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I just discovered that my employees call me “Jared” behind my back.

Updated: Sep 7, 2023

That’s “Jared” as in Jared Kushner, Ex-President Trump’s son-in-law. While I have a pretty thick skin after 10 years of being the VP of operations for my father-in-law’s tape company, the nickname is starting to eat at me. I get that people think I got the job because of nepotism but it’s just not true. I work really hard and I’m good at what I do. How do I get my employees to see this and stop calling me “Jared?” (And BTW, I’ve got red hair and I’m over six-four and 250 pounds. I’ don’t even look like the guy!)

~ Leo


While we all play many supporting roles in other people’s stories, the most important part is the starring role we play in our lives. This is the role we should be known for. It’s the one about being the good teacher, the fine grandparent, or the young and hip designer who is on the verge of making it despite being hamstrung with a touch of anxiety and depression.

These are the narratives where we’re at the center; the heroes to not only our friends and family but to the others we bump into along the way, even the acquaintances and people you work with who will show up to your funeral.

Now back to you Leo. It seems your employees were inspired to call you “Jared” because of the similarities they see between you and the real Jared. Since you’re not alike physically, they must have clued in via their imagination and drawn some line from his story to yours.

I know, Your situation is not the same but that doesn’t matter. The audience– your employees– think it is. Or at least similar enough to rename you “Jared.” I am going to suggest that the reason for this is simple: your unique and compelling narrative is being obfuscated by the big boss, your father-in-law. It seems the old man is leaving a Trumpy feeling around work and the favored son-in-law is falling under the same spell. In other words, the movie that’s playing for your employees at the tape factory stars Pops and not you. And that’s a problem.

Let’s talk about the real Jared for a moment– bottom line, the guy needs his own story. He needs a story where he’s not forever the bad-guy sidekick in that political dramedy: Donald Trump’s Presidency, which ended three years ago. Playing the supporting villain to a big personality marks you for life. On the shop floor when you breeze past in your white hard hat, it's not Leo in the minds of your employees, it's the nepo baby minion who amplifies all that's questionable about the big boss and the plot he's driving. Sorry to be so harsh, Leo, but association by story is powerful stuff.

So what to do? There are two courses of action in my mind. First, you do nothing. You remain part of the supporting cast in the tape factory movie, accept your role, and try to be a good workplace citizen even if others think otherwise. It’s not so bad, you’re getting paid and I assume nobody is getting hurt. The big boss might be just too big a star to compete with and any attempt at usurping his narrative could throw you into a plot that you might not survive. So, make small adjustments to your supporting role and start thinking about the big stage outside of work.

Life is not all about the hours between nine and five. We’ve all been to funerals. Listen to the eulogies, they’re like heartfelt summaries of a motion picture. Sure, they mention work– “they were a great teacher, a fine accountant, a great salesperson”– but much of the talk is about everything else. Yup, ignore the name-calling. Now’s the time to take a cue from your Jared-outing to remind yourself that there has to be more to your story than work. If you’re non-work story is as good as it can be, it will fortify yourself against the nickname and its success will begin to seep into how you perceived at work. Leo, worst case, your job and the role that comes with it may be immutable. It can’t be adjusted. Thus, the work story remains fixed. But you can change and make all the stories around you shine brighter. And that brings me to the second option, the nuclear one: Quit.

Let’s reframe this narrative about a guy called Jared. Written a different way, the tape factory movie could easily be your picture. What does that mean? You’re the hero, and all scenes, action, and themes revolve around you. Get the gist? You are the star but there's this little thing bugging you--

The movie opens: An alarm clock goes off. You hear a VOICE, “Time to get up, Jared.” Like a zombie, you get dressed, coffee, blah, blah. Get it? You’re an unhappy sap stuck in a job you hate with an overbearing dunce of a boss/father-in-law controlling your world. Kinda like Jerry Lundegaard in Fargo, beholden to his boss father-in-law Wade Gustafson

“But I don’t hate my job,” you say.

“Doesn’t matter. This is drama. We have to be dramatic,” I reply. You have to overplay this untrue version of yourself represented by being called Jared.

Lots of big movies begin like this. It’s like Adam Sandler in the first fifteen minutes of Happy Gilmore. Remember poor Happy? He just wanted to play hockey but a dose of childhood trauma and a deficit in puck-handling skills gave him a terribly short fuse. He’s like all our favorite heroes: stuck in a circumstance that needs a reboot.

Luckily, Happy had Hollywood screenwriters turn on the lights with a clever bit of random luck in the first act. It's there, by chance, he discovers he can hit a golf ball better than a puck. That fact allows him to launch into the heroic story of becoming a golf pro and saving Grandma. In the end, the movie’s not about his hockey dream but about realizing his potential without it.

Leo, your bit of fateful luck was overhearing that your employees called you “Jared.” What a gift! Sure it stings but doesn’t it ring true and represent much that is wrong with your life’s work and the version of yourself you want to be? Maybe you need to go out and prove yourself.

The bottom line, you feel the discord. Now, it’s time to recognize the random bit of luck that can launch you toward a remedy. Of course, this is all predicated on what you believe is essential to your well-being. That part of the equation is the mystery and up to you. Whatever the answer, the truth is that now there isn’t a movie playing that you want to be part of, or, for that matter, you want to watch. The choice is yours: be Jared at work but put more into the movie(s) going on outside of work or star in an entirely new work that’s all about Leo. Hopefully, and knowing what you know about tape, something’s gotta stick. Good luck!

Andrew Ainsworth is a first-time book writer who lives in Los Angeles. His book Blockbuster Living – Make Your World the Best Movie You’ve Ever Seen is available on Amazon.

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