Is it appropriate to request a woman use her full name at work?
September 21, 2017 4:29 PM   Subscribe

A female friend of mine works for a large multinational organization. For sake of the argument, she has been called "Sam", short for Samantha, for 5 years at this organization. Recently the organization hired Samuel Smith, then told Samantha that from now on she'd be known as "Samantha" and the new hire would be "Sam" to "avoid confusion."

My friend is bent out of shape about this, but what avenues does she have? Her organization is head-over-heals about "diversity", but this was completely overlooked. Is this discriminatory? She doesn't want to go to HR, but she's interested in other's experiences.
posted by Farce_First to Work & Money (82 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Um, what? No, this is not normal or acceptable. In fact, from what's described here, it strikes me as sexist.
posted by Automocar at 4:34 PM on September 21, 2017 [76 favorites]


I would absolutely refuse to change the name I go by at work because an employer asked me to, for any reason. The fact that it's because of a new guy is extra insulting.

Fuck that. They can call her e.g. Sam Bee and call him Sam Spade if there's any confusion, just like they would if it was two dudes named Sam.

I don't know if any action is necessary, other than saying 'I prefer to be called Sam, thanks' whenever necessary. If some jackass refuses to call her by her preferred name, then some action may be called for.
posted by SaltySalticid at 4:35 PM on September 21, 2017 [55 favorites]


So, if there was a guy named Joseph who went by Joe, and they hired another guy named Joseph who preferred going by Joe, guy one would need to go by Joseph now? I'm curious how and who communicated this, as well.
posted by kellyblah at 4:35 PM on September 21, 2017 [18 favorites]


She's Sam. He's Samuel. The end.
posted by kevinbelt at 4:38 PM on September 21, 2017 [45 favorites]


Who is "they"? If this is a large multinational organization, surely they must employ more than two Sam____s and have had to deal with this before.
posted by btfreek at 4:38 PM on September 21, 2017 [4 favorites]


I have a pretty unusual (for the US) first name. I have always gone by that name, in school and at work, because it's my name and I happen to like it. I've had people mispronounce it on the regular, but I have never, in 30+ years of school/work/formal events, had someone try to rename me "to avoid confusion." I would be super bent out of shape if my company tried to do this, whether I was an established regular or a new hire.

For what it's worth, I recently worked in a division where we have 3 people named Matthew, all doing roughly the same job. They all went by Matt. There was no confusion, because we were all adults and knew how to contextualize. Sometimes we used last names if we really had to be clear on who was doing what, but we never told Matt #3 that his company name was Dave.

Is it discriminatory? Probably not, but it's jerkish. I don't know if your friend has any avenues for pushing back on this, except to say over and over "My name is not Sam, it's Samantha."
posted by basalganglia at 4:39 PM on September 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


What? No. People should be called what they choose (as long as it's not offensive). It's easy to call them Sam Lastname, or Sam Lastname + Department; that's what I've always seen when there are several Jennifers or Jasons or whatever at work. "Do you want to speak to Sam Spade or Sam Tarly?" Easy-peasy.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 4:41 PM on September 21, 2017 [7 favorites]


"You have to start using a different form of your name because we hired someone who also uses your preferred one" is jerky and disrespectful, but not necessarily discriminatory in and of itself. (In isolation—it might be, as part of a pattern.)

"You and the new guy both prefer 'Sam,' and we don't want two Sams, so you have to be 'Samantha'" does sound discriminatory because, obviously, why can't he be Samuel?

