my coworker is making me late, my boss won’t answer my texts, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My coworker won’t leave work on time and is making me late

I have recently started carpooling with a coworker who lives nearby. She doesn’t have a car, so I pick her up from her house and drop her off after work and she makes a contribution toward fuel costs (about one-third, which I’m fine with). It’s only an extra five minutes each way on my journey (well, it should be — more on that later), and it’s nice to have some company in the car and also help toward fuel.

My problem is that she is never ready to leave work on time in the afternoon! I need to leave on the dot of our finish time in order to miss the worst of the traffic. An extra minute late leaving generally results in an extra three to five minutes on my commute, so leaving five minutes late means getting home 15-25 minutes late. I’ll get to her desk at the end of work and she will still be answering emails, or tidying up, or want to use the bathroom before setting off, so I am always late home which is starting to really frustrate me. I’ve tried saying in the morning “I need to leave on time tonight” but it has no effect. We do the same job which is busy but not overwhelming so it’s not that she can’t get her work done in the workday. To be honest, it feels like passive-aggressive dawdling but I have no idea why. She’s always ready to leave on time in the morning. I’d feel bad ending the carpooling, partly because I appreciate the gas money but also because my coworker is pregnant and I’d be subjecting her to a 60-minute commute via two buses rather than 30 minutes sitting comfortably in the car. Any advice on how to deal with this coworker would be welcome!

It sounds like she has a different definition of “on time” than you do. She might not realize that a few minutes would have such an impact and may think that what she’s doing is on time. If you haven’t been really explicit with her about what you mean, start with something like this: “The way traffic works, I need to leave precisely at 5 p.m. If I leave even at 5:03, it adds 15 extra minutes for the commute. 5:05 means it takes 25 minutes longer. So I need to be literally walking out the door by 5 on the dot. You’re often still tidying up at 5, or need to use the bathroom before we go, or so forth. Can we change our arrangement so that you have all that done and you’re standing with your stuff by the door at 5:00 on the dot? I realize that’s really rigid, but it makes the commute much longer if I don’t.”

That might be enough to fix it. But if it keeps happening, then you could say, “Hey, I’m happy to keep carpooling, but I’ve got to walk out the door right at 5, with or without you! So if you’re not ready then, I’ll need to just leave. Given that, does it still make sense to keep our arrangement?”

If it still happens after that, go ahead and leave without her or end the arrangement because it’s not working for you. And if that happens, you’re not subjecting her to a 60-minute commute by bus; with this kind of ample explanation and warning, she would be subjecting herself to that.

2. Someone with terrible Facebook behavior wants me to recommend her for a job

I met a woman at a couple conferences. At the first conference, she seemed pleasant and professional during our short chat, and she told me she wanted to apply for a job at my employer and I gave her my email address. I then passed her resume along to the appropriate hiring manager, though nothing came of it. At the second conference, she friended me on Facebook and I accepted the request.

Her Facebook presence is beyond over-sharey and while I’m enjoying the soap opera, I now feel this isn’t someone I’d recommend for a job again. She talks badly about past employers, her enemies, all the ways the world has wronged her, etc.

She contacted me again about a job opening at my company. Knowing what I’ve seen on her profile, I won’t recommend her. Is there any way for me to tell this acquaintance this, and that perhaps if she’s going to use Facebook for professional networking she should watch what she says? There’s no benefit for me but maybe to help her in the future? Right now I’m just ignoring her email.

Since you don’t know her well, I don’t know that it makes sense to take on the awkwardness of telling her that you’re not going to recommend her because of her terrible Facebook judgment. She might be grateful for the feedback, or she might spend the next three years badmouthing you to people, and there just isn’t a high level of obligation here to take that on. Instead, you could just tell her that you’re not involved in the hiring for that position and her best bet is to apply via the company website, or that you’ve realized that you can’t really recommend her again without having worked with her. (The latter is true anyway.)

