone feeling threatened and intimidated at work. Whether or not you think that’s something your son would do is something you know better than I do, LW. I think the suggestions to (at a minimum) be very respectful of other people’s space is important.

    1. KateM*

      “He just has no experience of or empathy with being the smaller person in a conversation and enjoys being the biggest and strongest in the room.”
      Does it translate into your relative being socially awkward? At least for his mother?

      1. bamcheeks*

        no, in this case it goes alongside being extremely socially confident and extroverted, who tends to dominate social settings. I don’t think it necessarily has to, though– I’ve seen the same behaviour from people who are less socially confident, this is just the example of it I know best.

  19. The Trainer!*

    #2 What I would say is that he is NOT a trainer, he’s incompetent. As a trainer myself, I’m offended on your behalf. I have various techniques to remember people’s names and I will also ask how to pronounce them if I am not sure then write it down phonetically and occasionally I have to have a laugh and a joke over a mispronunciation and then NEVER do that mispronounce again!
    To deliberately ignore you many times, shows he’s an meaningless corporate drone. I would put in a serious complaint about how he is opening the company to legal action, what if there was a trans person in the room and he called them by their dead name repeatedly?

    1. International Trainer of Mystery*

      Yes, I’m a trainer too. And I work in an international setting with some people whose names genuinely have phonemes that I struggle to or literally cannot pronounce 100% correctly. And you know what? I do my best, call them what they ask me to call them, and if I slip up I apologise and try not to do it again. Because getting people’s names right is important in any situation, but particularly when you are facilitating their learning.

    2. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      Also a trainer, and yes to all of this. Getting names right is one of the quickest and easiest ways to build rapport.

      I have a spreadsheet of everyone I’ve ever trained with their preferred name and pronouns. I train 300+ people, and sometimes I won’t see a person for months and months. If they told me they go by Dee instead of Deanna in January, I want to remember it in August.

  20. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

    If your ex-boss says you still work there then why are they not paying you? :D

  21. Anomie*

    Mak sure your son knows never to touch anyone at work, to not invade personal space and never to raise his voice. There’s something going on, mom.

  22. Keymaster of Gozer*

    1. Yes, HR can say it (read upthread, I’ve had it said to me). It takes a lot more digging though to find out a) what behaviours are causing that feeling (if any) and b) if those are anything that can be sorted.
    In the case of ‘Shirley feels threatened when you walk past her because you’re so tall’ then that’s a legit feeling but NOT one that can be reasonably accommodated.
    In the case of ‘Shirley says you get too close to people when talking and that makes them feel uncomfortable’ then that’s a legit feeling with a clear and reasonable result = you move backward.
    Basically your son needs to do some thinking and talking with others.

    2. We had an external speaker (ironically a ‘management seminar’) who would not stop calling me by the wrong name – a name similar to mine but not mine. After I corrected him three times I finished with ‘if you don’t use my actual name I don’t respond’ and while I listened to the rest of the training I didn’t reply to him. Goddess I gave some scathing feedback after.
    Others attending gave me some pretty uncomfortable looks when I said that but the next day one of the other attendees told me privately “thank you. People here keep telling me I look more like a ‘Helena’ than a ‘Helen’ and I never thought I could push back on that”

    1. whingedrinking*

      I was saw a play where one of the characters is named Virginia, and another character calls her Ginny (heavily implied to be a nickname she never, ever uses). To which Virginia acidly responds, “I just love it when men decide to name me!”
      I didn’t actually shout, “Preach!” when the actress delivered that line but I was very tempted.

  23. John*

    2. Before training begins one morning, how bout approaching the trainer privately with, “I have an awkward request. Would you mind calling me Alex? You must have misheard me when I’ve tried to correct you but that’s my name. Thanks so much.”

    It may be better received than correcting him in front of others.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        Right but that’s a thing you say to let the person save face and reduce the chance of them being an ever bigger asshole to you after.

        1. Justme, The OG*

          No. If someone can’t get my name right after repeated corrections I’m not giving them an opportunity to save face.

    1. Sandgroper*

      I agree it’s best to try a low conflict approach first. Stating it out loud in the group setting is likely to cause conflict /force a loss of face.

      I’d change “awkward” to be less apologetic. Just take it out. “I have a request….” And instead of “you must have misheard me” (this sounds like it’s intentional – give the benefit of doubt!), you could try “There seems to be a misunderstanding, so I am just clarifying, my name is Alex. Thanks so much.”

    2. seahorsesarecute*

      I would also stop responding to the wrong name, look around for ‘Alexandra’ expecting to see another person to answer that trainer, like they can’t possibly be talking to me, Alex. But I’m the queen of passive agressivity.

  24. Ana Gram*

    #1- My husband is your son’s size and he’s not much of a smiler, so he seems intimidating. He’s supervisor at work and he makes a point of doing things that make it clear that he’s not trying to intimidate anyone with his size. He tries to smile more and joke, when appropriate. He asks reports about their lives and remembers the names of their kids, etc. He sits if they’re sitting to show them things instead of looming over them. Stuff like that. He knows he’s a big dude and doesn’t want people to see him as just that. It takes a little effort but he says it’s paid off.

