Coworkers Call Me By a Made-Up Name

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about disliked nickname:

My name is Bela but my coworkers call me “Below”. I have asked them not to call me that, but they still do. I don’t like being called “Below”! What can I do about it?

Signed, Angry and Frustrated

Dear Angry and Frustrated:

If you have asked your coworkers to call you by your name but they still continue to call you something else, ask your supervisor or manager to support you in getting your coworkers to call you by your real name, not an insulting made-up name. Ask your manager to discuss it in an employee meeting or to send an email or just to talk about it in person. Explain that having your coworkers call you something other than your real name makes you feel badly and makes you not want to work around them. Let your manager know that it is very important to you and to your work there and that you think the name they are calling you sounds very offensive. Make sure your manager understands that this isn’t a small matter to you. One thing to consider is to say honestly to your coworkers how you feel about being called by that name. Instead of acting angry, which they may think is not genuine, say the truth: “Lee and Sue, it hurts my feelings when you call me that. It really, really hurts my feelings and makes me feel as though you don’t want me working here or don’t like me. Is that why you do it?” Put them on the spot about it and see if they can be made to understand how mean and bullying their actions are. Maybe you can ask your manager to let you say that at an employee meeting, so that everyone knows how you feel.

If you work in the United States and there is a Human Resources section, talk to them about it and ask for their help. If you describe the actions of your coworkers as bullying, you can bet you will get the attention of HR people! I wish there was a sure way to get things to improve, but there isn’t. You know how far you are willing to go with this matter. It may be that as long as you work there the juvenile and mean coworkers will keep doing it. I hope not. But, if they do, you may have to limit any conversation with them to the most basic talk about work. Focus on friendships with people who treat you courteously. Maybe you can ask your closest friends at work to support you about this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know how all of it works out. Best wishes!

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.