Separately from that, once some time has passed, you could say something to her like, “I know you’re interested in getting hired at XYZ Company, and I wanted to mention that they — like a lot of employers — take social media behavior pretty seriously. I think if they saw your Facebook posts where you’ve complained about past employers and posted other negative-sounding things, it could get in the way of them considering you in the future.” You’re not obligated to do that, but it would be a kindness if you decide to. That said, someone whose judgment is this poor is likely to get in her own way in other ways too, so I’m not sure how much it will help.

3. Colleagues joke about “hard to pronounce” foreign names

Every Monday, my company has a 20-minute company-wide meeting, for all our employees at all our locations. They’re pretty painful, and full of bad jokes, but for the most part not worse than you’d expect.

However, part of these meetings involve the hosts reading off the names of new hires and promotions, as well as any big milestone achievements. These are names they have in advance of the broadcast. And yet they not only mispronounce certain names, they they often joke about how “hard” those names are. Those names are nearly always Indian or Chinese.

I’ve mentioned it when we got an anonymous survey about the morning meetings, though that questionnaire was mostly focused on things like “what news do you want to hear” and “is this too long/too short,” and it clearly hasn’t changed.

Is there some kind of magic HR phrase that you can recommend? I’m not even sure who to speak to — we do have HR, but in my experience they’d rather talk about how important diversity is than do anything to help encourage it. I’d love any kind of script you could suggest for how to bring this up in a way that will get people to listen. I just find it appalling they can’t practice a handful of names ahead of time to not mock the people they’re supposedly honoring.

Yeah, I’d start with HR, lackluster past efforts not withstanding. You could say it this way: “At weekly staff meetings, people frequently joke about it being hard to pronounce non-western-sounding names. This feels really out of sync with the company’s desire to be inclusive and welcoming of diversity. Is it possible for you to speak to the people who most often host these meetings and ask them to learn how to pronounce names ahead of time — and if they can’t, to at least stop joking about names that sound different to western ears?”

4. My new boss’s parents gave me a Kate Spade purse

A coworker of mine recently got promoted to be my manager. Just days before she was promoted, her parents bought me a Kate Spade purse. The coworker had mentioned to our boss that her parents had taken a liking to me and had purchased me a gift. Our boss said they weren’t allowed to give it to me because she was now my manager and that would be considered quid pro quo. But would it? The gift isn’t from my manager and she wasn’t my manager at the time it was purchased.

It’s not that it’s a quid pro quo exactly, but it’s definitely inappropriate and a little weird for the parents of your now-boss to be giving you an expensive gift. And this isn’t a battle you want to try to fight — you’ll look more invested in keeping the purse than in acting ethically in your workplace.

Return it to them with a note telling them that you’re grateful that they thought of you and it was really thoughtful of them, but that your workplace rules won’t let you accept it now that their daughter is your manager.

5. My boss doesn’t respond to my texts and emails

I am having an issue with one of my bosses and I don’t know how to resolve it. I will send her texts and emails with clarifying questions and she never responds to them. For example, I will text her when she is out of the office with a clarification question. She won’t answer, then will come into the office and not even acknowledge my text to her. The same thing often happens with emails. How should I be dealing with this? It’s affecting my ability to do my work, but I also don’t want to come off as too pushy on getting back to me. What do you think?

Talk to her and ask her if there’s another way she’d like you to handle those questions. Say something like this: “When I have questions for you that I need answered before I’m able to progress on a project, what’s the best way for me to reach you? I’ve been texting and emailing, but that doesn’t always work. Is there a better way for me to contact you when I can’t move forward on something until we connect?”

She might tell you that you should call, or that you should wait until she’s back in the office unless it’s an emergency, or that you should save all your questions up for one conversation a day (or for a weekly meeting), or who knows what else. But the first step here is to flag the issue and ask for her preferences.

{ 652 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Stanford Graduate

    OP4: Why do you know your coworker’s parents and why does your coworker feel the need to mention it to your boss? Is there some kind of background we are missing? Because otherwise it’s incredibly odd that your coworker’s parents, not friends or relatives in any way, would be purchasing such expensive items for you.