It might be something else. Like maybe Samuel got hired as the CEO, so he gets "Sam" because he's the boss, even though he is the new guy. But barring context like that, it sure sounds fishy. (And even with context like that it sounds jerky. Do they seriously not have any name overlap there? Aren't they running out of variants on "John"?)
posted by No-sword at 4:42 PM on September 21, 2017 [3 favorites]


Yeah, we once had two teachers named Jane and one was known as 'Grade 1 Jane' and the other as 'Library Jane.' They also at one point had four teachers named Michelle. This happens all the time. They can't tell her to go by a different name.
posted by ficbot at 4:43 PM on September 21, 2017 [7 favorites]


It's ridiculous that this organization can't deal with having two Sams and it's offensive to expect her to be the one to change her name.
posted by henuani at 4:43 PM on September 21, 2017 [5 favorites]


That is not right. At work I am Kim R. The other Kim is Kim S. I started first and when they hired her they didn't tell me I had to go by Kimberly. Her name is Sam and that's what she should continue to use.
posted by kimberussell at 4:46 PM on September 21, 2017 [3 favorites]


Literally every kindergarten ever is capable of managing two humans with the same (nick) name. This is bullshit.
posted by lalex at 4:48 PM on September 21, 2017 [69 favorites]


It's ridiculous. I ran into this issue with a new hire who has a sort of "persona" name, and we were able to acommodate that, even to using his email address and so forth.

Here's an Ask a Manager column about a similar issue.

I can't imagine any reason other than sexism to ask her, an existing employee, to change her name to accommodate a new, male employee. What if another female named "Sam" had been hired? What would the solution have been then?

I'd push back - including going to HR if she has to. Given increasing gender fluidity, I'm expecting workplace names/IDs to become more of a legal issue in the coming years than it is now.
posted by Miko at 4:48 PM on September 21, 2017 [5 favorites]


I'm Kate except when the other Kate is on the convo and then we are Kate S and Kate D. There are also two Eds in close proximity so people use last names. It's not THAT hard.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:51 PM on September 21, 2017 [4 favorites]


is this, like, her idiot supervisor saying "I'm gonna call you Samantha and him Sam cause I'm a ding dong who can't keep two people with the same name straight" or is this upper management telling her she's gonna have to change her letterhead and email address to reflect her new designated appellation?

it's ridiculous either way but it seems like one is more of a firmly-correct-on-preferred-usage-as-needed situation and the other is a go-directly-to-HR situation
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:54 PM on September 21, 2017 [6 favorites]


Your friend is absolutely justified in being bent out of shape. The only way this would be in any way mildly acceptable would be if they made the new hire call himself Samuel and your friend Samantha. But, they did not say that.

What avenue's does she have to address this? It is not clear who made this pronouncement, but she should tell that person, no, call me "Sam".

If I were a colleague of Sam's and someone other than her told me to start calling her something else, I would nod my head then ask Sam what she preferred and use that. I doubt Sam's group will even easily be able to change what they call her. When someone legally changes their name, it is hard enough to change what you call them on instant notice. Sam should tell all her workmates to please call her Sam.

I have a female friend that goes by Mikey, short for Michaela. She works with two other guys named Michael. One of them goes by Mikey too. (The other prefers Michael.) Never has it been an issue according to her.

This sounds like someone is covering for someone else's stupidity or the new hire pitched a fit before he even started which will ultimately not end well.
posted by AugustWest at 4:55 PM on September 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


I was going to link the same Ask A Manager column that Miko linked above. The organization is being ridiculous and inappropriate. Your friend could start by saying something like "Actually, I prefer to go by Sam - or of course you can use Sam Lastname or Sam L. if needed."

The last office I worked at had around 50 employees. Three of them were named Michelle, and it was not a problem. We called them all Michelle or if needed we used last names / last initials / positions ("Michelle the manager" / "Michelle in accounting") to distinguish.
posted by insectosaurus at 4:59 PM on September 21, 2017


This is stupid and your friend is right to be annoyed.

I used to work somewhere where an executive named "Dave" had three other Daves reporting into him. Often in email chains, all four Daves would be involved. And they all went by Dave. Eliminating confusion was easy - referring to last names or initials, e.g., "Hey, Dave A., Dave B. mentioned that you had report X ready. Could you send me a copy when you have a minute? Dave C., I'll let you know when I've had a chance to review and come back with a recommendation," etc.

Dave party!

Easy to manage, though, if everyone is just being reasonable. And your friend sounds totally reasonable in her annoyance.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 5:00 PM on September 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


If the organization is large enough, they presumably have multiple people named John or Jeff or Lisa. How do they deal with these first name ambiguities now? Also, what does it mean that “the organization” requested she switch to Samantha? Does that mean her boss? HR? Her jerky teammate who has no authority over her?

