I am a person of color working in a predominantly white workplace. My name is something that tends to be unfamiliar for people outside of my community but it is not difficult to pronounce. I have one particular coworker who consistently butchers it and has even begun to call me by a nickname that I do not appreciate. I've tried correcting him and he just laughs it off. How do I get him to respect me, my name, and my culture?
Say My Name!
Dear Say My Name!,
Thank you for bringing up this very important topic. Your name is part of your identity and culture, and anyone who refuses to say it correctly is being disrespectful and racist. While you shouldn’t have to put in the extra work for what is his problem, here are some things you can try to get your colleague to say your name:
1. Be firm. If he laughs it off when you correct him, tell him you do not find it funny or appreciate that he won’t say your name. State explicitly what your preferred name is, and that you will not respond to a nickname.
2. Try humor. If you prefer to try humor in return or think it may resonate more, you could try giving your colleague an unwanted nickname. If he says “but my name isn’t hard to pronounce,” you could respond with, “neither is mine!” If he doesn’t appreciate the nickname, maybe he’ll realize you don’t appreciate yours, either.
3. Ask other colleagues to help back you up. Do you have colleagues in the office who do pronounce your name correctly? Let them know you’d appreciate their help in calling out the offending colleague and repeating your name correctly.
4. Try adding a phonetic pronunciation to your email signature. Again, you shouldn’t have to do this, but it may make it clearer to others that you are serious about using your given name and having it pronounced correctly. This could help reinforce your name for present and future colleagues. You could also add a line in your signature that links to YouTube or another site that can play a sound clip of your name. If your colleague is actually struggling to pronounce your name (and not just being a jerk), maybe he will listen to it and actually get it down.
Unfortunately, this person may never really respect you. It’s not OK, but you also shouldn’t devote too much more of your precious time and energy to this cause. Try your best, make it clear for him and other colleagues, then let it go. Let this be a reminder to all of us to respect others’ names and say them, no matter how difficult they are to pronounce!
P.S. Now that I’ve shared my thoughts, I’m curious what the amazing community of educators reading this post has to say. Chime in, folks! What thoughts do you have for Say My Name? Share your thoughts on the Global Leadership League’s LinkedIn page.
Please note: This response is provided for informational purposes only. The information contained herein is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice or legal opinions of a licensed professional. Contact a personal attorney or licensed professional to obtain appropriate legal advice or professional counseling with respect to any particular issue or problem.