    Reply
    1. Amy

      I’m wondering this as well. I’ve never met coworkers’ parents (beyond the occasional ‘family’s in town and stopping by to pick me up to grab lunch’ hallway interaction), and it would be extremely unusual (and uncomfortable) for me to get any gifts from them, much less expensive gifts. I feel like there must be some kind of background here for why OP4 didn’t seem to find this weird.

      Reply
      1. KarenT

        I have. I became really close with a co-worker, and ended up being a bridesmaid in her wedding. We are still really good friends and I know her family. Her parents have never bought me a Kate Spade purse, but I can see how a person can end up knowing a co-workers parents.

        Reply
        1. Sam

          I feel like OP would’ve mentioned that she was particularly good friends with this co-worker, though. That seems like a huge detail to leave out (especially since that complicates the entire situation, not just the present-giving)

          Reply
        2. Amy

          Yes, having a close non-work relationship with the coworker/their family would be the kind of background I’m talking about here. The post doesn’t mention anything of the sort, but this would be weird for your average coworker (where work is most of your relationship and you usually don’t meet their family), so I feel like there must be something. I’m wondering what it is.

          Reply
    2. Steve

      As strange as it is to get a gift from your coworker’s parents, my question is, what is the ethical problem there? I can certainly see if it was the other way around: a manager getting a gift from subordinate’s parents could either be an attempt to curry favor or extortion on the part of the manager. But what can a subordinate do for a manager that they wouldn’t already be incentivized to do, just because they got an expensive gift?

      Reply
      1. Tealeaves

        It would make the subordinate feel awkward to bring up any issues about the manager in future for fear of affecting the relationship. The manager also can’t prove that she didn’t get her parents to give the gift on her behalf or that there is no hidden motive (like some kind of hush money). Worse if this is just the start of many gifts. Could also be seen as favouritism.

        Reply
          1. Julia

            Yes, but it still looks bad even if it’s technically her parents.

            If report A is so close to manager’s parents they gift her an expensive bag, what do you think report B and C make of that?

            Reply
            1. AdAgencyChick

              Yup. And even without the bag, OP still now has the problem that she’s being managed by someone who is presumably a close friend. That’s a much bigger minefield than just the bag!

              Reply
            2. EddieSherbert

              +1!!

              It definitely looks like OP is really close with her manager and manager’s family. I’d feel weird about it if I was one of her coworkers (If I have an issue with OP, can I trust boss to handle it appropriately? Can I even tell boss about it without backlash?).

              Reply
              1. michelenyc

                I agree. It may have come from the KS factory store and as someone in the industry I can tell you with 100% certainty a lot of the bags in the store are actually very affordable.

                Reply
          2. Ask a Manager Post author

            The issue is that it looks like there’s an inappropriately close relationship with the manager, relative to the relationship the manager has with her other employees. It doesn’t matter that the gift is coming from her parents rather than from her; if anything, the fact that it’s coming from the parents actually makes the relationship look even closer (since it indicates you’re close enough to get to know her parents well).

            Other employees will assume there’s favoritism in play, and will wonder if they’re being treated fair with things like assignments, raises, disputes, etc., and they’ll hesitate to talk to the manager about any problems with the OP because they’ll assume she may be biased in the OP’s favor.

            Reply
            1. Princess Cimorene

              My question is though, how will the other employees know the purse was returned. Is she supposed to make some big show of it so everyone now knows she didn’t accept a GIFT? That seems odd to me. And it seems like it will draw even more attention to the scenario.

              The gift has already been given, and its already been mentioned. A seed about any misgivings regarding favortism has already been planting and if I were one of the coworkers personally I’d think it was kind of rude to give a gift back and second, I’d feel they were putting on some sort of show for me and that would annoy me more than them being close friends because they were coworkers when it happened. The fact that I worked with them both as a peer and knew they were close friends and now one has been promoted isn’t going to be a secret to me and THAT is where I would place my concerns about potential favoritism. Because I already knew Carrie and Miranda were close before Miranda got promoted. A purse that Miranda’s family gave Carrie, likely outside of work, which I probably don’t even know about, isnt going to change that.

