Being called the wrong name at work can be embarrassing, frustrating, and — eventually — infuriating. We haven’t talked about the wrong name problem in quite a while, so let’s have a discussion today. (By the way, we’ve also addressed changing your name (or not) when you get married (and divorced), gender-neutral name problems, and hyphenated names in email addresses.)
First of all, as someone with the name Katina (often misread as “Katrina”) and the nickname Kate (sometimes mistaken for “Katie”), as well as an “ethnic” last name: I can certainly relate (and so can Kat, as she pointed out in the original post).
I’m guessing that for most of you who’ve dealt with this problem, being called the wrong name is simply due to coworkers’ innocent mistakes, and not passive-aggressive behavior from, perhaps, a difficult boss — although we’ll address that too. We’ve gathered some advice from Corporette readers, and here are seven tips:
Be direct and polite. A straightforward but friendly correction is appropriate in most situations, and it was recommended again and again by readers the last time we talked about this. It gets the job done simply and quickly.
For example, if someone calls you “Jennifer” and your name is Jessie, just say pleasantly, “It’s Jessie, actually,” or “Sorry, it’s Jessie.” (Yes, you don’t need to apologize for wanting to be called by your actual name, but correcting people can feel awkward, and including a “sorry” can make you feel less so. Also, read this essay, especially the third-to-last paragraph.)
Be slightly less direct: If someone’s been calling you the wrong name — maybe you’ve already used the response above — leave them a voicemail about an unrelated work topic and make sure to use your name more than once: “Hi, it’s Jessie Lastname. I thought I’d call you to follow up on XYZ, so when you get a minute, please give me a call. Again, it’s Jessie Lastname at [phone number].” If you have caller ID at work, make sure to always say your name clearly when you answer a call from that person.
Keep it light. One reader, a Julie who gets called “Julia” a lot, sometimes corrects people with the phrase, “I go by Julie” because it seems like she’s pointing out her preference rather than telling someone they’re wrong (even though they are, of course).
Note that this really only works in situations where someone has called you the wrong name but isn’t completely off-base; if your name is Julie and someone addresses you as Sarah, saying, “I go by Julie, actually” will sound a bit odd.
Make it memorable. Another commenter has the opposite problem — she’s a Julia who gets called “Julie.” In social, non-work situations, she tells people, “It’s Julia, like Julia Gulia” — and the extra association tends to make people remember. A reader named Janet likes to correct others by saying, “It’s Janet, like Jackson.” (Again, she doesn’t use this trick at work — but if you know your workplace is casual enough, go for it.)
Let it go (once in a while). Note that this strategy only works in certain limited situations. Some Corporette readers who always get called the wrong name have kept their sanity by not saying anything — only if it’s not a huge mistake (perhaps it’s along the lines of Jan/Janet, above) and the person is someone they don’t expect to interact with again. One gave a couple of examples of people she doesn’t bother to correct: baristas and … elderly judges.
Enlist IT. Say your name is Elizabeth and you strongly prefer Liz, but coworkers keep calling you Elizabeth anyway. Check with IT — maybe they can change your display name to Liz in the office email system.
Or, if your email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, ask if they can create the address email@example.com and have it forward messages to elizabeth.smith so that you can give people the new email address, and maybe use start using it on your business card.
Fight fire with fire. Use this kind of response very carefully, only after you’ve thoroughly exhausted other, more polite techniques to stop being called the wrong name, or if you can tell you’re being called the wrong name on purpose. Here are a couple of proven techniques to use at your own risk: 1. Purposely get the other person’s name wrong, in an email or otherwise — that’s been known to do the trick. 2. Refuse to respond to emails or requests in which you’re addressed by the wrong name, and when you’re asked about it later, say that you thought they were talking to someone else. (Hopefully, the problem won’t escalate to this point.)
Have you had problems with being called the wrong name at work, or in your personal life? How did you deal with it? Did your strategy work? Have you belatedly realized that you had been calling someone the wrong name?
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2020 updated images (black tea cup and name tag) via Stencil. Originally pictured. Social media image credit: Deposit Photos / belchonock.