    Oh, he runs a lot and he also makes noise when he’s coming up behind women and tries to pass them if they’re alone on the trail. He’s the kindest man I know but that’s not what his height and size tell people. It’s not fair but that’s how it is and he tries to combat it *because* he’s a thoughtful person.

  25. Testerbert*

    As a large (6ft 5, not lightweight) man, I am torn on LW1. On the one hand, I’d like to think that *something* must’ve been going on to attract complaints, and the son has converted “I’ve not been told the exact details of the complaint and the complainant” into “Oh, they just told me to read the harrasment policy, never which bit I supposedly violated”.

    On the other: I have apparently terrified people at a distance in some jobs, merely by acting in the same manner as my colleagues around me. Others have reported being intimidated by me because I like to keep my head down & focus on my work, while others reported being intimidated by my being open & chatty on occasion. So, I could firmly believe that the son getting Catch-22’d where someone complains about how they felt intimidated/harrassed, he receives non-guidance to resolve the issue, only to prompt further complaints after he modified his behaviour. All the while HR doesn’t actually HR & talk to him for fear of ‘making him angry’ or some other concern motivated by the perception formed by his size.

  26. Catabouda*

    For #1 I have to believe that the son is not providing a complete picture to his mother.

    His size may be playing in to the problematic behavior, but HR has had him read/review their harassment policy multiple times. There’d be nothing in a harassment policy about not being tall, it’s likely focusing on unacceptable behavior.

    And, as already mentioned above, “socially awkward” is often used to excuse away creepy, inappropriate behavior. Mom may have some blinders on too.

  27. Rufus Bumblesplat*

    LW2, you have my sympathies. A lot of people incorrectly assume my first name is a nick name rather than my full legal name.

    There’s one woman in particular who keeps calling me by the wrong name even after multiple corrections. It drives me up the wall and I really don’t understand it. The wrong name she’s latched onto is an identical number of syllables to my actual name. Both names are feminine.

    Last time she called me by the wrong name I just stopped dead and bluntly said “My name is Rufus”. She tried to laugh it off and said “Oh, you know, when I get something stuck in my head it’s really hard to get it out”. I think she expected me to laugh politely but I just stared at her and said “But that isn’t my name”. She gave me a deer in headlights look and made excuses to leave. I haven’t seen her since so I’ve no idea whether it’s stuck this time, but considering the history I’m not hopeful. Sigh.

  28. bird law*

    #5 – The comment about truthfulness and integrity made me want to say: if your former boss is getting grant funds and you know that she is lying on those applications or in her data, you should absolutely report her to the grantmaking agency (like NSF, NIH, HHS, etc – most have hotlines) or (if you are okay with more in depth involvement and a potential finders’ fee) consult with a False Claims Act lawyer about potential whistleblower claims.

    1. Sylvan*

      I was wondering about this. I’m definitely not informed enough to give that letter writer advice, but pretending you have one more employee than you do…? And is this the only thing that she’s not being honest about?

  29. bunniferous*

    #2-I have one of those types of names myself. The diminutive of the common name is the name on my birth certificate. I would NOT be happy to be called the long form of that name because it is NOT my name.

    I would take this trainer aside ONE time and ask him WHY he was misnaming you. Make him explain his thought process!
    (I have had this happen in a slightly less problematic situation. The long form of my own name is also a reference to a character quality, and the person using it was more goodnaturedly teasing me and also attributing the character quality to me. I think we can both agree this is NOT what is happening in YOUR workplace!)

  30. Anon for This*

    LW1 – My son is not as large as yours, but is a big guy. And he has autism so he doesn’t understand nuances in social interaction. You mention your son is awkward, so I am assuming he is a lot like mine. He may not understand that what he is saying could be construed as harassment. As other commenters have noted, what he considers teasing or joking around may not land the same because of his size – it may also not land because he is awkward. He might need some kind of coaching to deal with this. When my son was in high school we got him assistance with social skills – referred to a social worker from his doctor. It helped him, and might be worth trying for your son.

  31. Snarky McSnarkerson*

    OP 1. How many times have we heard about parents getting involved in the work lives of their children? Although it doesn’t seem that this mom is getting overly invested in her son’s career, I think we must entertain the idea that her son has put her on an information diet because he doesn’t want to tell her exactly what happened.

    1. Blarg*

      Yea I think it’s weird that so many commenters are just taking this at face value.

      What’s more likely?

      “Mom, I got fired because I kept making inappropriate comments, asking out the women I was supposed to be training, and not respecting their personal space.”


      “Mom, I got fired because I’m too tall and they didn’t give me another reason.”

      1. LimeRoos*

        This is where I’m at too. Most of my experiences with mid 20’s dudes like the son in LW1 are along the lines of your first scenario. And if he moved into training/some sort of leadership, well there’s things you can do as coworkers that you can’t in a position of power.

