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What is the power behind your work name?

I've got work nicknames. Do you?

In many of my jobs, it's been "CPD." A term used when folks get to know me, which makes me feel like I'm on good relations with someone. When I hear it, my psychological safety goes up.

When I played sports in childhood, coaches would call me "Dela Rosa." They'd especially use it when I was close to or beating a record. Using surnames was reserved for times when teammates and coaches wanted to show how professional--adult-level--we were performing.

I've had nicknames that only lasted projects--Flash forward, Keeper, The Enforcer. Too many to name. Sometimes, they reinforced a part of myself that I prided myself in. Other times, they built up confidence in an area I didn't feel confident in at all. For example, the first times I had to publicly present, the senior team members would say things like "aww, there's Christine, our secret weapon, next up." And that made me believe it was true.

 


There's power in our attire. In the environments we work in. In the status we feel when using certain tools. But there's also power in the non-physical things we use...like names. And that applies to both people and the project code names we use.

This makes me think about how we refer to each other as an opportunity to provide strength in a project. Or, an opportunity to help develop someone. And even, an opportunity to help define roles. I want to be more intentional with how I acknowledge coworkers because names are important.

How have your teammates referred to you? And what effect has it had on your behavior?

10 comments

I don't have a nickname, but sometimes I am called all sorts of things related to "Summer" such as:

  • Sunshine
  • Sunshine Lemonade
  • Sunny
  • Sweet Sunny
  • etc.

I also get blamed for the heat a lot since I live in the Phoenix, AZ area and it is quite hot here. We hit 115 degrees over this past weekend. But all this I take in fun and it really does not affect me negatively in any way. 

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Ah, I love the name connection to such a positive term of endearment. Do you ever feel like you feel "sunnier" when you're called those terms?

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Summer_Hogan Community Leader Jul 18, 2022

Yes, definitely! They are very positive names and I think people are creative in that way. Although, I will add that sometimes people blame me for the heat in AZ and I think that is funny. Or I'll go to a cold or gloomy place to visit and I get the opposite. One time I was in Seattle and it was rainy and a server at a restaurant asked me why I didn't bring some sunshine with me from AZ. HAHA :)

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nina_schmidt Community Leader Jul 18, 2022

We don‘t have nicknames at work - only shorter versions if the name allows that 🙃

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In one of my teams, I was called "Tine" as a shortcut for "Christine." Only specific people called me that. It gave me some ease because it meant the name came from people who knew me well.

At work, has anyone called you by a shorter version of your name? Like..."Na?" In my family, my mom's name is two syllables and her nickname is just the last syllable. And if so, do you like/dislike that?

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nina_schmidt Community Leader Jul 20, 2022

Luckily my first name is so short - until now nobody called me „Na“ 😉 and in addition „na“ in German is like „what‘s going on?“ / „what‘s up?“ 😀

at school they called me „Ninja“ or „Schmidti“ until the was a song called „oh sh.. - Frau Schmidt“ (= „oh sh… - Miss Schmidt“) - these were hard months 🙈

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Oh nooo! School nicknames can be rough. 🙊

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@Christine P_ Dela Rosa could’ve been worse 🙈🤣 - but I now have that song as earworm again 🙈

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Craig Nodwell Community Leader Jul 20, 2022

Build/Release/SCM/DevOps.....Due to the nature of the roles throughout my career path, I'm sure I've been called a lot of different things behind my back.  Especially in the early years long before tools like those from Atlassian. LOL
Once I moved into consulting focusing on implementing or improving delivery pipelines and the full toolset to support the new processes that also had to be implemented...
I've been called everything form the Old Man on the Mountain, the Master Guru, Gandalf the Grey, and my professional favorite Gunslinger re: the avatar.

On a personal matter I've had a number of nick-names throughout my life but the only one that makes me smile every time I hear it is Grampy. 

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Old Man on the Mountain

🤣 I'm sorry...what now? Whatever the meaning, you do sound very wise. I wonder if that not only did something for you, but for newbies he didn't yet know you. What do you think?