I had a senior supervisor/executive that constantly called me the wrong name. I shared my story on here a while back about how I handled it. He hasn’t called me the wrong name since. This was my post:
Just had a personal victory and wanted to share it with people I know will understand.
The company I work at is very much an ‘old boys club’ and I am one of the few women who work here. It’s my first job after college. Ever since I started here one of the senior supervisors would never get my name right. (Example: if my name was Elizabeth, he would call me Sarah, Michelle, Alice etc.) This went on for months and no matter how many times I politely corrected him or tried to highlight my name in my email signature he didn’t get it. He never does this with men and he even writes their names on post it notes when he meets them to help him remember.
On Friday right as we were wrapping up a project meeting he asked me to complete something for the project by Monday morning. Or rather…he said loudly in a room full of people for Susan to complete *insert document here*. Something inside me snapped. I didn’t complete the document before I left for the day and I didn’t do it over the weekend.
On Monday at the project meeting he confronted me about not doing it in front of everyone. I firmly said that he didn’t ask me, he asked someone else. He insisted he asked Kerry at first and then later said he asked Jane. In the meeting I got pulled into with his bosses afterwards he got my name wrong ever single time and completely embarrassed himself. His boss pulled me aside later and apologized, told me not to worry about it and said it would be addressed. It’s only been a day but senior supervisor has gotten my name right every time since then.
It may seem like a small or stupid thing but I am proud of myself for being assertive and not apologizing or giving in. I grew up in a family where women were seen and not heard. I no longer have contact with them and I am working on standing up for myself and not going with the flow just to keep the peace. I’ve read so much on here about women being assertive and knowing that I’m not the only one stuff like this happens to really helps. I had a really rough weekend because I was afraid of getting in trouble at work and I almost gave in and did the work but I’m happy I didn’t. Thank you to everyone on here for helping me stand up for myself.
That’s a great story!
I thought of you when I read this post!
I still love this so much. You are my hero!
And so thrilled that the lesson has stuck!!
One of the many Ks
Maybe his excuse is, like Brad Pitt, he is “face blind”? Just kidding, he obviously is doing it on purpose or subconsciously if he can get guys’ names right but not yours/other women’s.
I have a touchy situation along these lines: I work at a museum, where I manage finance. One of our board members, a major donor to the museum, is a retired museum director – I suspect not be choice – and is extremely involved in the museum. Too much so, for many of us staff members, and to the point where we have to remind our director and curator that though we appreciate his support, he is not a staff member and we must remember that we cannot honor all of his opinions regarding how the museum is run (for instance, he wants full access to handling the art collection, which is a big no-no in museums for anyone other than staff). Along with the fact that he considers himself the unofficial director emeritus of the museum, dispensing out-of-date, wisdom, he clearly disapproves of women in leadership positions and has made it clear that he prefers not to deal directly with me, though I alone manage any of his financial arrangements with the museum. So how does this relate? Others have told me that when he refers to me in conversation, he always calls me by a name other than my own, as if it is of little importance. How do I handle such a situation where I have only heard that he does this, since he won’t deal with me?
Updo for work
Attorney here, a bit older than most on this site.
When I began practicing, updos and ponytails were NEVER acceptable at work. I mean completely unacceptable for any reason. Hair up was seen as an indicator that you were out partying all night, or don’t care about grooming, or engaging in other unsavory behavoir or habits that were seen as non-professional.
When is it now acceptable to put your hair in a ponytail or updo? And what kind of ponies or updos are still not accepatble at work?
Damn girl! Judge much? You should start posting under the handle “Uptight for Work”. But getting back to your question, I guess ponytails and updos became acceptable for work at the same time that business casual became acceptable for work. If you think about it, it takes as much time for a woman to do an updo or ponytail as it does for a man to brush his short hair. For many women, the daily shampoo/blow dry/flat iron/hairspray routine is onerous and time consuming, so this is also a gender equity thing!
Ummm what? It is acceptable at all times to pull your hair back. Always.
The only thing I would call iffy are braids- not always but some styles read juvenile, and very “done” up dos a la prom or bridal
Updos are inappropriate? They’ve been an acceptable professional hairstyle since before the Victorian era, just how old are you?
