The faceless ones

February 16, 2012

Reader: I have been working for a company for about a year, and most of the senior management calls me by the wrong name (e.g., Julie becomes Julia). It may seem like a small problem, but it makes me feel unimportant, and I do not like the name I am called. I wish I had spoken up the first time, but I was new and did not want to come across as rude. Is there any way I can politely correct the problem now, without looking foolish?

Karla (a.k.a. Kara, Karen and — blech — Carly): If they called you by a wrong name you liked, would that be any better?

Practice this at home: (1) A confused blink. (2) A cheerful, “Oh! Actually, I go by [Hepzibah].” (3) An airy, “Oh, don’t worry — it happens all the time. Now, what were you saying?” Trust me, they will feel foolish for having called you the wrong thing all year.

And you do sign e-mails with your preferred name — right?


(Deb Lindsey/DEB LINDSEY/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

***

Reader: We are full-time, paid interns (also current students) at a firm. Normally, when we are having office celebrations, an e-mail goes out to the whole office inviting us as well. However, there are instances when this does not happen, and not only is it in our face, it is actually interfering with our productivity.

For example, as I type this, there are about 15 people in front of the intern desks celebrating a birthday with cake and champagne. In addition, the woman whose birthday it is is the internship coordinator. We were not notified, nor did anyone invite us until the end — by saying, “Hey, guys, there’s leftover cake if you want some.” Would it be inappropriate to bring this up with one of our bosses as something that made us feel uncomfortable and unwelcome? Or should we just take this as part of being on the lowest rung on the ladder?

Karla: Sure, you could ask that social events be held where they won’t distract you. But this isn’t really about productivity, is it? It’s about people partying in your face and then offering you their crumbs.

Maybe your group just wasn’t on the organizer’s radar — or the organizer wasn’t sure you were all of legal drinking age.

So, you can sing mopey songs about eating worms, or you can take a cue from master moochers: Next time, pop your face over the cubicle wall and say, “Who’s having a birthday?” Then, to the guest of honor: “Oh, hey, happy birthday! Any big plans?”

Not only will you come across as genuinely interested in others — which can get you in good with those who break out the birthday bubbly — but you might even be offered some first-cut cake.

Karla Miller lives with her family in South Riding, Va. For 16 years, she has written for and edited tax publications. Send your questions to wpmagazine@washpost.com.

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