I’d recommend that she continue self-identifying as Sam unless/until the situation actually threatens her job. In which case she is clearly working for insane people and should probably go on the job hunt anyway.
posted by theorique at 5:01 PM on September 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


I once worked at a boatyard with less than ten employees, two of whom were Gabe and three of whom were John. We had Old John, Young John, and Big John. There was no need to differentiate between Gabes because we were both just human clamps and general sweepers of sawdust, so if someone shouted for a Gabe it didn't matter which one turned up.

Anyway, people get to have their preferred name, end of story. Telling someone that their name is no longer their name is incredibly rude. She should push back on this. Someone is being an asshole for no reason.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:13 PM on September 21, 2017 [13 favorites]


even if this wasn't completely stupid of the company, AND IT IS, i would say that if they wanted to push it, she has senority. she's sam. he's samuel. if they wanna get shirty about it.
posted by koroshiya at 5:19 PM on September 21, 2017 [3 favorites]


I would be absolutely pissed. They've chosen her to change her name because they've decided she's the most likely to capitulate without a fuss. I would confront them on this. Better still, tell this person you've got a new name that you expect him to respond to and that everyone will now be calling him; Rude Misogynist Pig.
posted by Jubey at 5:20 PM on September 21, 2017 [4 favorites]


Protocol in business is that the original employee gets name-of-choice, possibly including email name; new hires with same/similar names get variations.

She may be sam@companyname.com; the new guy can be samuel@, or sam2@, or whatever. Asking her to switch to samantha@companyname is just asking for no end of confusion with clients.

Asking her to stop using her name because there's someone else nearby with the same name? Beyond stupid. Well into rude. And very likely sexist, as they apparently aren't telling him to "go by Samuel, because we already have a Sam."

She shouldtalk to HR - not specifically about sexism unless New Sam has such a similar job that she can say they're privileging a dude instead of privileging a higher-ranked employee - but about "my manager wants me to stop using my name at work." Mention that it's both an unreasonable request and one that will impact her performance - she doesn't answer to "Sam" normally; she won't notice it, and people are likely to be annoyed when she ignores them because she didn't catch them talking to her.

Demanding that she and everyone else use multiple syllables instead of one, so that some guy doesn't have to share his name with a woman, doesn't bode well for their business decision-making skills.

... Do they not have two Daves or Mikes in the company? Multiple Jennifers? Or is one of them Jen, another Jennifer, and someone else is forced to be Jenny? (What do they do about all the Chrises? One Chris, one Christopher, one Christian, one Christine, one Christina, one Chrissy, one Christy?)

If New Guy doesn't want to go by Samuel, he can go by Sammy (or whatever the equivalent is for the actual names in question.)
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 5:22 PM on September 21, 2017 [6 favorites]


We have 17 Daves at my company, and 15 Steves... two of whom have the exact same last name. I think your friend's company ought to be able to handle two measly Sams.

I once walked up a row of cubes, greeting people standing in the aisle as I went:

"Dave"...
"Dave"...
"Dave" and the third guy laughingly pointed to another guy sitting in his cube and said "and Dave!"

I don't know if Sam has any recourse, but her employer is being shitty and ridiculous, and it sure reeks of sexism. If they must be differentiated the seniority person should have priority.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:27 PM on September 21, 2017 [10 favorites]


At one point, we had three Rachels in our DC office, and two of them worked on the same team. We have two Ashleys in the California office, a couple of Davids, two Philips, and there are probably more I'm not thinking of. And we're not a huge multinational - there's maybe 130 or so? and we manage all of this just fine.

Your friend's organization is way out of line with this.
posted by rtha at 5:28 PM on September 21, 2017


Ignore it. Literally no one will remember to call her Samantha after 5 years of calling her Sam. She should continue to use Sam and ignore this entirely, just like everyone else eill.
posted by jbenben at 5:35 PM on September 21, 2017 [13 favorites]


This is ridiculous. Have these people never met two people with the same name before?