I call troll, but FWIW there’s a world of difference between a nice, clean updo and an unkempt (not talking about textured hair here!), greasy ponytail.
Ponytails can be very professional (and if the choice is between long hair that gets tangled and drapes over your work as you lean forward and is irresistible to play with vs. a ponytail, ponytail wins every time).
I refuse to believe that Ivana Trump’s 80s french twist (or the look-alike from AbFab) did not have appropriate office hair.
Ha, I was thinking the same thing – putting your hair up used to be a sign you were a mature woman, not a girl!
What? I’m 57 and I have never heard of such a thing!
If anything, I always felt like an updo was fancier than hair down!
I agree. I think a simple bun sleek bun is the most formal work hairstyle possible.
Hair down used to be seen as fairly unprofessional, so no clue where this comment is coming from.
I often feel like a high school athlete when I wear my hair up so I go for a low pony instead but I’m pretty sure that’s entirely in my own head.
Weird. Even Joan always has her hair pulled back and up in Mad Men. I feel like my hair down is less professional (let your hair down!) and I use a clip for it during court and take it back down.
Huh, I am also older and also think most up-dos are professional. I don’t think a “messy bun” is all that professional, depending on how messy it is.
And my favored lazy up-do, an upward twist held in place by a claw clip, is probably not the most professional thing in the world but truly, if my hair is in a clip, it is because I’m working my a ss off. If your biggest problem with me is my hair, you know where you can take it.
Ha! I had a colleague that would just turn and leave my office if he stopped by to chat and saw my hair up in a twist with a claw clip – he joked that he knew it meant I was super busy and focused on a project with no time to chat.
When did RBG begin practicing? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a photo of her with anything but an updo or low ponytail/braid.
Gosh, when I started 15 years ago, there was a female judge who insisted that the only acceptable hairdo for women attorneys was an updo. This was seen as very outside of the norm, but I never felt like there was much ado over the hair up / hair down debate.
I’m 50 and I routinely wore my hair in a bun for the first 10 years of my career in banking.
I put my hair in a bun every single day for work. If anything, it seems to make people think I am more formal and professional (which wasn’t the intent, but fine with me!).
Occasionally someone will ask if I’m Mennonite because I wear my hair in a bun, but that’s it.
This has got to be trolling. My grandmother wore her hair up at work!
My former boss, among her other faults, insisted on calling me by our staff assistant’s name. We didn’t resemble each other, we were hired seperately, we had entirely different job descriptions. Eventually we just automatically corrected Staff Assistant’s name to my name loudly in meetings when she would do it.
I’ve been “blessed” with a hard to spell and pronounce last name, and I use a nickname that people often get wrong as well (i.e., people call me “Megan”, not “Meg”, even though my full first name is Margaret – and I am decidedly not a Megan). I have found that the best way to handle these situations in a group setting is to ignore it if it doesn’t cause a real problem, and address it later 1-1 if appropriate. My favorite thing, however, is when other people correct the offender – that’s when it really hits home for them.
Your Meg-for-Margaret, not Meg-for-Megan, reminds me of one of my very favorite stories from my law firm days. We had a very senior, very crotchety partner, whose name was Al (let’s say) Smith, but whom everyone including his junior partners called “Mr. Smith.” One time I was on a summer associate recruiting lunch with him and a law student, to whom he was introduced as “Al Smith” and who proceeded to address him as “Alfred” all through lunch. Which would have been awful enough if his actual first name hadn’t actually been “Alvin…”
I had this same probelem in law school. My last name, Barshevsky, ALWAYS seemed to confuse my contract’s professor, who kept calling me Bartkowski, b/c he went to school with a MAN with that name. How he could confuse ME with a MAN was beyond me, and Dad, who got mad once I told him and Grandma Leyeh. Dad called him up and told him that he realy should have known better, b/c with GW being in DC, he should have been familiar with my family’s last name, which is QUITE Prominent in DC Political Circle’s. From that point foward, I NEVER was called Bartkowski again. The morale here is to tell your dad, and HE will fix the probelem for you. YAY!!!!
