Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Being Disrespected in the Workplace?

DEAR NATALIE: I have a great new job. Well, great except for the fact that I'm in a male-dominated field, and it's a bit of a boys’ club. Lately, I have been called "babe" by some of the guys that I work with. "Hey babe," or "What's up, babe." I find it demeaning, especially because some of these guys work under me, and it is messing with my head. I don't want to come off as some sort of feminazi, but I really am feeling disrespected. I really like what I do, and I'm afraid to rock the boat. What do you think I should do? -- NOT YOUR BABE

DEAR NOT YOUR BABE: It's hard to break into a boys’ club (or any club for that matter). And it can be even worse when you feel as though you are being mistreated or disrespected and are afraid to speak up because of the possible ramifications. But, I truly believe that people will treat you the way you let them. If you are uncomfortable when they call you babe (as anyone would be in the workplace), then say something, but do it in a way that keeps your dignity intact. For example, ignore them the next time someone says, "Hey babe, come here." Eventually, they may have to use your name, in which case you can say, "Oh, were you talking to me? I don't respond to the word 'babe,' just my first name." Or you could say, "My name is ... Not babe. Do you answer to anyone calling you something besides your name?" Calling them out on this is the only way to make it stop. Some people are going to disagree, say that you are being overly sensitive, but many people deal with subtle nonsense like this all the time and unless you start speaking up, why will it ever stop?

Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to or tweet them to @NBSeen. You can also send postal letters to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)