        But Payne’s Grey has a great point below – there’s so little detail in what was actually going on that everyone has a lot more room to map their experiences to it. So lots of good food for thought, even if the scenario is most likely he’s not telling Mom everything.

    2. Payne's Grey*

      I’m struggling a little with the comments on #1 because – well, we just don’t have enough information to say what’s going on. We have what the guy’s mother told us about what he told her, which is so unlikely to be the whole picture. All we’re really doing is mapping the bare bones of a story onto our own experience, which obviously leads off in a hundred different directions.

      My personal experience says it’s more likely he’s doing stuff that no one should do – looming over his trainees from way too close, or hitting on them, or getting angry – AND he’s getting less leeway for that because of his size, which is why size keeps coming up between him and HR (and I don’t think anyone should get leeway for any of that, but sometimes people do). But I don’t know. None of us do.

      1. Payne's Grey*

        Ack, this was supposed to be a stand alone comment, sorry. At least I attached it to something about the right LW?

  32. OhNoYouDidn't*

    #2 – My brother had a similar problem. He has a less common form of a more common name … as in his name might be Alec but frequently got called Alex. Usually one correction and it was done. However, he was training a customer one time who repeatedly called him the wrong name, even after being corrected over and over. My brother finally started calling this man random names. “OK, Joe.” “Sure, Pete.” “Nope, Mike, that’s not quite right.” When the man corrected my him, my brother said, “Oh. I didn’t think it mattered since you keep calling me the wrong name despite being corrected over and over.” Problem fixed.

  33. Raw Flour*

    I initially read the first letter and was very sympathetic to LW1’s son, because I too have had my awkward behavior misinterpreted by others. The more I think about it though – this can really only be a harassment case. Either the son was harassing coworkers as alleged, or they created a targeted campaign of misinformation to get him fired. The latter is possible, but the former is a lot more likely.

    I am a 5’6” mid-size woman whose coworkers have been 90% men. The statistically appropriate number of these men were very tall/broad (like above 6’2”). In particular I am thinking of male coworkers who were white, Native American, and Black. I frankly never felt intimidated by any of them, for reasons of their size or any other reason. I’m not saying that I didn’t have unconscious biases to fix when I entered the workforce, because I absolutely did – but I just never jumped to “he’s much physically larger than me, so I’m nervous to be around him”. In recent years, I would have spoken up to correct other women who claimed that these men were intimidating due to their size, especially the BIPOC men… except that it never happened. Nobody complained about them, outside of the obvious “Fergus and I are disagreeing on the purpose of this project” etc.

    The only time I’ve felt truly intimidated by a coworker was when the CEO of my company expressed a sexual interest in me and I turned him down. He was 5’4”. (I ended up vacating the job before he could retaliate.)

    I’d also like to note that HR, IME, will very rarely thoroughly investigate and fire men who serially sexually harass their coworkers as long as it does not escalate to actual assault (aka a legal matter). Mere “intimidation”? Forget about it. Some details here are missing.

  34. Lilo*

    I mean, LW1, you’re hearing this second hand through an unreliable source. If he’d done things, he wouldn’t tell his mom.

    As for socially awkward, I once worked with a guy who stood too close to all of the female staff touched our hair, etc. We always got the excuse he was socially awkward except, of course he only did this stuff to female staff members. We did have to make multiple complaints because he just wouldn’t stay out of our space (and yes we talked to him about it). They finally looked at security video.

  35. Elle by the sea*

    No, you can’t tell anyone in a professional context that their size is intimidating – I would seriously question the judgement and general professionalism of anyone who makes such comments, especially as an HR representative. It’s tantamount to telling women that their clothing is sexually suggestive because they are curvy. What you can tell people is that their behaviour is intimidating or rather, unacceptable – intimidating is vague and subjective, and is often weaponised.

    1. The Person from the Resume*

      I don’t disagree, but I am very aware we’re hearing the story second hand as told by a socially awkward man to his mother who has a bias in favor of her son.

      I can see where someone who 6’5″ and weighs about 250 pounds is much more intimidating than a smaller person if they stand too close and/or tower over a sitting person. Depending on the context of the conversation, the big man could make something seem much more threatening. I can also see a tall, large, strong socially awkward young man being interested in a woman and displaying a bit too much interest accompanied by standing too close, looming, or (inadvertantly) blocking the doorway to make the woman feel harassed and vaguely threatened.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        I agree with this completely. If that’s what was happening, I could wish that someone in HR had been more specific and direct with him.

        “Looming over people makes them uncomfortable; when possible, take a half step back. When talking to someone seated, try to find a seat yourself. Ask before reaching in to point out something on the screen. And don’t lean in the doorway blocking an exit; it can make people feel trapped.”

  36. Mostly Managing*

    LW4 – I worked for a while with someone who regularly quit jobs and went travelling. He’d work for a year or two and save like crazy, then travel for as long as he could. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    I think if you were to say that you have saved up and are planning to travel for a few months, then find a new job when you come back, nobody will bat an eyelid. Except, of course, for the people who are wishing they could find a way to do the same thing.