"No. My name is Sam. I also have a surname, if that helps avoid confusion."
posted by Sys Rq at 5:38 PM on September 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


Can she cue up the song "27 Jennifer's" to play every time this comes up? That would be less rude than what her workplace is suggesting.

HR exists to protect the company, so se should not necessarily expect any recourse or protection from them. She should absolutely keep expecting to be called Sam.

And she should polish her resume and gtfo.
posted by bilabial at 5:39 PM on September 21, 2017


My former office had two people with the exact same first and last names in the same department and we were able to function without asking anyone to change their name. This is a non-problem.
posted by subluxor at 5:40 PM on September 21, 2017 [7 favorites]


This is outrageous, but it's hard to say what she should do without knowing who the directive is from and how formal it is. In general though, I think she should just say no, that's not going to happen. As many have pointed out, many if not most workplaces handle this situation without asking employees to change their names.

HR does exist to protect the company, but asking a female employee with seniority to change her name in favor of a new male employee is not good for the company. Unless there's something the OP hasn't mentioned, this seems like obvious sexism.
posted by FencingGal at 5:44 PM on September 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


Out of line. I was Yankees Kelly when I worked with Red Sox Kelly.
posted by oflinkey at 5:54 PM on September 21, 2017 [7 favorites]


Oh no, fuck that noise.

She should absolutely insist that she be called Sam and just stridently move forward.
posted by Hermione Granger at 6:04 PM on September 21, 2017 [3 favorites]


I'm the manager of 3 Sams. Never in a million years would it have occurred to me to force anyone to call any one of them Samantha or Samuel. They're just Stone, Wilco, and Lum*.

(*Not real last names for internet purposes)
posted by functionequalsform at 6:22 PM on September 21, 2017 [2 favorites]


She's a human being and she gets to choose what she's called. This happened to me. I go by a variant of my middle name, and the company that took over my company tried to make me use my first name for reasons that I didn't care enough about to inquire upon. I simply insisted that my name was what my name was, and additionally, my clients called me that name, and that I was not changing my professional name. They backed down and I was able to use the correct name.

She's justified in being bent out of shape and she's justified in insisting that she is called by the name she prefers.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:24 PM on September 21, 2017 [9 favorites]


so there is a jim, another jim shows up and the first jim has to change his name? no I don't think so
posted by patnok at 6:35 PM on September 21, 2017 [2 favorites]


I work with 4 Stephens in a 20 person department. Somehow we persevere.
posted by joycehealy at 6:35 PM on September 21, 2017 [2 favorites]


The only scenario I've heard of where this was even halfway reasonable was a job where people apparently needed to shout instructions at each other all day long and it was important not to have the wrong person or multiple people obey. But they always renamed the new guy.

In Sam's shoes, I would continue to introduce myself by my preferred name, and briefly correct people, the same as with any other case of mistaken address.
posted by d. z. wang at 6:51 PM on September 21, 2017 [3 favorites]


How the fuck do they cope when two people have the same unisex name and neither can be shortened?

'Could you give this to Jordan?'
'OMG WHICH ONE IF ONLY HR WAS HERE TO SAVE US'
posted by obiwanwasabi at 6:51 PM on September 21, 2017 [3 favorites]


We have two people in a small department (less than 20 people) with the same first and last names. It's fine, the newer one is Bob (middle initial).

Plus, everywhere I've worked there have been a million Daves. They all seem to cope fine.

But some people are weirdly disrespectful about names. My little sister is "Kath" and her teacher insisted on calling her "Katherine", despite that not being her name. It drove her crazy. She was "Kath" on her birth certificate, full stop.

Bad enough if she was actually legally Katherine but chose to use Kath at school but it wasn't even her name! The teacher just wanted to use a longer "you're in trouble, young lady" name.
posted by kitten magic at 6:52 PM on September 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


Wait, what? I worked with four Marks in my department at one point. Context clues and last names work just fine....
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 6:53 PM on September 21, 2017


She could volunteer to go by "Sam 1" or "Big Sam" or, you know, "Sam [lastname]" or "programmer Sam". I mean, we have second names for a reason.