Sorry you went through that but Irony Alert here that you were upset about being called a man’s name and then needed Dad to fix it? Also, who goes to their parents for anything like this in law school? It is grown up time by then. If you cannot stand up for yourself on this in law school, I shudder to think of you in the real world.
Heh. I think a lot of us shudder to think of Ellen in the real world…
Ellen is the resident troll around here.
Ah, little did I know. I refrained from pointing out the spelling/word choice/grammar/punctuation issues.
This. I was at a fundraising/networking event and we all had nametags on. I met one of the more prominent people and he called me the more common sounding name rather than the name which I was introduced or that was written on my nametag. My boss actually corrected him (I wouldn’t have bothered). I have had other instances in all boys club (old white males club) where fellow co-workers correct people too. It seems to be the most effective and no one is really offended since my name is uncommon. But I also think that when I do correct people, they remember me and part of that is because of my name that is less common and easy to remember. Definitely nice when people have your back.
Sort of related, but also sort of an apology to the universe, as I get older, I am having more and more trouble with names. I thought this was always just a flippant excuse by people, but it’s seriously an issue for me. As in, if I hear your name incorrectly the first time, or somehow miss part of it, you are imprinted in my head as that forever. Or even worse, imprinted in my head as a name I cannot recall and I simply cannot pull it up. I’ve honestly stood in front of groups struggling to remember the name of the person next to me who I’ve met two-three times before. It’s super stressful and embarrassing for me. And continually makes me fear that it’s a symptom of something larger (although I am only 35 and generally do not have trouble recall other things). So to all of you out there that are Jen in my head despite being a Jess, I am really, really sorry. It’s not intentional. It’s not a slight. I promise.
We had a summer associate (now real associate) called “Michelle.” Then we had one a few years later who resembled Michelle. I could not remember her name and called her Michelle 2.0 once. Unfortunately, it stuck (but we know now that she is Donna).
Michelle 1.0 is a rock-star associate (and Donna is off to a great start), so it’s a good association. But, yes, complete fail. NOW GET OFF OF MY LAWN!
I don’t buy this as an excuse. If you’re having a hard time with names, come up with different methods to remember them. Write them down, use some sort of memory-aiding device in your head etc. It’s not ok to say well I’m getting older and it’s harder when you’re doing something that is legitimately disrespectful to other people.
OK, FWIW, I do work really hard on it, bring attendee lists (preferably with photos) to large meetings I run, and have a habit of debriefing with my husband about the names of people I met at evening events. If you have other tools to suggest, I’m happy to hear them. I’m just explaining that this is a real issue for people. Not necessarily something intentional. I’m glad you’re perfect.
A trick that I use when being introduced to people at events or meetings is to link their name to someone that I know. For example, last week I met a woman who works in a related company whose name is Kathleen. I only know one other Kathleen (but know lots of Kathys, Katherines/Kathryns, etc) and she is my cousin. So whenever I see this woman now, I think of my cousin. Otherwise, if I didn’t, I might end up calling her Katherine or Kathy. Introduced to a Tom I think of my brother-in-law and a Jeff I think of my neighbor. After I use this routine for a while I do end up learning the person’s name without the use of the reminder.
For meetings, I write down the names as they are introduced on a seating chart that I keep in my working notebook, which is like my dayplanner.
I think that really depends on how well you are supposed to know someone. Work with them everyday and still have trouble remembering their name – then you need to figure something out.
But if it’s someone you’ve only met a couple times over a large span of time, I think it’s totally fair to not remember their name right off that bat (I often won’t), particularly if you didn’t have a memorable interaction with them. Those are cases where I go for the “Hi, I’m Anon. I know we’ve met, could you remind me of your name?”
Sometimes you just have to own the fact that you don’t remember.
Geez, 1:11 Anon. This is a real issue for many and it’s clear she’s making an effort (which I applaud! Attendee list? Wow.). Maybe take a step back and breathe a bit.
I’d say this depending on your trade. If sales or politics, then yes. Otherwise, get a life.
And I don’t buy that you can’t lose that weight. You must not really be trying. (Not fat shaming, just using an example many of us can relate to)
I’m the same way. I’ve never been good with names but at 35 I can tell it’s worse. And I can remember every detail of a person – what they wore, what they do, etc but for the life of me can’t remember their name (not even a close but wrong name, just no name at all). And it happens at parties and events as much as at work. I’m always very apologetic about it, since I do feel terrible, but all the tricks in the world haven’t helped.