              Reply
          3. Artemesia

            It isn’t clear what culture we have here, but there are cultures that routinely disperse funds/accountability. My husband dealt with legal cases in which a very wealthy executive had ‘no money’ because his extensive wealth was held by his parents much of it re arranged before a divorce. He saw this in lots of business arrangements with people from cultures where this sort of family blurring of assets is routine. If this were a highly personal relationship over the years and didn’t emerge from employment than the bag would have been given outside the work setting and no one would know about it. The fact that this is a kerfuffle in the office means that the distinction between the parents and the manager daughter is nil and the optics then are of management favoritism.

            Reply
            1. Lora

              I thought about that too – in China there is a Tradition of Gift-Giving, also in Japan though not to quite as huge an extent, but it depends on the family. When my Chinese friends have visits, either hosting or going to China, they might spend $3000 on plane tickets for them and their spouse, but they’ll drop $10,000 on gifts for literally everyone they visit – family, friends, colleagues, everyone. And they’re expected to have and attend huge parties at which these gifts will be distributed. Each gift isn’t very expensive on its own usually, but there’s a LOT of them.

              Reminded me of the time in high school when a Japanese exchange student offered my roommate and I a huge box of candy. Roommate and I each took one candy from the box and said thank you. She spoke literally no English, but turned around to a gigantic refrigerator-size box of more candy boxes and handed us each a huge box of our own. We were dumbfounded and kept asking “are you sure?” Her parents had sent a box for each student in the entire school. The ESL teacher and an exchange student with more English had to explain to us that we were to shut up and say thank you very much because it would be very rude to say, “oh no, that’s too much! You shouldn’t have!”

              Reply
              1. Julia

                Actually, while in Japan, gifts are often required, they can be quite small as long as they look fancy.
                And depending on the circumstances, it is totally normal and even expected to protest at first, saying ‘oh, no, really, you shouldn’t have’ until the other person insists you have the gift. It’s an actual concept called ‘enryo’

                So in your case, you could have protested – as you said you wanted to – and then would have accepted the gift and gone out and bought her something in reciprocation.

                Reply
    3. New Bee

      I guessed the coworker was a friend first and the OP used the former term because it was relevant to the story.

      Reply
      1. EddieSherbert

        So, if there’s four of you, does that mean your manager/friend manages two other people? Are those other two also very close to her and her family, and getting expensive gifts from her parents?

        If she has other people reporting to her that are not getting gifts like this, it looks like favoritism (even if you got it before she was promoted). They may feel like anything you “get” is because of your “connections,” and any time they don’t “get” something, it’s because she likes you more.

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      2. Sarah

        Just to clarify, do you know the coworker’s parents independent of the coworker? I am from a small town, and can 100% imagine this happening — say you know the parents through church or a volunteer thing, and also happen to work with their daughter. In that case, I think it’s not okay for your workplace to be dictating who you can receive gifts from just because that person happens to be related to your manager! But, if the main way you know the parents is through a friendship with the new manager, I do think that makes it look more inappropriate and you should return the purse.

        Reply
        1. Chinook

          Another small town person and I have to admit that this fact coupled with it being a small business does shine different light on the giving of the gift. As long as the OP has a relationship with the manager’s parents from outside of work AND she doesn’t highlight this relationship at work (so keep the purse for your off hours), I don’t see their being a problem unless someone is looking for a problem to exist (and then, in a small town, they will find one because people know so much about each other).

          Reply
          1. Statler von Waldorf

            I’m another small town boy and I’m with Sarah and Chinook on this one. While in a larger organization I could see this being an optics problem, in a small business and a small town this sort of thing happens all the freaking time. Seriously, how it usually plays out is that everyone is connected to everyone else somehow anyways, and trying to maintain standards of impartiality is as pointless as brushing your teeth right before you eat a cookie.

            Furthermore, I’d bet good money that returning the gift will cause a much bigger ****storm of drama than keeping it. I would second Chinook’s recommendation of not highlighting the relationship in the office and keeping the purse for her off hours as being the best way to handle this situation.

