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Recently I noticed that my boss labels me in a particular way in conversations with me, and in meetings with other higher-ups and colleagues. The label appears to be intended as a compliment and is generally viewed as a positive quality. However I feel that this particular label projects a very narrow and distorted impression of myself as a team member and colleague. I am not thrilled with it and would like for this labeling to stop. Also I feel the label itself is not relevant to this question so I will leave it out.

How should I address the issue and communicate to the boss that I do not appreciate such labeling? The relationship with the boss is generally positive but this person does view me as a potential competitor and will likely not take direct feedback or criticism well. Are there subtle ways to get the point across without risking the current relationship, or will only a very direct approach work?

The issue of labeling employees seems to be a thing, but resources like this focus on the pros and cons of this practice for managers, rather than what the subordinate could do about it. The article correctly points out that labeling creates a bias and limits the perception of an employee's full worth. The words we use to describe others do frame how we and others see them. However there is little advice on how the employee being labeled should address the issue.

Although I do not disagree that the label highlights one of my qualities, I would prefer that it not be used to describe me and shape others' impression of me, even if intended as a positive. I have other strengths and do not feel that this is the greatest of them. I would rather not be labeled in any particular way at all. "Success" would mean the boss not using any labels in describing me. I cannot prevent others from discussing me behind my back but I would at least like this labeling to stop in my presence.

I am interested in others' experiences with being labeled by their boss or colleagues, and how to best navigate this to stop this practice.

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    5 paragraphs, 350 words, and not one clear example of the actual label you are objecting to. This makes your "question" seem more of a philosophical rant than a problem to be solved. – Peter M Nov 19 at 14:13
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    And that's the whole point of my comment. Without a concrete example to work with there is no possibility of a concrete answer. Which IMHO relegates this to a discussion - which is something that I should not have to tell you to go read the help center as to what sort of questions should be avoided. – Peter M Nov 19 at 14:20
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    Have you asked your boss to stop referring to you by the label you object to? – Peter Nov 19 at 14:27
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    @A.S I see this as on topic as is and will vote to reopen if enough votes come in to close. The fact that you are concerned with being pigeon holed is enough context. – Myles Nov 19 at 18:47
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    @A.S As a suggestion I would edit that you aren't going to share what the label is as an early part of the question text. Just based on how it's laid out I had to read the question twice just to be sure I didn't miss some label. – Myles Nov 20 at 14:35
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You cannot escape labels, and we humans need them as a form of shorthand. What you do is you give the label meaning, or act to earn a different label/nickname.

I've had numerous over the years from "the hacker" to "Devil man", to "Loki", and many, many others. If I want to ditch those kinds of labels, the obvious route would be to be less mischievous. That said, I don't have any labels like "The jerk", "The @sshole", et cetera.

There is no way to eliminate labels, nor should you want there to be. Labels/nicknames are what show us how the world sees us. If there's something you don't like about the label you are given, then change what it is in yourself that earned you that label to begin with.

TLDR: If you want to get your people to stop slapping you with a particular label, then change what you need to change so that the label does not apply.

  • Thanks, agreed. As I thought more about the issue I came to a similar viewpoint. You don't necessary want to "undo" a positive label. The other path is to develop oneself in ways that will eventually cause the old label to become less relevant and naturally fall away or be 'upgraded' to something better. – A.S Nov 19 at 18:21
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How should I address the issue and communicate to the boss that I do not appreciate such labeling?

Since you have a generic question, I'll provide a generic answer: If you do not like something, speak up. No one is going to read your mind.

There's no way you can keep everyone (including you) happy. If you don't want to be called X, just have a private chat with your boss and say:

"Hey Boss, I'm actually not comfortable being called X, can we avoid that please?"

Any sensible person, will understand your point of view and will stop using that phrase / label immediately.

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If the label is positive, what’s the problem?

Your boss just picked one of your positive attributes to describe you to the group. Same way we pick strong for steel, bright for the sun, cold for winter etc.

It would be a really long introduction if he describes you to at a level of precision to fully describe you... or any person for that matter.

If you want to be called your name, just respond with “it’s A.S” and call it a day.

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    I thought I was clear about the problem: even though the label is positive, I feel it narrowly portrays me and thus misrepresents me as an individual. I disagree with this (or any other) label being applied to me consistently and repeatedly, and would prefer not to be labeled in any way. – A.S Nov 19 at 14:18

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