I have the exact same situation. It is like a disorder for me!
That girl from that thing, with the stuff
I have had the same experience, and one of the things I do when I am having a lapse is repeat some of what I remember, along the lines of “Okay, so I know you’re the new associate in Jason’s group and we chatted about X at the Y event, but I am the worst at names and I’m incredibly sorry, but would you please remind me of yours?”
Yes! That is me! When I was teaching, I would know students’ writing styles but be unable to remember their names. In seminars I kept the roster out and looked up every student as they spoke, so it didn’t take that long, but in lectures, when a student was occasionally offended that I didn’t know their name, I’d point out that their were xx (45-100) many students and they generally got over it.
I can never remember names, so I just assume no one else can either and re-introduce myself in these situations. Like, “you may not remember me, I’m SW, we met last month at [event].” People usually respond with their own name.
I’m 50 and I hear you. It gets harder and harder.
I work with a Meegan and a Maygan (both spelled Megan) and I get tripped up all the time. Meegan gets visibly annoyed if you get it wrong.
My work friend who is 10 years older than me calls a lot of people by their first initial (she would call both of these women M) and I think it’s a coping mechanism. People find her charming so I haven’t seen anyone get terribly insulted so far.
My husband does this and has since we were in our early 20s. I think it’s less of an issue in his situation because it seems to happen more in social situations than at work but he’s very apologetic when he gets corrected, which I think goes a long way toward the person understanding that it isn’t a slight but locked in his brain wrong.
I have an Indian name, and it gets mispronounced often. I almost never correct anyone about it. (With the exception of my boyfriend now husband – he needed to get my name right!) I know they don’t mean anything by it. I know that they are talking to me. I don’t have the energy to correct people all the time. This is just my experience.
There’s some gray area for sure – a name used wrongly with intention, or a name so wrong nobody knows who they mean do seem to require correction. In the Meg/Megan realm, the need to correct varies both by personal perference, as well as how close you are to the person saying it wrong (a boss should get it right, a barista who cares). When someone knows your name but struggles to pronounce it, it doesn’t seem imperative to correct anyone who isn’t super close to you. Signed, someone with an oddly pronounced, oddly spelled name.
I have the same experience. It also irritates me when I get sequestered and harassed to help someone practice saying my name right over and over again when I have things to do and they’re never going to get it anyway. I know I sound super ungrateful, and I truly appreciate that people care about getting it right, but I wish people would let it go when I tell them to. It’s also my last name, and I’m a lot more particular about people getting my first name right.
I have a traditional name that is often confused with a more common name. As a result of this being annoying to me I am always correcting other people’s pronunciation or introducing them with a rhyme or something when it comes to my friends with less traditional sounding names. It doesn’t even really bother me but one of my friends told me (whilst drunk) that she really appreciated that I do that and that more people in our class knew the correct pronunciation of her name. One of the men used the rhyme device in his politicial campaign! (he did not win). But, anyways I used to think I sound obnoxious but I do it in a friendly, non-critical way and people want to know how to pronounce other people’s names correctly for the most part.
Agreed. I have a name for which there are three pretty much equally common spellings, and people get it wrong most of the time. Sometimes, they spell it all three different ways in the same email or letter. I never bother to correct anyone anymore; it’s too much effort. I also spent some time overseas in my 20’s and found that non-native speakers of English sometimes find my name extremely difficult to pronounce, and got used to responding to a lot of creative variations.
Barring situations like the one told by Anon at 12:12 where your boss just actively refuses to even try to learn your name, I would err on the side of just letting stuff like this go.
I actually go by Rebecca
Professionally, and with my friends, I prefer Rebecca. It’s seven letters, for pete’s sake, please just use the whole name. It actually grinds on me a bit when people shorten it. Except…. Is it normal to be ok with one group calling me something but not ok with different people using the same nickname?