Or she could be "Sam" and the new guy could be "New Sam".
posted by amtho at 6:57 PM on September 21, 2017


No, this is a ridiculous expectation from her employer. The way an organisation with common sense would deal with this is by calling them both Sam Surnameinitial. If their surnames start with the same initial, then add the middle name initial as well.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:05 PM on September 21, 2017


What? Oh hell no. She was there first - she's Sam, he's Samuel or Sam A. or whatever.
posted by jrobin276 at 7:14 PM on September 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


Not acceptable; I don't think I've ever seen this happen so it's not even usual either. Closest acceptable thing is if they have some crappy employee database system where 2 people can't have the same name--e.g. at my work, each employee in a department must have a unique name and initials which are used to sign documents and keep data integrity, which leads to same-namers incorporating their middle names, nicknames, full names and such. But I mean, that's just for papers, and has nothing to do with face-to-face communication where you absolutely can have multiple Sams. Even in that circumstance, the senior employee gets dibs over the new employee, so, your friend's case is just sexist and wrong.
posted by picklenickle at 7:24 PM on September 21, 2017


Any company too inflexible and uh, mentally feeble to deal with two people with the same name is a company that's going to fail. She should tell whatever "them" is suggesting the name change that. And then continue to tell people to call her Sam. What are they going to do, discipline people who call her Sam? They really want to look that ridiculous?
posted by ctmf at 7:24 PM on September 21, 2017


I worked in a law office where a large number of the partners were named "John." Not only did no one have a problem with it, but the running joke was to catch any number of them together in a conference room and call "John!" just to see how many heads turned.

I currently work in an office where we had a long-term employee named Robert. When we hired another Robert, the new one voluntarily asked to be called "Robbie." His roommate, who also works in another department close by, is named Tim, as is yet another co-worker. When Robbie talks about his roommate Tim, he always calls him "Roommate Tim." This is an office that also has multiple Justins and Jasons.

Obviously none of these examples touch on the difficulty Sam is having keeping her name, in an obviously sexist dick-move. Just examples of how adults are capable of handling multiple co-workers with the same first name.
posted by lhauser at 7:29 PM on September 21, 2017


I work at a cosmetology school and we currently have four Hannahs, three Taylors, several Emmas/Emilys, and it's fine. And new Hannahs and Taylors cycle in and out every couple months and it remains fine. And this is in a situation where we don't share the students' last names with guests for privacy reasons, and we still have very little trouble figuring out which of the four Hannahs a guest is asking to see.

Interestingly, salons are one industry where it is actually common for a stylist to take on a new "salon name" if there's already a stylist with their name when they are hired on at a new place to keep things very easy for the clients, and occasionally one of our students who gets hired on at a salon before they actually finish our program will switch to a new name at school to get used to it, so a Hannah might suddenly start using her middle name, or the name she wishes her parents had given her, a month or so before she graduates. But it's a convention that seems really specific to the salon industry and it's something everyone's aware of so it's not sprung upon them.

It is not something that I, who was born in the Age Of Jennifers, have ever encountered anywhere else in my life, at companies small and companies Fortune 50.
posted by padraigin at 8:15 PM on September 21, 2017


There's a dozen Scotts, half a dozen Johns, a ton of Jasons and Mikes and sooooo many Nicks at my job. Somehow, a comical misunderstanding is yet to occur. Nothing has to change. This is an utter non-issue.

Having said that, I recommend she introduces herself as"Sam with the Big Balls" from now on.
posted by halogen at 8:18 PM on September 21, 2017


"All my friends call me 'Sam'. I would love for you to be my friend."
posted by GPF at 8:33 PM on September 21, 2017 [2 favorites]


Nthing using the last initial to differentiate. My stepuncle Tony married a woman named Toni. In conversation he was Tony R and she was Toni H.
posted by brujita at 9:28 PM on September 21, 2017


I am a teacher and one year I had two kids in my class with the same first name and their last names both started with the same letter. There goes "Sam B" and Sam W". Somehow we made it through an entire school year without needing to change names.
posted by ruhroh at 9:44 PM on September 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


Idiotic and sexist. I would honestly just say "I prefer to go by Sam, thanks-- shouldn't be any harder than kindergarten!" Or something. Like do a 1:1 with your boss, or just reply that way when it's mentioned in group, or just completely ignore it and keep introducing yourself as Sam. If your org super cares maybe you can talk to someone who pushes for these things. But you can probably also just politely and firmly insist that your name is Sam.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:03 PM on September 21, 2017


Oh, Hells No!

