How Do I Get People To Stop Calling Me Sweetie!!!?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about affection names:

I am wondering how I should handle people in the workplace who address me with “endearing” nicknames. I am 27 and work as a payroll officer at a large company with mostly older women. Most of them neglect to call me by name and use “sweetie” or “darl” instead, even though I have larger job responsibilities and better qualifications than they do. I find this patronizing and irritating. It is hard to get taken seriously when colleagues talk down to me like this, so I am wondering what is the most civilized way to get them to stop.

Signed, Want Respect

Dear Want Respect:

Since you work in a large company, it is likely that policy and practice regarding address are already established, regardless of rank. Check your policy book and consult with Human Resources about this. But even if you have no established protocol for address, you can “train” those with whom you work as to your preference. If those who addressed you ad “sweetie” were male, I’m sure you would call a halt to that immediately with a firm, “Please don’t call me “sweetie” or “darling’. My name is Anne, and I go by that name and only that name.”

Once a pattern of address is established changing that might take special effort, but it can be done. Probably to your older coworkers’ endearing terms of “sweetie” or “darl” came naturally, as it might be for you to say “Sir” to a senior executive. If it is normal to use first names (or last) in your workplace culture, you might politely explain to those who address you as “sweetie” about your strong preference to be addressed by your name. They will respect you for that, especially when you address them by their first names (or last) and say that you want to be respected just as are they.

You need not be shy about explaining that “honey” labels you as that and not as the professional you are. An easily read desk sign can assist in this. To be more specific you could type out a tent-like sign that says, “Please call me Anne” and if your co-workers find it difficult to change from “sweetie”, you could be more explicit with a sign that says, “In Case You Can’t Remember, My Name is Anne.” Another way to handle this is ask your superior to put Communicating as Professionals on the agenda of a coming staff meeting. She or he probably will ask what you have in mind and you can explain how coworkers address each other and managers address their associates is a subtopic of that larger topic.

Wise managers welcome talk about effective communication. They know clarification of what is expected and wanted is an on-going process.Talking about how we talk with one another is worthy of discussion, particularly for those who must interact frequently. Work groups need to feel comfortable about what is said, when, where, and how and to whom. Unspoken communication rules when spelled out make for greater efficiency and cooperation; for example, who makes assignments, gives instructions, how corrections are given, complaints are made and to whom.Undoubtedly, in your work area there are many taken for granted practices that are good, and some that could benefit from review. Apparently one topic that has not been addressed within your workplace is making talk about talk a habit, rather than an exception. That also is the unstated expectation of my signature advice: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

William Gorden