    The key is to focus on what you’re looking forward to, not what you dislike about the job. So not “I can’t stand it here so I’m leaving” but “I’ve always wanted to see (insert interesting place here) and I have the opportunity to go – so I’m taking it!”

  37. Corgis rock*

    OP2 my name is one syllable and isn’t a diminutive for anything. Over the years I’ve had people try to make it longer either by adding a syllable to make it a diminutive (think John being turned into Johnny) or adding a syllable and turning it into a completely different name. I find this both annoying and amusing. Annoying being how hard is it to call somebody by their name especially when they’ve asked/told you multiple times what their name is? Amusing because people often shorten longer names to one syllable and here I am with a nice simple one syllable name and they feel the need to make it longer.

    1. JustaTech*

      I was reading a career advice book recently (“Nice girls don’t get the corner office”) and one of the pieces of advice was that you should always and only ever go by your full name. Note Kate, Katherine, not Amy, Amelia, etc etc.

      I think the idea was to make you sound more like an adult (and woman vs a “girl”), but my thoughts on that were two-fold. First, would the author have told Bob he had to go by Robert? Or Dave needed to be David? Second, not everyone likes their full name, or has a full name that is obvious from the name they’ve gone by for years (ie, Peggy vs Margaret), so it could be both irritating and confusing. (And is useless to those of us who have always used our full names but are still occasionally accused of using a nickname, or who’s full name is the nickname.)

  38. PsychNurse*

    “It’s also true, unfortunately, that people being disciplined for harassment don’t always give people outside of the situation a full, objective account of what happened”

    Especially to their mothers. Look, I’m the mother of a son, too. I always think he’s in the right. But I would just assume you probably don’t know the whole story.

  39. Julia*

    Bob reminds me of anecdotes I’ve heard of people deliberately misgendering cis people who wear pronoun pins–I don’t want to immediately jump to the worst faith interpretation, but is it possible he thinks LW is gender non-conforming and is refusing to use the gender neutral name on purpose?

    1. The Person from the Resume*

      I feel like if the LW thought that this was possible they would have mentioned it. They didn’t.

      Bob is already being impolite and a jerk by ignoring correction by the person who absolutely knows what her name is. There’s no need for readers to add speculation to make it worse – “Bob’s not only a jerk but he’s also transphobic too!”

      And it doesn’t even change the answer.

    2. Fishsticks*

      I immediately wondered if he doesn’t like Alex because he thinks it’s “a boy nickname” and therefore uses ‘feminine’ versions – not out of a sense of misgendering someone he suspects might be gender nonconforming, but just out of obstinately having a shitty opinion about names.

      I had a friend named Alex (who, granted, was legally named ‘Alexandria’) growing up where a teacher did that exact thing. REFUSED to call her Alex, ALWAYS called her Alexandria, because ‘Alex is a boy name’. This was the 90’s, so her mom just told her to suck it up and deal with it, it was only for a year.

      Alex absolutely dug her heels in with every other class afterward, that she is ALEX, she has always been Alex, she is nothing other than Alex.

  40. allornone*

    I feel for OP #2. My name is Kate. Not Katherine. Not Caitlyn. Not anything but those four simple letters. My dad has it worse- his name is Rick. Almost no one believes it’s just Rick. And you wouldn’t believe the number of people that question you when you say it’s just the short version. They will actually ask “Are you sure?” when trying to discern “your full name.” Beyond bizarre. And then they assume nicknames. People who don’t know me well calling me “Katie.” To anyone who does know me, I am decidedly not a Katie. And WTF? The made-up nickname is longer than my actual name. How does that work?

    That being said, I realized early on that if I let it bother me too much, I’m just stressing myself out. It’s a personal choice, to be sure, and I can certainly understand why someone would continue to take offense, but it never seemed like a hill worth dying on to me. They want to be dumb? Let them be dumb. They just make themselves look silly in the end. Call me whatever; as long as it’s not “Bitch” (or anything similarly derogatory), we’re good.

    1. Irish Teacher.*

      Actually, the SCHOOL I work for go a version of this. The staff were having a talk on fire safety and the speaker was saying how important it is to give the correct, official name if calling the fire brigade (I don’t know if this true elsewhere, but it’s not uncommon for schools to have nicknames – “the convent,” for a school run by an order of nuns for example or “the tech,” for a school that offered things like woodwork before they were mainstream – or to have an older name and when you add in the fact that some schools have their names in Irish…well, you can see the possible issue).

      Anyway, he asked the school’s name and the principal told him. Then he said, “ah, but IS it, though?” and she said, yes, that was the official name an then he asked, “so what IS the official name?” She had to tell him about three times before he’d accept that yes, the principal DID know the name of the school.

      People are odd.

    2. Dana Whittaker*

      My mom is Kathy. That is what is on her birth certificate. She has had the same battle her entire life.

