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Names Matter

Trigger Warning: If you are close-minded, this post may come off as sounding "woke".

In a world of increasing diversity, we are seeing more unique names - either because they are coming from a different culture or from parents who liked non-traditional names. While I believe that most managers do not mean anything offensive, they may find that some things they do and say may be seen as inappropriate.

I was reading an article in the NY Times recently. The issue was that a manager was reading a list of names, many of which were Asian, and after finishing made some joke about how hard it was. It may have been meant in a light-hearted or self-deprecating way. Yet, one of the individuals with the "challenging name" took offense. Her name is very normal in her culture - a name that no one would slip up on or even pause.

Don't focus on if the manager was insensitive or the employee too sensitive. You will miss the point.

By simply learning a name, using it as you would any other name, you can show and get a great deal of respect. Names are something we value and like to hear. That is something that Dale Carnegie taught in the 1920s. They can also be something that excludes or makes someone feel disrespected.

If a name is difficult for you, politely ask the individual. I usually say something like "it is important that I pronounce your name correctly - could you help me?" Then take it as a learning opportunity. Don't joke, shy away, or belittle. Simply ask - most times, I find even if I mess it up, the person appreciates that I took the time to ask and try.

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