stopping a nickname, taking over a deceased coworker’s office, and more — Ask a Manager

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager and I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are three updates from past letter-writers.

1. Taking over the office of a colleague who died (#5 at the link)

First, it was nice to hear from you and the commentariat that I was basically on the right track. Second, it was exceptionally helpful to hear from the people who said that having a memento might be problematic (when would I get rid of it? how would that make feel? etc.). And it also encouraged me, when I moved, to leave behind a memento from the first colleague who’d died. So thank you all for that.

Other things that happened:
– I think I mentioned that I was planning to call the EAP (employee assistance program) – I am now a huge fan. I called them, they responded really quickly, and I met with someone (over the phone) once who was a great match for me. That was very helpful and we actually started a second session but we agreed that I just didn’t need it.
– I think I also mentioned that I was planning to speak to my supervisor who was lovely about it but said that there were no other spaces so she said I should try it out and then we’d see how it was working.
– Big thanks to the person (people?) who suggested moving the furniture around. In the end, I couldn’t move the desk because of outlet access — but! I got a new desk that looks really different (both color and style) from the old one so that was a huge help. I also cleared out (what felt to me like) excess furniture, moved the location of the bulletin board, yadda yadda yadda and, overall, the office just feels really different.
– One thing that the EAP therapist helped me with was to stop calling it Deceased Friend’s office and start making the transition to calling it my office.

Lesson to be learned? Coming at a problem from multiple perspectives — mental re-framing, physical redecorating, consulting with supervisor, getting a little mental health support, and consulting with you all is a great plan!

I’m still sad of course, and there are times I still look around and can see her sitting in it but, overall, things really are fine.

2. How do I stop a coworker from using a diminutive version of my name? (#3 at the link)

I have a nice update – everything worked out fine!

I stopped worrying too much about finding a “good moment” to correct my coworker on my name and just said it the next time it happened – he used the diminutive while asking me a work-related question, I answered the question and then added “By the way, I prefer to be called Carmen, not Carmenita” (borrowing the names from a comment). He apologized and started using my first name.

And to speak of the comment section… Many people shared their anecdotes about names, nicknames, shortened versions and so on. A fun read (and I learned some stuff), but much of it wasn’t applicable to my situation. I really should have mentioned in the letter that these conversations were not in English, and that a diminutive is not a shortened version. Diminutives are a grammatical function that modifies nouns, with the literal meaning being to indicate smallness, and a very wide range of figurative meanings. And regardless of the intent, one shouldn’t pick a name for someone else that is different from the name they presented, especially at work.

Thanks for the straightforward advice!

3. Could being difficult mean you won’t get extra training? (#3 at the link)

I wrote back in August last year about my friend who works at a secondhand store and has intense jealousy issues.

The situation has become extremely… weird. They pushed back on getting therapy vehemently (to the point where when both my significant other and I suggested online therapy to try to alleviate their concerns, they were outright gleeful when the site we suggested ended up not being the best). But professionally, it’s… even weirder, somehow.

Recently, they were working on the shop floor and very stressed out when they dropped something and ended up swearing in front of a customer. The customer complained, and so they ended up having to have a disciplinary meeting. They proceeded to complain about the disciplinary meeting every single time we spoke (and they contact me at least every other day) for the whole two weeks leading up to the disciplinary meeting. Not only that, all of the complaining was phrased as if the entire incident wasn’t their fault at all. They got mad at their managers and outright called one of them “fake” (not to her face) because she was usually pretty nice, but was “harsh” when she spoke to them about the incident.

The problem with their statement that it was “harsh” is (as mentioned last time) they have a bad habit of negatively perceiving EVERYTHING. Once when a coworker told them they were improving at a task, they accused him of saying they were bad at the task. It’s very hard to believe any statements where they say something is harsh or mean when they have a habit of twisting it into their being the victim.

Honestly, the friendship is very unhealthy, and it took evaluating it from a much more professional standpoint to fully realize that.

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