  41. L-squared*

    #1. I’m not a big guy by any means (slightly taller than average), but I’ve definitely had something like this happen, and let me say, it sucks. Without going into full details, I once got into an argument with a coworker in plain sight of the rest of our colleagues. We were both wrong, I fully acknowledge that. She raised her voice. I slightly raised mine as well. As soon as I did though, she essentially ran to our grand boss (boss wasn’t there) and said she felt “intimidated”. Luckily, most of my other team saw it, (mostly all women as well) and they basically backed me and said we both raised our voice and if anything, both of us were at fault. But sometimes just being a guy you get looked at differently for the same behavior. I can only imagine what a 6’5 guy would get. So this is all to say, I would not at all be surprised if he was getting reported for things that would have just been brushed off if it was a woman or smaller man doing. It’s not at all fair, but its something he’ll have to be aware of.

  42. Kiki is the Most*


    I. DID. THIS!
    and it is soooo worth it. I wanted some time off (I didn’t define how long exactly) to focus on me and what I want which also included travel, hobbies, health and just enjoying life. Most colleagues (my boss included thankfully), and friends were incredibly supportive and hyped. Here are some of my responses to those not-so-hyped about my decision (like it was any of their business):

    When I resigned: “I need to take some time to reevaluate my priorities, which include my health and travel”

    To those incredulous that I quit: “I’m stepping away from Creating Teapots for now. Who knows?I may return to this industry or see what else pops up this year!”

    To those doubting I can afford this: “I can see your concern but I am adult and I actually have a plan”

    To those who think that taking time off will kill my chances of getting another job: “I’m pretty confident that I’ll manage just fine–I’m not discouraged with this type of challenge.”

    To OP4…take this opportunity. Wishing you a most fabulous work reprieve.

    1. M2*

      I did this too but I had a network and potential jobs lined up when I returned. I also researched, saved and made and stuck to a budget to travel for a year. I did this again for a 2 -3 month periods between jobs. I did some consulting / freelance on the side when traveling to add to my resume but that isn’t for everyone.

      With a potential (bigger) recession looming I would work on your network before you leave and have some back ups if needed (freelance, make sure you have a good reference when you leave this job). People think because it has been easy to get jobs the last couple years it will be the same in a year from now. That may not be the case so just be prepared.

      Make sure you have enough saved for after your travel and at least 6 months of savings and health insurance payments (this is after you have your budget and money set aside for travel or time off). Honestly, I would have at least 9 months- 12 months saved (after your travel and insurance budget), but that is up to you.

      Also, budget now for traveling or whatever you want to do and stick to that budget. Do research so you aren’t way off with costs. With inflation things will continue to get more expensive (so keep that in mind) and if you plan to travel look into flights, trains, buses, etc now. Many other countries have deals on travel if you book at off times. If you travel overseas look into travel insurance as well.

      A friend had a medical issue in another country (she lives in a country that has National insurance ) and didn’t have international medical insurance… it was a big deal and her parents had to fly there and cash out savings to pay her bills. They wouldn’t let her leave otherwise. There are many options for international health insurance and costs so do some research.

      Have fun but be prepared before you go so you can enjoy your time off and you are more prepared if you come back and can’t get employment right away.

      Seriously though save and budget! No $5 lattes! That $5 can pay for a hostel or a week of meals in many places.

      Enjoy your time off!

  43. Sylvan*

    OP1: I think you should look at how your son acts towards young women instead of his size.

    Frankly, he’s just not that big. Also, I know men of his size and taller who don’t get this kind of feedback: my boss, a coworker, a different coworker, my dad, my grandfather… I’m a tall, large woman and I’ve also never received criticism like this at work. People aren’t really scared of big people unless there’s something unusual and intimidating about our behavior.

    1. Corporate Lady*

      Yeah, I agree with this. I’m a 5ft 3 woman and have worked around a lot of tall and big men. There is a difference between the behavior of men who are intimidating/inappropriate and just being big. And you’re right to say he just ain’t that big.

      Also, this wasn’t a one time thing, multiple times he had to be told his behavior was making other uncomfortable. We all know from reading this column what lengths people will go to in order to keep from confronting problems with another employee.I’m actually shocked at how many comments are coming to his defense.

      How many times should someone be written up for being reported for intimidating behavior to a colleague before they are fired? And do we really think it’s purely size after multiple instances and the fact he was clearly managed out through multiple disciplinary offenses for the behavior.

      1. mcd*

        Also a 5’3 woman and the only time I have been intimidated by any person of considerable size is the one coworker in high school who followed me around asking me for a date, left me presents, and co-opted our manager into cajoling me to accept his offer to go on a date when we were the only three in the store. Had nothing to do with his size.

  44. SJ (they/them)*

    Re #1 all I think I can say here is there isn’t enough information to go on. There are so many complicating factors that could be in play – race & class context, what “socially awkward young man” means exactly, the fact that we’re getting the story through the mom, whether the son generally reads as “tall and muscular” or whether fatphobia could be in play, and probably more I’m not thinking of.