            Reply
        2. No Bags

          I may have forgotten to say this, but I do not have the purse. I was only told by others in the office who had witnessed the conversation. And yes, in a small town, you know people. And when the purse was purchased, she was not my manager. I totally get how it would look at this point receiving it, but at the time it was brought to the office, she wasn’t a manager and we both had the same job. Our main boss told her that she should donate it so we could use it in a raffle or as an auction item.

          Reply
          1. Nanse

            If I gave someone a nice gift and they donated it (unless we’re talking, say, a life-sustaining item for Hurricane Irma/Maria victims!!) to a raffle or auction, I’d be horrified and furious. It’s one thing to privately regift the item (to your sister at Christmas, to a niece in another state on her birthday, etc.) but to give for an office raffle? Tacky tacky tacky. And in a “small town” everyone would know. Returning it with a kind note about work impropriety, but lots of “thank you so much, though” and “it was such a lovely gesture” is the respectful option.

            Reply
          2. Amy

            Um? ‘Donating’ it for an office raffle seems just as inappropriate to me as getting an expensive gift from your manager would be! If it’s inappropriate for you to receive it, then the correct path is to not accept it, not to somehow co-opt it to the office–you can’t donate it without accepting it first, after all. (Unless your manager was the one told to donate it??? but that makes even less sense–she’s neither the gifter nor the intended recipient, it would be bizarre to ask her to reroute it to the office.)

            If you have a private relationship with the givers (as in, a relationship outside your relationship with their daughter), then accept their gifts and just don’t bring them up at work. The reality of small towns is that you can’t reasonably avoid a relationship with everyone who might be related to someone above you at work (which isn’t to say that you can’t make friends with people who happen to be related to your coworkers in a city, but it would be much more suspicious to randomly be super close to your manager’s parents in a larger community).

            If your relationship with them is primarily through their daughter, I think the optics of the situation might make it worth declining gifts…but if you go this route, definitely do so by telling them you appreciate the thought but can’t accept it and then letting them use it, return it, or gift it to someone else as they wish, not by accepting it and immediately giving it to your boss!

            Reply
          3. Princess Cimorene

            LMAO wow this is even weirder. Sounds like main boss wanted the purse for themselves. If her parents want to gift it to you outside of work, you should accept it. This doesn’t sound like an issue of optics but rather “ooh I want the purse for me!”

            The personal relationship shouldn’t come up at work anymore. Friend shouldn’t tell main boss about anything her parents and you do outside of work as it doesn’t affect work and its nobodies business who you have friends with in life.

            DONATE IT? could you imagine thoughtfully picking out a gift for someone and they told you they let their main boss take it from them to donate it to an office raffle?! That the main boss somehow magically won.

            ha.

            Reply
      3. Princess Cimorene

        How is anyone going to know you even gave the purse back? Are you supposed to hold assembly and do it in front of the other 3 people in the office? Bring her parents in during said assembly and return their gift to you. I wouldn’t give the purse back. I think returning a gift is a rude and like you said, it was given to you during your friendship and work relationship as peers. Of course that is just my personal opinion on the matter.
        If she only manages you, then you really don’t have to worry about your other peer(s) feeling a way. Do they personally even know about the purse? Maybe your upper boss just wants a purse herself? lol.

        I say you all learn to keep it professional at work, keep the personal friendship things out of the office and don’t mention anything you all do together as friends or with her family outside of work at work anymore.

        If there’s to be any worry about favoritism it would be because people know you were close friends as peers before she became your superior, not because someone outside of work gave you a gift because they like you. Enjoy your new purse, dont carry it to work! LOL.

        Reply
  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#3, I don’t have sample scripts but wanted to offer commiseration. I find it appalling that your coworkers are making little to no effort to properly pronounce others’ names and then are doubling down by having the audacity to joke about it.

    A lot of “western” names are counterintuitive and not easy to pronounce, and yet ESL speakers seem to make an fort and manage. The very least your colleagues could do is try, if no other reason than to make it clear that they respect their coworkers but may not have the pronunciation experience to nail all the sounds in Indian/Chinese names (which often have sounds or tonal registers that don’t exist in English).