My entire family calls me Becky, have since before I can remember, and I love that they do. Hearing my grandparents say “Hi Becky!” on the phone is the best. But I totally hate if anyone outside my family calls me Becky.
I especially detest the nickname Becca. Except for about three people, very very close friends, who will never stop calling me Becca after I let them get away with it in college. When they say it, doesn’t phase me. Anyone else, though? If only daggers could fly out of my eyes.
I do this. I’m “Rebecca” at work and “Becca”/something similar with close friends and family. It works as long as the two groups don’t interact, which they usually don’t.
Yeah. If someone called me Cathy in my friend or professional life, I’d be peeved. I can’t get my family to change. I usually say something like “oh, only my family calls me that.”
I think this is totally normal. All of my family and most of my friends call me by the shortened version of my name. Most people at work use my full name. I don’t mind either but the shortened one definitely implies a level of familiarity.
I can tell when people met my husband based on the name they call him. Pre-college he used the short version but in college and beyond he’s used the full version. I always use the full name until I’m around his old friends and family and find myself using the short one when they do.
Normal to me! My birth name is Nicole (which I hate), the name I use with 99% of people is Niki, but there are a small group of people for whom Nik is the clear winner in addressing me. I can’t explain why or what it is about these individuals that makes it super natural for them to call me Nik, but I love it. However, if anyone else calls me Nik, it’s weird to me.
Definitely not Nikki...
That is funny as I am the complete opposite. I am also Nicole but cannot stand to be called Nikki, ever. A few friends call me Nic (which I assume has a c not a k somehow), and that is fine. My family calls me Cole, which I love from them, but if anyone else ever did that it would feel very weird to me.
I’m Rebecca in most situations but Becca with my family (and a few childhood friends). Haha, in fact once my sister called me Rebecca and then started laughing because she said she didn’t think she had ever called me that before! It sounded oddly formal coming from her.
So, no, I don’t think it’s weird!
I’m the same way. I’ve tried telling people that Becky is what close friends call me and otherwise I’m Rebecca; soooo many people who I think I barely know (I’m telling them my name!) freeze up and then ask which they should use!
Yeah. I go by my full name (using our example Rebecca) at work and in life in general, but growing up was called a nickname by only very close friends and family (think Becca). My husband is the only person who calls me a less common nickname (think Becks), except now his whole family calls me that.
IT DRIVES ME BONKERS. No matter how many times I/he gently correct them or I say ‘hey, actually I go by Rebecca’, I just have to accept it.
I also found that when I moved to another state, everyone automatically called me by an (incorrect) nickname. Le sigh.
Me too! I go by my full name, Jaclyn, at work and with new people. Jackie, my long-time nickname, is used by my family and long-time friends. This presents some confusion when new friends meet old friends, and if they switch to Jackie that’s fine. But at work, I get VERY annoyed when people switch to Jackie, particularly since they have never ever heard me or anyone else use the nickname so it’s clear they just assumed that I responded to it and that they could use it.
My name has a common nickname that I don’t use (like Deb for Debra). I usually just say “It’s Debra” when people call me “Deb.” Most people get the message but sometimes I have to let it go, especially with clients. I’m sure this is a common problem.
I’m probably one of those people and I’m sorry. I have a lot of friends and coworkers named Jennifer and 90% of them call themselves Jen, so I end up calling them all Jen because I can never remember which one prefers Jennifer.
I don’t think anyone does it to be mean or slight you.
I am occasionally surprised when someone calls me an “ie” variant of my name – for example Rosie instead of Rose – because to me the ie is for people who really know me well. But it’s inevitable, it’s going to happen sometimes. I try to worry about bigger things.
That girl from that thing, with the stuff
It’s funny, but I find I have the opposite problem. My name is one of the easily-shortened variety (think Alexandra to Alex), and I really have no preference for one over the other. Friends/family usually call me Alex, but when I meet people for the first time I always introduce myself with my full first name – at least half a dozen times a year, I have someone call me “Alex” and then apologize for it, thinking I don’t use it, even though I really don’t care.
This happens to me too! Out of habit I introduce myself with my full name. After awhile someone uses the short version then pauses and asks me which I prefer. Either is fine with me.