    Wishing peace, healing & growth for all involved.

    1. SJ (they/them)*

      Oh, wait, I do have one thing – “seek some outside guidance with appropriate work behaviors, regardless of the validity of their complaints” sounds like an EXCELLENT plan. A+ decision there, OP. I hope your son follows through on this!

  45. Jack Straw from Wichita*

    I want to go ahead and request that we get an update in December from LW #2 on how things go with Bob the Crappy Trainer and his ridiculous misnaming.

  46. Alice*

    Hi OP2, I get that this is annoying, but from the outside perspective — if I were another trainee and I noticed you using a tit-for-tat strategy, I would think that the trainer is forgetful and you are unprofessional. And because I haven’t been paying attention to the backstory and your rising frustration levels, I might think “yikes, I wonder what they will say to me if I make an innocent mistake.” You know that this is a pattern but the bystanders probably haven’t noticed.

    OTOH, if you said to the trainer, even in front of other people, “I’ve already asked you to use my name, Alex, and I hope you will call me Alex from now on – not anything else” then I would think you have strong feelings about your name but you communicate clearly. And if the trainer kept calling you Alexandra after that, I’d think he was rude.

    And DEFINITELY don’t try the “well I’ll turn your name into a feminine diminutive” approach!

    1. Workerbee*

      I would hope I’d be paying enough attention to others in my class to have picked up on the trainer constantly mis-naming another trainee. Even if not, if I heard a trainee say (seemingly out of the blue to me), “I’ve already asked you…” I would think, “Good for you!” not “They have strong feelings about their name.” Names _are_ important. We identify everything around us, on us, in us, by a name. And when you get the wrong one sticking to you, it’s hard to shake it off.

      And I’d wonder what else the trainer is getting wrong, tbh.

      1. Alice*

        Did OP say it’s a small group? Or a group of people who are going to be working together long-term? Because if those two things aren’t the case, then no, I’m not going to be paying a lot of attention.

  47. Payne's Grey*

    (I’m trying again because I accidentally posted this as a reply to someone!)

    I’m struggling a little with the comments on #1 because – well, we just don’t have enough information to say what’s going on. We have what the guy’s mother told us about what he told her, which is so unlikely to be the whole picture. All we’re really doing is mapping the bare bones of a story onto our own experience, which obviously leads off in a hundred different directions.

    My personal experience says it’s more likely he’s doing stuff that no one should do – looming over his trainees from way too close, or hitting on them, or getting angry – AND he’s getting less leeway for that because of his size, which is why size keeps coming up between him and HR (and I don’t think anyone should get leeway for any of that, but sometimes people do). But I don’t know. None of us do.

  48. Jack Straw from Wichita*

    Crouching/kneeling next to a student’s desk, having a chair for them to sit next to you at your desk, etc., so there is no visible, physical power imbalance is something you learn quickly as a teacher.

    I’m 5’1″ and taught teenagers who towered over me, and I did those things. It has nothing to do with a person’s actual height, it’s just a good practice in general.

    1. The Trainer!*

      It also causes much mirth as you try and stand up again with aching knees and loud groaning noises. I’ve started using a 5 wheeled chair and “rowing” it over to people

  49. Sunflower*

    #2. If Allison’s suggestions don’t work, don’t answer when he calls. Tell him you thought he was taking to someone else since you didn’t hear your name.

    I’m not one to run to HR for everything, but I would in this case as a last resort. It seems hostile instead of clueless since you remind him of your real name several times per DAY.

  50. Llellayena*

    LW1: I’m wondering if there’s some internalized bias in the complaints that got him fired? I’ve got a friend who was fired from his job (collecting carts at a store) for customer complaints that he was “intimidating” and “yelling at them.” He was calling across the parking lot for them not to push the carts into the other cars (as in “please don’t do that, I’ll get it”). The more likely reason though: he’s not particularly large but he looks pretty solid, he’s got a rough semi-deep voice, a minor stutter that makes words kind of explode from his mouth rather than calmly talking (and makes him a little difficult to understand), he’s a bit physically anxious (quick and somewhat jerky in movement)…and he’s black.

    1. Yellow+Flotsam*

      I have to be honest your description sounds problematic.

      He’s yelling at people (calling loudly is pretty much yelling), what he’s yelling isn’t likely clear to them, and has jerky movement as well.

      That doesn’t sound reassuring. He might not be able to help the stutter or jerky movement – but he can help the yelling. If he’d been told that the yelling was a problem he needed to stop calling out to customers – especially knowing that they may struggle to understand what he is saying.

      Hopefully he received coaching rather than being dismissed from one complaint – but if they coached him after the early complaints and he continued to call out and they continued to get complaints – then I get why they let him go.

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

        If you need to call across a parking lot to get someone’s attention what to you suggest he do? It sound’s like he was trying to do his job.

