I’m Not Your Baby

My recent post about what I felt was inappropriate workplace behavior got a bit of debate going. So, in honor of Halloween approaching, I thought I’d kick off October with another particularly terrifying workplace trend I’ve witnessed personally.

Hello. My name is Annie. You may address me by the following names and the following names only:

  • Annie
  • Ms. Haarmann
  • ma’am

You’ll notice that list doesn’t include any of the following frightening terms:

  • babe
  • baby
  • baby doll
  • baby girl
  • darling
  • doll
  • hon
  • honey
  • sugar
  • sweetie

Do you see the subtle difference in the two lists? I’ll spell it out in case it isn’t obvious. One list is appropriate for a professional adult woman. The other list is appropriate for a schoolgirl. Clearly I’m not the only one who feels this way, judging from this article, and this one, and this one.

The last time you could call me “Baby”
(“Sally Jesse” was also acceptable.)


This, on the other hand, is a grown woman. Got it?

It’s 2012. Why is it so hard for adults to address each other as fellow adults, let alone business professionals? I find it condescending and offensive to be equated to a child. I also find terms of endearment to be disrespectful. And this isn’t just a problem coming from men. I don’t think terms of endearment are appropriate for women to direct at each other or to men either.

So, here’s where I stir up a little more debate. What do you think? Am I hypersensitive? Or did I hit the mark? Discuss!


  1. I’m Southern, so the sweetie-honey-darlin’-dear doesn’t bother me. It’s just part of the language and culture that I grew up with, and I don’t even notice it most of the time. I get it from everyone from dear friends to elderly relatives to waitresses in restaurants, and I find myself using it on occasion (though generally only with people I know well). Baby (and its derivatives), on the other hand, I consider an endearment only for actual children or for lovers. I don’t why I have that distinction. Probably because I’ve never been called “baby” by a stranger unless it was a creepy situation.

  2. So glad you are bringing this up! I have a coworker that calls me “LOVIE”. I just don’t understand when this became acceptable in the workplace. It is extremely frustrating because I don’t feel comfortable confronting her and asking her not to call me that! My parents didn’t name me “LOVIE” or “BABY”……GOT IT BABY?!!!

  3. Oh honey, don’t get your diaper in a wad! Ok, baby doll? J/k. I am also from the south where this kind of thing is common place. Although I know these terms are not used maliciously; I do believe that it is inapropriate to refer to people this way unless you are intimately aquainted. It is unprofessional to use these terms in the workplace and can constitute sexual harrassment, landing you in very hot water. I find it especially rude when a server calls Glenn a pet name in my presence.

  4. I think it really depends on context. If a man does it, verboten. I suspect (?) you’re in your 20s or 30s, when carving out a place in the professional world where you feel respected feels urgent in a way it does not in your 40s or 50s. I work in journalism — hardly an industry known for soft words and endearments.

  5. it is really depends on the situation’s context. But what I have noticed, when people want to make you feel bad about yourself, oh yes, this is happened to me a lot, like bulling at work place, they could call you babe, baby, doll, sugar, etc. And never get you seriously. In my experience, it always better to stay calm, do not react on them right away, be professional, and try to avoid communicate with those people

  6. I agree with you 100%. In the work place, the meaning behind pet names like sunshine, sweetie and darlin’ can be too easily misconstrued, and they’re completely inappropriate and unprofessional, regardless of gender. A work place that doesn’t uphold values of professionalism and common courtesy is not a place to invest much time and career effort. All employees, regardless or rank or gender, should be expected to use a person’s name properly and with care. Period. And if you work in a law firm, especially, and the values of professionalism and equality are not upheld, then run, don’t walk, to the nearest exit.

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