Also, I think "Grampy" has the same wise vibe but with way more loving vibes. My heart!

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Craig Nodwell Community Leader Jul 21, 2022

LOL I think the young ones are afraid of me.  Most new clients it's the young ones who avoid talking to me for months and ask their questions to others who then come to me. I've helped grow out a few careers over the years, meaning I've managed to get them to overcome their fears of me and embrace the coolness that is the job. Last client I started at least 2 on the path, they're both doing very well now.  Years ago when I was running the SCM dept. at RIM I had interns who had friends in other depts. that would visit, when entering the dept. I would yell "Get To Work"...  All my staff would giggle because the young ones would duck below the cubicle walls and do a Neo out of the area. 
Some of those interns are now VP's  <- My heart! 

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That's actually endearing! In this context, perhaps the "wisdom-infused" terms made it easier for younger folks to approach you.

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Not at work, but I showed horses from childhood to my mid-20s. My barn mates always called me "Carlos" or "Carlson" (my maiden name). To this day, when I'm giving myself a pep talk, I call myself Carlos because I felt my strongest when I was riding, and it reminds me of that inner strength. Even if that inner strength is just the will to file one. more. ticket. It really is amazing what a name can do!

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Love that! Do you think it provided extra strength...or would you go as far as saying it was almost alter ego level? I've never gotten as far as the latter but would be delighted if that were the case.

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I've never thought about alter egos but that's a cool line of thinking! Now that I think about it, most people I'm closest to have their own name for me, so I'm a woman of many nicknames, fitting all the different personalities we adopt around different friends. I'll have to think about how those names all shape me

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I was watching a sitcom where the character (played by actress Mindy Kaling) was nervous and referred to herself as "Beyonce Phad Thai," her alter ego name, for a boost of confidence. Lol. 

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Ivan Lima Community Leader Jul 21, 2022

I don't have nicknames at work either, but people sometimes get creative pronouncing my first name— Ivan, Evan, Evaan, Ivanio, etc. Possibilities are endless... 🤦🏼‍♂️ 

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Which is correct? I've never thought of "Ivan" as being anything but "Ivan" but I bet different regions are all different!

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Ivan Lima Community Leader Jul 21, 2022

Well, it seems the name's origin is from the East Slavs countries, so I'd say Evan, the same pronunciation used in South America. In North America, Ivan, which I'm now used to it. I don't have a preference, but the latter sounds more natural—especially here in Canada.

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Craig Nodwell Community Leader Jul 21, 2022

Ivan is my oldest sons name.  It is a good name.  We're Canadian ;) glad you're here.

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Ivan Lima Community Leader Jul 21, 2022

Yeah, glad to be here. It may sound suspicious, but it is an excellent choice for your son's name! :)

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Outside of this conversation on nicknames to help us add a layer to our identities (for better hopefully), getting names pronounced right is also important. Because when our teammates respect us enough to pronounce our names in the way we want, that means they're seeing us as we see (or hear?) ourselves.

So I like that you, @Ivan Lima, have taken the time to break it down for us. And also appreciate @Mel Policicchio, for asking.

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Dave Liao Community Leader Jul 21, 2022

The only work nickname I’ve had is “Jira Dave” - even when I wasn’t the sole Jira admin (but held global permissions) 😂 

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Hah, did you like that nickname? I can see newbies quickly knowing that you had some admin cred, but also, what about "Kind Dave," "Funny Dave," and other Daves?! Trying not to pigeon hole you ;)

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Dave Liao Community Leader Jul 21, 2022

Ha, I definitely don't mind the nickname! It certainly rolls off the tongue easier than Confluence Dave, Connie Dave (which would be confusing), or Salesforce Dave. 🤣🐦

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nina_schmidt Community Leader Jul 22, 2022

What about Awesome Dave - combining all those above mentioned capabilities and YOU! 😊

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Dave Liao Community Leader Jul 22, 2022

@nina_schmidt ☺️Awesome Dave, or AD for short? For the times I'm managing Active Directory things for companies ha

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That's pretty cool @Dave Liao I haven't had a nickname like that yet. If I did though I don't think anyone would really tell me. lol

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Dave Liao Community Leader Jul 27, 2022

@Heather Ronnebeck I feel like there's definitely nicknames for us floating around out there...