      2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        People don’t like being reminded that they’re doing something rude. Someone who is shrugging off their cart rolling into a stranger’s car is going to get pissed at the person who tells them not to do that. And if the person is a retail employee, the angry person will often complain to that person’s manager, and will usually exaggerate. “I was waiting here for 20 minutes!” (it was 3 minutes). “He yelled at me three times and called me names!” (it was once, and included the word “please”, and from 30 feet away)

  51. yala*

    LW2, honestly, much as I love a good nose tweaking, I’d favor the direct approach.

    It’s just so WEIRD that you’ve repeatedly corrected him on this. It’s not like he’s mispronouncing it, or slipping up and calling you a diminutive when you prefer your full name (still unacceptable, but it can also be a slightly harder habit to correct). He’s just repeatedly ignoring you telling him what your name is, and what you want to be called.

    Payback would be fun and all, but I think just straight up naming the behavior and asking what gives might produce better (and quicker) results, and would give him less of a leg to stand on if the behavior continues.

    “Hey, can you stop calling me Samantha? My name is Sam.”
    “Can I ask why you keep calling me Samantha? That’s not my name.”

  52. Hiring Mgr*

    I know you’re supposed to take LWs at their word, but #1 is second/third hand so it’s hard to believe that the son was disciplined multiple times for no real reason. Hopefully he’ll accept what happened and learn from it. On the other hand if he really did nothing at all, good thing he’s out of there

    1. CharlieBrown*

      I don’t find anything hard to believe any more. I’ve seen so many companies where things were mis-managed, or they simply chose to manage around the problem, just because they are afraid of having to have the conversation.

    2. Lacey*

      I think what makes it hard to believe is that this is his mom and of course he doesn’t want to tell her what happened and of course she doesn’t want to believe he did anything.
      And this also happens to be a situation we’ve all seen play out from the other side. Overly aggressive/familiar guy get’s told to stop, pretends not to understand the problem, continues, is fired.

      But, I’ve certainly seen that kind of bad management. Once I was told that several coworkers didn’t like how I’d executed my part of a project. I asked for specifics and my boss said he couldn’t provide those because the people didn’t want to be identified, I just needed to do better! Ok, I’ll get right on that!

    3. Lilo*

      And I thibk a lot of women are so, so used to the “he’s just socially awkward” excuse for creepy behavior.

  53. Erin*

    #2 as an Erin, I’ve experienced this many, many times by being referred to as “Aaron”. It doesn’t bother me, and I actually LOL at some of the creative spellings I’ve gotten for such common names – both Erin and Aaron.

    I do like to have a little fun with it by signing off in email with -Still Erin, or -Just Erin or -Erin not Aaron, and a few attentive people have picked up on this. The people who notice always respond kindly, and it has never negatively affected me.

    With people that I can/want be pretty casual with, Sending the Key & Peele “Substitute Teacher” sketch usually clears it up as well, and it serves as a relationship builder between us.

    If you feel like you can/want to engage with Bob beyond new hire/trainer relationship, I say have some fun with it. Respond to “Alexandra” with “Welp. Bob, I’m still Alex, but, sure here’s that XYZ you requested”.

  54. AcadLibrarian*

    #2. ARGH! This has been my life. So annoying. I try to explain it to people like this – whatever you introduce yourself as is what you want to be called. So if you’re a Robert that goes by Bob and that’s how you sign your emails, it is RUDE for someone to reply “Hi Robert.”
    And that’s when you get into issues like this where it might not be someone’s name, like my situation – I’m female, my name is Jessie, not Jessica. As I say to people, “nope, just Jessie, on my birth certificate and everything.” My poor mother says if she had known how popular Jessica was going to be in the 80’s, she would have named me something else.

    Names are important!

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      If you don’t mind a difference in the spelling, you could blow their minds and say “Just like the opera singer, Jessye Norman”. Who by the way is great, I have at least one of her CD’s.

  55. Yellow+Flotsam*

    LW1 your son is being given information about the problem. Women find him intimidating. His size could easily be part of that, and it is true that the same actions in someone 100 pounds and 4’6 might not feel intimidating, but it is unlikely to just be that he is tall/large.

    It may be that management/HR in their multiple discussions about these problems is highlighting to your son that he needs to be aware of his size in his interactions. It may be that HR and management are giving more information than your son is relating (it is possible your son doesn’t understand it all so is not deliberately misconstruing things) – and this is just a small part. But if multiple women are contacting management/HR then it is worth seriously considering that your son is behaving in some way that makes people really uncomfortable and maybe even scared. (Important to acknowledge that it could just be size – but I think a lot more thought is needed before concluding that)

    What he says, how he interacts with colleagues and how he stands in a space all impact whether people feel uncomfortable. He can’t help his size, but he can look at whether he stands over people (especially while disagreeing or giving instructions), whether he blocks their exits, whether he pushes up against people, what physical contact does he have with others etc. Staring and silent responses can also be intimidating.

  56. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    #5 is concerning. That boss is claiming LW as current staff, in public. This is inaccurate (not a good look for an academic in the sciences) and could lead to impacts on LW’s professional reputation.