My name is Rebekah (thanks Mom and Dad, no one spells it correctly….ever). Despite the fact that my name is on my email signature and on my cube wall diploma, certification, ect., everyone writes my name as “Rebecca”. Even my best friend who has known me for nine years writes my name “Rebecca”. Worse than that, however, is the people who somehow think my name is Rachel. Ever since I was a child, about 30% of the people I have met and gone to school/work with think my name is Rachel. Even after I repeatedly correct them they call me Rachel. My German prof. in college called me Rachel for two years straight despite the fact he saw me three days a week for nine months out of the year! It has been so bad in some places that “Rachel” became my de facto nickname and I answer to it just as quickly as my real name.
1. I prefer your spelling actually.
2. My sympathies (my name is Virginia; not Victoria or Vanessa and definitely not Ginny and also (oddly) not Elizabeth or Bridget). Had I known that Ginger was a nickname for Virginia, I’d have aimed for that (but do not think that I can pull off a Ginger to anyone familiar with Gilligan’s Island and also due to hair color).
I’m Rebecca and I have found that people ask me how I spell it a lot! I wonder if it’s a regional thing? I live in the South but I live in an area with a high Jewish population, where most would spell it Rebekah.
I get Rachel sometimes but more often I get Jessica! I guess that “ca” ending?
Some coworkers and I were talking about this recently. One named Noelle said she gets called Holly a lot, that made me laugh! It’s not even close, just that vague Christmas/holiday connotation.
My name is Julie, but apparently I look like a Lisa, I get called it all. the. time. It was especially annoying in college, because my then BF’s most recent ex was named Lisa. Then some really bad pop song came out with the lines, “I’m not Lisa, my name is Julie. Lisa left you, years ago.” I wanted to sing that to everyone.
Funny you say that…I am Lisa, and my sister is Julie! There is a Discover card commercial that came about about a year ago with twins named Lisa and Julie. I guess the names “go” together!
I actually go by Rebecca
Another Rebecca (same picky nickname girl as above ;) – I have been accidentally called Rachel for ages and ages. My German last name actually ends with “chel”. An english professor, who made the mistake once, told me his hypothesis was that people don’t really read words singularly, but instead all together – so their brains were combining the “ra” and “chel” and getting “Rachel”. I’d be interested in whether your last name has anything similar? If not, we can throw that theory out the window!
Oh- and being a “Rebecca” spelling, I still get spelled “Rebbeca” often. So, grass, greener and all that.
Heh, Rebecckah and Rebekkah are two of several incorrect variants of my name people have written out. My last name actually ends in “ks” so I have no idea where people get Rachel from. Maybe it is just easier for some people to remember.
I’m a Brigid. I expect to be called Bridget etc., and brain-farts to Brittany are understandable, but why I get Racheled and Rebecca’d I will never understand. It happens all across the country. Are our names secretly interchangeable?
I also have a very difficult time remembering names as I get older. I never call someone the wrong name, but have evolved a complex dance of avoiding using names when needed.
To try to improve this, when I meet someone I try to use a few tricks.
When you meet Constance for the first time, you say “It is nice to meet you Constance. Welcome to the firm Constance.” Say the name as soon as possible a couple times. It will imprint on your Memory Banks better. Look them in the eyes while you are saying it. This helps amazingly well too.
It is also extremely flattering to call someone by name. Studies have been done that show this.
Then, after meeting someone at work, I will scribble their name and a quick memory trick or identifying feature to remember them in my notebook that is with me always. Sometimes as I learn more about them (eg. spouse’s name, kids), I will add that to my secret notebook.
Interestingly, people do not remember me. I am the kind of person, unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to make an imprint on people when we first meet. So it’s not even that they don’t remember my name, but they don’t remember meeting me. This…. is quite humiliating. So when I meet someone new, I also try to remember how/when I meet them, so I can give them an “out” when we meet next time……
“Hi Constance. Jim introduced us at the coffee machine the other day. How are things working out?” And I try to smile when I say this and be friendly.
I have to admit to being passive aggressive about this. When people call me Hanna in an email (an email where they can clearly see the actual spelling of my name right there…) I respond to them as whatever their name minus the last letter is. “Hi Jame”” Hi Keit” “Hi Heathe” … They usually don’t make the same mistake twice, but the annoying thing is some people still do.