Simply don't respond to Samantha. Forward all emails to Samantha to new Sam. When Boss John says "hey, Samanatha", say "Hey Jonathon".*

Someone: Hey, Samantha...
Sam: Nope.

Someone: Hi, Samantha...
Sam: Ding.

Someone: Samantha...
Sam: Try again.

*can be escalated to "hey there Johnnie, Johnster, John-john, Jack, ron-john, john jacob jingleheimer smith".
posted by at at 10:04 PM on September 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


We have a similar situation at work except they work together on a small team. So now we have Boy "Sam" and Girl "Sam*". Which I think is ludicrous because they are grown adults in serious jobs, but that's what they go by. They claim they are looking for another "sam" to hire to refer to as Other Sam but hopefully they won't be allowed.

They are really called Chris.
posted by fshgrl at 10:25 PM on September 21, 2017


This is so bizarre that I'm wondering if your colleague misread a bad joke as a declaration.

She should continue to introduce herself, sign all emails, and request being called by the name of her choice.
posted by samthemander at 11:43 PM on September 21, 2017


When I joined my company, there was Allan, Alan, Alam and Al. Mark sat next to Mark, and the two Davids sat with a Daniel. We called Daniel, Dave, so he didn't feel left out.
posted by thingonaspring at 1:01 AM on September 22, 2017 [4 favorites]


This is ridiculous. There are literally 4 Steves where I work. No-one said they had to be Steve and Stephen and Steven and Ste. They're all known by their surname initial - Steve A, Steve H, Steve W, or by their full name - Steve Alson, Steve Henson, etc.

The two Sams should be Sam Surname_initial.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:10 AM on September 22, 2017


I'm guessing your friend isn't actually called Sam. which would be a shame because this would be the perfect image for a T-shirt.

I've tried to think of any occasion where anyone, new hire or old hand, has been asked to change their name in a workplace I've known, and drawn a complete blank. Sometimes there have been a lot of people with a very common first name, sometimes there have been two people with the same very uncommon first name, sometimes nicknames have evolved based on initials or some other factor, but never has it been necessary or even remotely considered that somebody would be assigned an approved name.

It might make the basis for an office comedy (vide the Pythons' "Is your name not Bruce, then?"), but the idea has no more place in real life than any other of the ideas in that sketch...
posted by Devonian at 2:18 AM on September 22, 2017


I've worked in a small team that had 4 people with the same name and we negotiated nicknames to avoid confusion, but people got priority by time in the company, and it was all very informal, not Official Assigned Names which seems ridiculous.

I worked in another company which was large enough to have 3 people with my same lastname and firstname, but they didn't even discuss changing anything, we just used middle initials and accepted the occasional misaddressed email.
posted by curious_yellow at 3:32 AM on September 22, 2017


Another vote for complete nonsense. I work with two Mohammeds, both go more-or-less interchangeably by Mohammed & Mo. Mostly it's clear from context who someone is referring to and if not we use the surname or another indicator (tall Mohammed, reception Mohammed etc).

I think if they both picked a version of their name that they were happy with that would be fine and make life easy. It shouldn't be that difficult to accommodate them both using Sam but if the company insisted they both use the full version that's a bit OTT but fair. Otherwise as the longer-standing employee if anyone gets dibs it's her. (And if new Sam seriously outranks her and wants to pull rank on the issue I guess he can but its a dickish move IMO).
posted by *becca* at 3:35 AM on September 22, 2017


And agreed that unless new Sam is more senior (which I think you would have mentioned) then it does seem sexist she is the one asked to switch. It is the case in the UK (not sure how universal this is ) that you hardly ever meet a Samuel who uses the full name day-to-day whereas you do often meet Samanthas who routinely use the full name so that might be a contributing factor to the way they've handled it but IMO it should not be, they both get to decide what variation of their name they use regardless of how common it is.
posted by *becca* at 3:42 AM on September 22, 2017


If my brother's primary school teachers could cope with three boys with not just the same first name but the same last name, all of whom went by their unshortened first names, then this organisation can cope with two Sams.