    I would not be satisfied with just a mealy mouthed “please take my name off the staff list” — I would want a formal letter on someone else’s letterhead (whether the current employer, a lawyer, or the current employer’s lawyer”) stating simply that it has come to LW’s understanding that these situations are happening, and that it needs to stop as of this date, and any incorrect attribution of LW’s participation in any current research or activities needs to be corrected.

    No specific threat or ultimatum required, just the letterhead from an official body should do the trick — and it provides a handy piece of proof if the fix doesn’t happen.

  57. Generic+Name*

    OP1: It’s clear that you love your son very much. I have a socially awkward teenage son, and my husband and I have been explaining very explicitly standards of polite behavior to him. He is actually very receptive to it. We are teaching him about consent, how to approach a girl he likes without making her feel uncomfortable, etc. Not everyone naturally picks up on this stuff. I have no way of knowing if your son intentionally glossed over what went on at his workplace, or if he is genuinely baffled. If you sense that he’s genuinely baffled, it would be a kindness to him to explain things like, “how not to unintentionally be intimidating” and have discussions around body language. There are social skills groups for young adults and therapists who focus on social skills that might be helpful for him too. Being socially awkward is an explanation, not an excuse. Most socially awkward people I know are well-intentioned, and will correct something if it’s pointed out to them.

  58. Butterfly Counter*

    LW 3:

    Just wanted to say Thank You! for making your nursing equipment available to others. I was at a yard sale this summer where a customer cried with joy at nursing equipment being available second hand (and therefore cheaper). Her daughter, though happy to be pregnant, was struggling financially and, from this reaction, the donated nursing supplies was an absolute boon and took a LOT off of her mind in terms of preparing for the new baby.

  59. Save Bandit*

    Oh LW #2, I feel you on this. I had a boss in my first job out of college, and he was overall just a big, big donkey butt. One of his favorite things to do was walk down the very long hallway of our office to my desk in the reception area, calling my full first name in sing-song. Literally NO ONE except extremely close family calls me by my full first name, and even then almost never. I have a visceral reaction to being called by that name as it indicates I’m either in trouble (thanks mom) or that the person speaking to me has a deeply personal relationship with me. My boss was just like your trainer, with an extremely common diminutive nickname for a full name. After a handful of times putting up with it, the next time he did it I sing-songed back, “Rooooobeeerrrrrt” (not his name) and he legit got mad. I responded, “You just did the same thing to me.” He was still mad because he was a donkey butt, but I think I made my point.

  60. Sleepy*

    #5. In addition to the conversation/email with the ex-boss and looping in others around her, I would make sure it is clear on linked in and everywhere you can that you left your previous job with no continued connection and are at x university now. Would x university be willing to post about your hire or work there? Create some posts that can be shared around about your new work?

  61. Sir Nose d'Voidoffunk*

    Regarding #2, obviously it’s a completely different situation with different stakes, but my son (John on his birth certificate) had a running gag with one of his Little League teammates (Wil on his birth certificate) where they called each other Jonathan and William, and it was hilarious. I was even “Jonathan’s dad” for a while, until I made the mistake of wearing a David DeJesus shirsey to practice one day and henceforth became “Da Jesus” the rest of the season.

  62. Alex (they/them)*

    LW2- lol my legal name actually is Alexandra! I’ve always gone by Alex but I’ve had issues in the past with people insisting on calling me Alexandra or even Alexandria. I do think a lot of it is based in Alex being more “masculine”.

  63. Badnambit*

    “The idea here is to either embarrass him…”

    What? You actively WANT to embarass a coworker? I think intentionally embarassing anyone is horrible advice. Just tell the guy it isn’t your name and move on.

    1. Sleepy*

      LW has. Several times. Multiple times in one day. He continues to do it. It’s LW’s name and they deserve to be called by their name, not by their co-worker’s preferred name for them.

      1. Badnambit*

        What’s the golden rule? Treat others the way you want to be treated? I just don’t think it is worth being mean. AND I am a Cathy…not a Catherine. I’ve been called Catherine so many times I can’t count. I would never intentionally embarrass someone.

    2. Kevin Sours*

      Something loudly highlighting someone’s embarrassing behavior instead of minimizing it is the only way to get them to stop it.

    3. Hydrangea*

      Yeah, embarrassing him is most likely to result in a defensive reaction. I was surprised to see that as advice.

    4. JustaTech*

      There’s also a difference between privately embarrassing the trainer (by pointing out the mis-naming in a private conversation) vs doing it in a public confrontation.

      I have had coworkers point out something I’d done that was very embarrassing, but they did it privately so I was able to focus on correcting rather than worrying about what everyone else thought of me.

  64. tamagotchi 2.0*

    #2 – I’ve been called the wrong name a fair amount (in my case a nickname I really hate) & the strategy I’ve found the most helpful for dealing with people who refuse to be corrected normally is act like you aren’t aware that name is being used