I would assume that Hannah always ends in H.
Hanna is . . . some sort of last name?
But what do I know — there is a kid in my kid’s class named Typty. Imagine this thread 30 years from now.
My best friend from college has given her daughter one of those names. I can never remember if it’s with the “h” or not, so I refer to her by first initial–and then make sure to mention someone else by their first initial too. My friend’s name has several spelling variants; I’m surprised she has visited the same thing upon her daughter.
My terrible horrible supervisor calls our receptionist, who has been here longer than she has, by the wrong name all the time. It is embarrassing and it makes her look rude and arrogant.
Considering she IS rude and arrogant…I guess it makes sense. (Horrible boss situation is about to be remedied, at least, because we just hired a new “boss’s boss” and he’s clearly out to find who is binding up the works. I can’t wait…
Anonymous BigLaw Associate
My name is insanely hard for non-Middle Eastern people. It’s really traditional, really long, doesn’t Romanize well, and there is really nothing to shorten it to. I don’t get that many mispronunciations, more just people staring at it on paper and not knowing what to do. I kept my maiden name even though my husband’s last name is incredibly short and you can’t mess it up. But then I’d be [consonant heavy middle-eastern first name] [super short asian last name]. Nothing wrong with that, but sigh. Oh, to be Jane Smith.
I have the opposite problem. My legal name is what some people would perceive is the shortened version of a name (think Becca, not Rebecca), but I constantly have people calling me Rebecca even though that’s not my name. And don’t get me started on spelling – people have randomly been adding and dropping an “s” on the end of my last name since I was a kid. It was pronounced wrong at both my high school and college graduations and after I got married, changed my name and thought I had escaped the spelling issue, my law school diploma came with the wrong spelling.
Leads me to another question. I have “ethnic” first AND last names, so when I contact people in writing, they always assume I’m a man and address me with “Mr. MyLastName”. How would you hint to the correct gender in a written reply?
I have this problem. I’ve tried adding my middle name (which is decidedly feminine) and alternatively I added (Ms.) to the end of my name in my email signature (e.g. “Min Donner (Ms.), Title”). Both seem to have helped a little. You can also start the response with, “Dear Mr. Assumptive, It’s actually Ms. MyLastName. [Then get to the business of the email].”
I started adding Ms. to my email signature block and it’s helped. I borrowed the idea from a woman who had a gender-neutral name.
I have a name that is only pronounceable to people that speak Vietnamese, but there’s even two ways to pronounce it in Vietnamese. Everyone else butchers it. I’ve used all the methods mentioned in your post. Also, people who first meet me will ask me how to pronounce my name. I usually say, “It’s pronounced X, like this. Thank you for asking!” I hope it encourages more people to ask first before butchering someone’s name. Making it memorable with a catch phrase has been the easiest. One of my coworkers even put a “sounds like X” on my office! :)
What do you do if people constantly call you by your last name? Should the response be different for coworkers vs clients? Our email system shows last name, first name. My last name is also a common first name so people regularly call me by my last name instead of my first. I find it really disheartening (like am I so boring that you’ve known me for 3 years and still don’t know my name?!?)
Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
My name is Katherine, but since i have been about 12 I have gone by Kate. When I was little, I was called Katy and my family and close friends still call me that. I moved to the South about a year ago and people always seem to call me Katy? Is Kate not a common name in the South? I have stopped correcting people.
My boss got my first name wrong at the interview, and still kept getting my name wrong after the first month of work. So, I refused to answer to multiple wrong names. I’m an adult, and I have a name and my own identity. She would correct herself right away once she saw nobody coming or responding.
Besides, someone else in the office would always ask her, “Who is that? They don’t work here!”
We would all end up laughing. Every time. After supplying the biggest office joke of the week for a fortnight, she solved her own problem by shortening my first name. Now she remembers my full name and sometimes alternates, and everybody’s happy.
To this day, we still smile when we remember her hunting for Krystal, Kathleen & Karen.
I currently have a new coworker who calls me Mr. Dave. It’s driving me crazy.