If they cannot you are left with two options - either they are utterly useless, or utter arseholes.
posted by Vortisaur at 4:02 AM on September 22, 2017


Speaking as a woman who has a gender-ambiguous name, and who has worked in the same office as a man with the same name as me, fuck no this isn't okay.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 4:59 AM on September 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


This sounds more like a dumb manager then the organization itself?

At work, we get called what we want to be called. I've never seen this done differently.

The manager sounds like a legal liability. Depending on circumstances, I might pretend I never heard this and continue to introduce myself as Sam and sign my name as Sam and tell my coworkers verbally that despite suggestions to the contrary, my name is still my name with an air of 'Huh. Wacky!' because this is completely dumb.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:24 AM on September 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


I was in a class with two guys we called “hair Mike” and “hat Mike”. It’s not that difficult to distinguish two people in ways other than their names.
posted by bendy at 5:31 AM on September 22, 2017


"Mr. Sam (Man)" for the new hire is the only correct answer.

Every so often, have him bring drinks.
posted by Smart Dalek at 5:46 AM on September 22, 2017 [2 favorites]


Both the woman and the man get to decide what their names are. This reeks of an HR department without much to do and lacking actual problems..
posted by aerotive at 8:11 AM on September 22, 2017


Fuck, how do they handle Mikes?

This is absolutely sexist and she is absolutely right to be livid. If anything, they should have asked the new guy to go by his full name (which would be stupid in and of itself but whatever) but asking HER to accommodate HIM? Fuck no.
posted by lydhre at 8:31 AM on September 22, 2017 [1 favorite]




It's completely inappropriate to ask anyone (whether male, or female) to be known by a different name than their stated preference. At work, we have a bunch of people with the same names; and we have some fun with nomenclature. For instance, if one Mike is working in my group, he's "Mike", and the guy a few cubes over is "Other Mike." But it's also understood that the people who work with "my" "Other Mike" call him "Mike" and my "Mike" is their "Other Mike." They'll sometimes walk by each other and say in a menancing tone, "Other Mike." "Other Mike."

In email, it will always by Mike Fullname and Mike Lastname to avoid confusion. Sometimes Mike F. and Mike L. For the Mike who's on another floor, it's "Mike in Sales" since we might not necessarily know his last name.

There's no reason that functioning adults can't handle knowing who one is talking about based upon context and providing the appropriate details for the context.

So in your case, existing Sam is still Sam - anyone who calls her otherwise is an asshole. New Sam could be "New Sam", "Regular-size Sam", "Sam Lastname" or maybe even "Middlename" if that's what he wants. But it's completely unprofessional to ask someone to go by anything other than their preferred name, and I'd consider the request to be relatively hostile if it went at all beyond "Hey, since we have another Sam starting, do you want to keep being 'Sam' or do you want to take the opportunity to try a different name?"

From the way it sounds like Sam was asked, I (a guy) feel she is completely right to feel livid at being asked, much less being voluntold, to go by a new name.
posted by nobeagle at 9:12 AM on September 22, 2017 [4 favorites]


Something weird & local is going on here. There's probably about 10-20 people with every possible given name across the world working at this company already. She should just ignore this request & if it doesn't go away, escalate to her reporting chain. If she doesn't want to do that then she needs a new job.
posted by bleep at 10:54 AM on September 22, 2017


I worked in a lab where the only two grad students had my name. For some internet anonymity, say our names were Becky and Beckie but mine was short for Rebecca whereas the other was her given name, Beckie. So, 2 people, one advisor, both of us with the same name. It was a running joke about how our advisor only liked to work with people named Becky, but no, no one ever asked me to go by Rebecca to make things simpler. It was Becky and Beckie when written and Becky K and Beckie L when spoken.

