Arguments between managers and their employees are quite common. However, arguments between managers and their employees over their names are something that might raise an eyebrow or two (or several thousand, since it’s the internet). But we’ve found that fact is often stranger than fiction.
A redditor turned to the r/antiwork community to share an incredibly strange story about his new manager. “Folks, my mind is blown,” he writes, referring to the entire situation as “the most ridiculous flex of power” that he’s ever seen.
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The author of the post explained how he’s been using a shortened version of his full name (Christopher) since childhood. However, the version he’s using (Topher) isn’t as widely recognized as the one that most people know (Chris). Everything was completely fine until he got a new day-shift manager who had a problem with the employee putting his nickname on his nametag. The situation escalated from there. Read on for the full story, in the OP’s own words.
Bored Panda got in touch with workplace expert Lynn Taylor with a few questions about de-escalating tensions between managers and employees, and how to mend professional relationships. Taylor is the author of ‘Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant,’ the head of the fashion brand ‘Behind the Buckle,’ and has a popular blog on ‘Psychology Today.’ Read on for our full interview with her.
It’s not every day that someone calls you out for using the short version of your name at work
Image credits: Mizuno K (not the actual photo)
One retail worker explained how his new manager had a major issue with his nametag and even resorted to threats
Image credits: Tima Miroshnichenko (not the actual photo)
Image credits: [deleted]
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“Tensions can run high in the office… and sometimes the added stress of the holidays can make matters worse. When conflict escalates between employees and managers, there are several steps you can take,” workplace expert Taylor, the author of ‘Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant,’ told Bored Panda.
She said that employees can use the CALM approach. The acronym stands for communicate, anticipate, levity, and manage up.
“Oftentimes, issues escalate when there’s not enough open communication. The manager may begin to adopt the approach, ‘It’s my way or the highway.’ Employees can manage up with difficult bosses, as sometimes managers need a voice of reason,” she said.
“It behooves you as the employee to determine the most effective way to interface with your boss. For example, if you’re texting back-and-forth on a sensitive issue, try your best to sit down in a relaxed neutral environment and talk, face-to-face. Make sure you’re communicating on a regular basis so small issues don’t become exaggerated.”
Meanwhile, the expert noted that employees should very carefully choose the time when to overcome the conflict. Timing really is everything! “For example, avoid meeting right before lunch or after some bad corporate news. Also, if you know your boss’s hot buttons, don’t push them.”
Moreover, Taylor suggests using levity in the heat of an argument to break the tension. “The ability to see the big picture, especially with a petty argument, is an invaluable skill in your career arsenal. And it’s the first step in taking the conversation to a more lighthearted place. Humor creates a bond and diffuses conflict.”
The final part of the CALM acronym stands for managing up. This means allowing your boss to see multiple sides of a situation. What’s more, employees who manage up use positive and negative reinforcement and act as the voice of reason.
“Having strong emotional intelligence is the key to any conflict, but being a good listener, trying to understand the boss’s approach, and using diplomacy are critical. When your boss (or any human), sees there’s ‘something in it for them,’ only then will you effect change,” Taylor, the author of ‘Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant,’ explained to Bored Panda.
Part of managing up means setting boundaries. Taylor said: “If you’re a doormat for every boss’s whim, you’ll build resentment, and in the long run conflict will ensue. Managers often respect when employees can say diplomatically that something is not working. As in life, if you don’t set boundaries with your boss, they will continue with negative behavior. The key is in the so-called packaging of what you say… diplomacy is paramount.”
According to the workplace expert using the CALM approach is a “great antidote for skirmishes that will always occur in the office. That said, if you’re in a toxic environment and your boss’s behavior is untenable, it’s time to visit your favorite job site.”
Despite the employee’s attempts to hide his full first name, people were very quick to guess it
Bored Panda also wanted to get the expert’s opinion as to whether or not an apology is usually enough to mend a relationship between a manager and an employee.
“The workplace is a microcosm of life. As such, any wrong behavior should be corrected by both sides,” she told us. “An apology is a good start, but not all apologies were created equal. For example, we’ve all heard people tell us ‘I am sorry,’ with no explanation or embellishment. That can come across as being disingenuous or passive-aggressive. It takes a big person to apologize—and that can be so elusive in the heat of battle.”
Taylor pointed out that whenever someone is apologizing, they should be specific in what they’re apologizing for.
“Avoid saying I’m sorry if… such as ‘I’m sorry if I offended you.’ You likely know if you have offended someone. So better to say something like, ‘I’m sorry I was being disagreeable earlier. I will try to be more open to your ideas.’”
Moreover, the person in question ought to avoid making excuses like ‘I’m sorry I was abrupt earlier, but I have been feeling overwhelmed.’ “If you make excuses for inappropriate behavior, it just takes away from your apology,” Taylor told us.
“Most people want to hear that there is some level of regret for something inappropriate that was said or done. It’s also human nature to want to know that the person will adjust their approach in the future.”
According to the workplace expert, managers set the example for the office. “So while you may be brushing up on your managing up skills, it’s also important for management to display sensitivity and empathy to mitigate conflict. They’re in a position of power and with power comes responsibility,” she explained.
“Especially in this day of high employment, managers should actively seek ways to motivate and retain their staff. Without a strong staff, a manager has nothing.”
The redditor’s story blew up almost immediately, as it resonated with a lot of members of the r/antiwork online community and retail workers on Reddit. At the time of writing, his post had over 21.5k upvotes (and counting).
However, the OP ended up deleting his account after the story went viral. Odds are that he might not have expected to get that much attention and replies from everyone. (Internet fame can be overwhelming.)
The redditor claimed that his manager threatened to withhold his shifts unless he wears a different nametag (i.e. anything but Topher which he felt wasn’t a ‘real’ name). Since then, the OP has reached out to his general manager about the entire situation. He’s also considering suing.
The entire situation is a lesson in what not to do, on both sides. The manager clearly overstepped his bounds by threatening his employee with fewer shifts and by insisting on a specific shortened version of his name.
At the same time, you could also argue that the retail worker could have been slightly more diplomatic. For instance, he might have wanted to avoid antagonizing his new manager further by calling him by a different name. The sentiment is completely understandable (nobody likes giving in to bullying), but the approach could have been a tad more subtle.
Either way, now that the general manager has gotten involved and the OP is considering seeking legal advice, the odds are the situation will deescalate. It’s unreasonable to expect the new manager and the redditor to become best pals, but it might be possible for them to have a professional working relationship in the future. Maybe.
There are plenty of things that true leaders never do. One of them is flexing their authority as a way to settle arguments. For instance, Insperity notes that nobody should use phrases like, “Do what I tell you to do. I’m the boss.” Having an honest dialogue and getting to the bottom of things in a calm manner are key.
According to Lisa Jasper, everyone is an adult at work and you can’t expect your employees to respect you as a boss if you set different standards for yourself.
“If an employee doesn’t understand why something needs to be done, provide more detail. Help them see how doing what you’ve asked will benefit them, the team and the company as a whole. You can also find out why an employee doesn’t want to do something they’re asked to do by saying, ‘Help me understand why this is a no.’ Even if the employee still says no, you can emphasize the importance of the task and set expectations of consequences for not following through,” she explains.
Here’s how some people reacted to the whole situation
Other internet users shared some similar bizarre issues their managers had with people’s names
The retail worker updated his post after it went viral online
He revealed how the situation progressed and how he got a bit of ‘revenge’ against his manager