I just started a (connections-only) thread on LinkedIn...

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Okan Erdogan Community Leader Jul 21, 2022

For 3 years in operations, I was called 'The Flash' because my coworkers were surprised by how fast I was moving as a small guy and getting s#$t done in the office! I actually liked that name and it gave me more power! 😀

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nina_schmidt Community Leader Jul 22, 2022

That’s a cool one 👏

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The Flash is awesome! 

When I was little, my brother and I would hate picking up after ourselves. So we sang a song with the words "We're the vacuum cleaners, the fastest that can be" and it helped us more quickly clean up.

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Okan Erdogan Community Leader Aug 03, 2022

That's funny! I wish I could be called The Flash by my team again so I can ramp up our team operations! 😀

As you mentioned, @Christine P_ Dela Rosa, totally agree with how taking the time and effort to pronounce one's name correctly is the least one can do to show interest in someone else:

Outside of this conversation on nicknames to help us add a layer to our identities (for better hopefully), getting names pronounced right is also important. Because when our teammates respect us enough to pronounce our names in the way we want, that means they're seeing us as we see (or hear?) ourselves.

I have the blessing and the misfortune to carry the same last name as the town where I grew up until I was about 18 or 19 years old. All my life I've had people call me Van Buggenhout instead of Buggenhout, which is more common in dutch names. While it annoyed me quite a bit sometimes, I always explained that my name was without the "van" (which means 'coming from' rather than some sort of small truck 😉) part, but giving my home town it was some sort of right as well.

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Oh nooooo, but I'm so glad you take the time to give folks to the right way to say it...even though "Van" is not in your name at all! I mean I get it, but still. 

I'm a fan of folks that take the time to really read names and sometimes even ask folks how to pronounce their names if it is the first time they're saying it.

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Daniel Ebers Community Leader Jul 31, 2022

An interesting finding in regards to this I made is that a plenty of new co-workers never met in person (they started during of right-after the pandemic).

They have not been able to be in touch, yet,  on a personal level. Otherwise (in all of the previous years) they would have been able to establish some connection through talks in the kitchen, a corporate event or doing some activities after office closes, in the evening or weekends.

From my very personal point of view it is a key fact that they are not coming together on a more personal/private level so that something like nicknames or "work names" are not establishing that easily anymore.
I am wondering if this is special either to our company/department, to Germany (where we live) or a pure coincidence.

To put it in one sentence: when having only a name in a ticketsystem I fear it is more complicated to establish a personal connection which might be needed to bring something like work names, nicknames with it.

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True for my team as well. The folks I spend less time with in person OR less time chit-chatting with at the start of meetings, the less time there is to develop things like nicknames. However, one thing to help with that is async banter.

I know on Slack, I choose a nickname for my handle. When people who get to know me choose to call me by that in a meeting, I know we have a little bit of a closer relationship than those who address me by "Christine." Even taking the time to notice how someone either refers to themself or how others refer to them is kind of nice. Even if the origin story for that nickname isn't necessarily rooted in a memory.

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Dave Mathijs Community Leader Aug 22, 2022

Hi @Christine P_ Dela Rosa as far as I know, I don't have any work nicknames and I rarely use one for my colleagues.

On a personal note, I don't like it when people call me Davy or David or even Mathijs (which is my last name, but also a first name more commonly used in The Netherlands).

Like Christine P_ Dela Rosa likes this

Ah, the flip side of this question is interesting. I wondered if nicknames make people approach work with a different energy. But to your point, @Dave Mathijs, there's something to being called names we don't appreciate as well.

Curious: Do you ever let people know upfront what you don't go by? Or does that happen only when it comes up in practice? 

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