Calm down sweetheart, ok? How about a cupcake, cupcake?
Just when you think you’ve left the playground behind, the worst nicknames or diminutives seem to resurface in the least likely place: the office.
But if you were known as ‘kiddo.’ ‘four eyes’ or ‘ginge’ at your workplace all day, every day, what would you do to change it?
We went to question and answer site Quora to find out some of the most unfortunate pet names people have been called at the office—and what, if anything, can be done.
It’s the way you say it
“I call everyone ‘sweetie’,” wrote Suretta Williams, an author and proof-reader, “but they know, by the tone or inflection of my voice, whether I mean it playfully, sarcastically,” or in a condescending way she wrote.
Williams added that she had learned to “accept” pet names in the same context. “I know the difference between someone older addressing me in what they consider to be respect – as in ‘young lady’ by someone considerably older – and to overlook that.”
She does have her limits, though.. “If a used-car dealer calls me, ‘sweetheart,’ I’ll go quietly ballistic,” Williams wrote. She responds with, “Don’t. Call. Me. Sweetheart!”
“You are responsible for teaching people how to treat you,” Steve Tamulewicz wrote. “If you put up with it and don’t push back in some way, then you have, by default, given your permission to continue that behaviour.” Tamulewicz suggested finding a way to push back “that is acceptable to you and your workplace”. He added, “that may include complaining to your supervisor, keeping a journal of offenses, talking to the HR department. Don’t tolerate bad behavior at all.”
Get to the root
Tobias Burns thinks name-calling behaviour is still common in offices particularly in superior-subordinate relationships and it can be a way for employees to rebel against a manager. “If they are really testing your authority, ask your superior. Most workplaces have a policy about this,” wrote Burns. “Be careful, though, if you don’t know the workplace power structure. Someone you might not suspect may have a lot of pull.”
And he suggested, ask yourself the motivation: “Are they otherwise respecting your position?” Is it possible that they are trying to be endearing to you?”
Michelle Roses wrote, “you can call anyone anything you want as long as it’s OK with them.” She added, “I don’t find ‘cupcake’ sexist. If it’s used affectionately, cool. . If y’all have agreed to adorable, food-based nicknames, good.”
But otherwise? “If you say, ‘I don’t think you quite get it, cupcake.’, that’s condescending, Roses wrote.
Egon Johansson, agreed the situation can be challenging in your workplace. “it can be much harder, especially if the one giving those patronising (nick) names is your boss.” He advised firmly telling the person “that such pet names sound unprofessional and that you have a name they can use.” He added “though, I’m a guy, so I don’t face that stuff to nearly the same degree (as female colleagues).”