A while ago I made a Photoshopped image of myself, making fun of the fact that I look like Stretch Armstrong. My coworkers have now seen this image and bestowed the nickname "Stretch" on me, which I don't like. It's been a few weeks and it hasn't died down. I'm a bit disturbed by getting this nickname and am also concerned that it could affect an upcoming chance at a promotion. I do not want to bring HR or any other management into this as I am very sure it would bring distrust into our area (we're not really a big company). How can I use my influence to get others to call each other by their real name and not by stupid nicknames without hurting morale or pointing fingers?
How can I use my influence to get others to call each other by their real name and not by stupid nicknames without hurting morale or pointing fingers?
I think in this case the answer is you don't. "Stretch" is actually a semi-cool nickname that I would suggest you deal with. If it were legitimately offensive I would have a different opinion here, but in this case it is not.
As you mentioned your alternatives are limited, and in this case you definitely do not want to go to HR, especially if you are up for a promotion.
Lighten up a bit, and enjoy having a cool nickname. If people call you by your nickname it normally means you are well liked, so turn what you initially perceived as a negative into a positive.
Note: The OP provided the nickname in the original version of the question, "stretch". You can apply this answer to any good-natured, non offensive nick name. I realize there is a bit of gray area here, so use your own judgement.
How people prefer to be addressed is largely up to the individual in a friendly workplace. Unless they are using offensive words in the workplace - where even if it does not offend them, it could be unpleasant or taken out of context by others - there is little you can do.
For your own nickname however, your objection should be emphasised as soon as possible, politely but firmly. The longer you appear to tolerate it or stay silent about it, the more the nickname is likely to spread. Any time it comes up in conversation, before saying anything else, just say "I'm not fond of the 'Stretch' name, can you please just call me..." whatever your name really is (I assume it's not CostcoHotdogs...). If they try to laugh it off, again be firm but polite, "It was funny at first but it really bothers me. Can you please just call me by InsertNameHere. I'm asking everyone to do this." This will make sure nobody interprets your insistence as a personal telling-off and prevents you from having to exercise your authority over them. You're asking them as an equal here.
When it comes to individuals using nicknames among each other, there is little you can do here without sounding like you're managing with an iron fist. Insistence that everyone use their proper names, even when you're not around will not likely go down well and may create a greater rift in your team. The best you could probably do is bring it up in a circumstance when using real names is professionally and courteously more important, such as if you are introducing new starts, interviewing candidates or having clients visit the office.
Oh, and it should hopefully go without saying, make sure to avoid any references to Stretch Armstrong. Be it a day or year down the line, try not to let anyone be reminded of the resemblance... I've seen it happen where this can cause a previously buried nickname to resurface!
From what you say, it doesn't seem like your co-workers are out to ridicule and humiliate you, but rather just to have fun with the mental image left over after seeing the slide. This sounds good-natured and normal to me.
When someone pokes fun at you, but they aren't bullying you, you should consider it a sort of teasing at worst, and a rite of passage into the group at best. You would be well-advised to go along with it, and try to be a good sport about it.
Really, unless it's a term you absolutely hate, or which is clearly intended to insult you, demean you, or hold you back, you should try to look at it as your official badge with the group, your personal team jersey. Basically, accepting their nickname makes you one of them.
Indeed, you would be well-advised not just to accept the nickname, but to own it. Be proud of it, treat it as a gift. Go on Amazon and find someone selling a Stretch Armstrong doll and put it on a shelf next to your desk. Tell people the Lilliputians built it in your honor. Weave a grand silly story about your new identity. (Or, y'know, whatever's appropriate for your actual workplace.) Make it yours. Being proud is far more appealing to others than being embarrassed.
You got some lemons, but those are good lemons for making lemonade, buddy. :)
I don't know if this will work but you could try the following.
Make sure people understand that you don't like to be called by that nickname.
Ignore that nickname. If someone says something like: "Stretch, can you come over here." just ignore it. Edit to clarify this: I think the OP should ignore it in a way that he does not go over there. The same way as if someone would say: "Peter, can you come over here.". He is not Peter and he is not Stretch so why should he react? I am sure if he does that a couple of times then people will use his real name again.
You are not this person Stretch. If people want to talk with you or about you they should use your real name or a nickname of your choice.
People who like or respect you should change their behavior. And the people who just follow what everybody else is doing should also get the message (maybe a little later)
I've had the same problem, and it was not OK for me just to let them call me what they did. Like in your case, my nickname was not offensive, I just did not like it.
Talk, in private, 1-on-1**, to anyone calling you a nickname. Tell them you understand they don't mean to offend you, but that you would much prefer your real/chosen name.
Most people in a workspace are reasonable professionals, and would listen to you, having understood your preferences.
In my case, I didn't even have to talk to everyone. Some of the people I spoke to started correcting the others who still used the nickname (I didn't ask them to do that). The nickname eventually died off.
** It's OK to do it over instant messaging or other, less-formal means than calling the person into an empty meeting room. You don't have to be too dramatic about it. If it doesn't work with somebody, then you can try the face-to-face approach.