On the other hand, in college, some people didn't like the nickname Becky for me so they chose to call me Rebecca instead, and then were in trouble when an actual Rebecca became part of our friend group later. I did not enjoy that the fix for that was Big Rebecca v Little Rebecca when they could have just called me the name I asked to be called, and now I was "big" on top of it.

If I were her, I'd continue to introduce myself as Sam, and ask folks to continue to call me Sam. Hopefully it will quickly become something everyone is used to. As evidenced in so many anecdotes above, it can be done.
posted by freezer cake at 11:01 AM on September 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


In the elementary school in Spain where I worked, we had Little Ángel (Ángelito) and Big Ángel (Ángelote), based on their heights. Neither of them liked their nicknames much, which was great because then we could make fun of them alllllllll the time.

When we were being serious, we called them both Ángel, or sometimes, "Ángel the 1st grade teacher" or "Ángel the head of studies". No one was ever confused.

Your friend's employer is being dumb, and yes, sexist.
posted by chainsofreedom at 11:05 AM on September 22, 2017


I had one (totally flighty) manager try to do this to me when I was first hired at a part-time job. "Oh, we already have one [name]. You'll have to go by something different."

"No," I replied. "[Name] will be fine. People will figure it out." I said it with finality and then ignored her attempts to continue the conversation.

As others have said, your friend's next steps depend on who just told her she's not allowed to use her name anymore.
posted by lazuli at 11:17 AM on September 22, 2017 [2 favorites]


Oh hells no. The more I think about this, the more annoyed I am. She's been Sam for 5 years. At a large-multi-national company. And they are telling her they've never had two people with the same name? I worked at a small company (>15 people), and two of our managers had the same first and last name. We figured it out.

She should strongly refuse any attempt to re-name her. If the manager insists that something needs to change, they can re-name the new guy. I really hope this isn't a male/female dominance issue, but it sounds like they're attempting to re-name her just because she's female. Ick!
posted by hydra77 at 11:39 AM on September 22, 2017 [2 favorites]


Super bizarre. I have a very common name that does not happen to have a nickname, so if there were two of my name in this company there would be no other name to go by. I've literally been in classes in school where there were FOUR other people with my name (it was the most common name the year I was born), and somehow we all still managed to muddle along without disaster.
posted by rainbowbrite at 11:41 AM on September 22, 2017


Please let us know the outcome. This is ridiculous and I wouldn't stand for it.
posted by agregoli at 12:01 PM on September 22, 2017


Ugh. This is absurd. My current work won't allow me to use my preferred name on my badge or email because they "don't allow nicknames". Which is funny, because my colleague Kathy has her name, and my colleague Tony not only has a nickname, it's not even his FIRST name, it's a nickname off of his middle name.

People are so freaking weird sometimes.
posted by dadici at 12:27 PM on September 22, 2017


I'm going to add to the pile-on that this is ridiculous. I used to work for a mid-sized corporation that had two employees with the exact same name (first AND last). One was a VP and one was an administrative assistant. Nobody asked the administrative assistant to go by another name. People figured out how to differentiate. Seriously.
posted by queensissy at 4:31 PM on September 22, 2017


No, that's not normal. We have two Andrews on our team, neither of them go by Andy, and we just add their last name if we need to disambiguate. No idea why that isn't the solution here.
posted by Aleyn at 9:54 PM on September 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: Thanks Everyone!

Some details - "Sam" works in a smaller group within the Multinational, but yes there are probably a few people with similar names so this really shouldn't be a new issue. She's decided to go back to her boss and say something to the effect of "I'm going to stick with Sam until it becomes an issue..."

Sam appreciates all the feedback - looks like this is pretty straightforwardly stupid.
posted by Farce_First at 7:45 AM on September 23, 2017 [4 favorites]


At my old job there was a Christopher, a Chris, and a "C" at one point. "C" had elected to go by that because wherever he went there were always Christopher's and Chris's. But that was his choice.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:44 PM on September 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


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