    I hope HR takes up the issue with the level of seriousness it deserves. In the meantime, you (or your coworkers whose names are being mangled) can deploy my favorite passive aggressive tactic, which is to deliberately mispronounce the offending person’s name. It’s extremely satisfying.

    Reply
    1. KarenT

      I always remember being told to learn people’s names prior to a presentation if the names were available. Skipping this step and then making rude comments about the names is doubly insulting.

      Reply
      1. Perse's Mom

        This only helps if the person offering the pronunciation has it down.

        A coworker verified directly with me, vocally, on a phone call, on how to pronounce my name. She repeated it back multiple times. It was perfect. Her boss decided that was actually not how my name was pronounced. So my poor coworker mangled my name in front of the entire company so as not to upset her boss.

        (I do not blame my coworker; she felt terrible and apologized profusely – she had even told her boss she had spoken to me to get the proper pronunciation and her boss still overrode it.)

        Reply
    2. Julia

      I’m white, but my maiden name is some Polish thing with literally only two vowels out of twelve letters. I live in Japan and while I speak Japanese and those names (including my own married name) aren’t a problem for me, I have a lot of Chinese and Korean classmates and I always ask them how they pronounce their names, am I doing it right etc.

      I get annoyed when people mispronounce my name, so I try to not subject others to the same disrespect.

      Now if only I could train some people out of insisting on addressing me by first name when they clearly expect me to use their last name. I’m not in grade school anymore. -.-

      Reply
      1. Ms. Mad Scientist

        Polish last name at birth here. So many misspellings and butchered pronunciations. Probably the biggest reason. I took my husband’s name when I got married.

        More on topic: we have a lot of international workers in my field. If I’m not sure how to pronounce their name, I ask.

        Reply
        1. Julia

          I wanted to keep my own name (because it’s 2017), but it just wasn’t worth it. If my mother had kept hers (Rosenbaum) and passed it on to me, I would have kept that, but no way am I keeping Two-vowels-ten-consonants. I have had teachers (!) write my name wrong on official transcripts!
          My new name is easy, but even more foreign to Europeans, so I’ll see how that goes once we move to Europe from Japan.

          Like you say, people should at least ASK someone how to pronounce their name.

          Reply
          1. MG

            This made me laugh because I’ve always said that I don’t have much emotional connection to my last name (not really close to my dad’s side of the family), so if I ever get married, I’ll base the choice of whether to keep my name just on which name is better/easier. ha.

            Reply
        2. Camellia

          I have a close friend with a [married] Polish last name. I joke that I know her so well that I can spell her last name!

          OP, maybe you can suggest that the speaker writes out the phonetic pronunciation of the names? That may help.

          Reply
          1. Julia

            Unrelated (or related to names?), I want to name my first daughter Camellia.

            Phonetic spellings only work if the sound can be approximated by the writing system you use. And even then – I wrote my complicated Polish name in Japanese syllables for people at my last job and they still refused to try to say it.

            Reply
            1. fposte

              I think you have to offer up a pronunciation that *is* describable in the local orthography, though; that’s where I think the burden shifts to the name user. It’s not reasonable to expect people outside of a language will be able to master sounds their language doesn’t have, and most people don’t.

              Reply
              1. Chinook

                “I think you have to offer up a pronunciation that *is* describable in the local orthography, though; that’s where I think the burden shifts to the name user.”

                I agree. My name when I was in Japan (pre-marriage) had l’s in both the first and last name, so I was willing to accept people asking if I was related to Sean Connery because that is what my last name sounded like in Japanese orthography even though it isn’t even close in English.

                Plus, if my francophone grandmother, at the age of 60, can learn to pronounce differently the names of her friends Ellen and Helen (though she would have to pause before hand to make sure she put the “h” on the right name”), then I say there is no excuse for at least not attempting to get it right.

                Reply
          2. Pathfinder Ryder

            I wrote out the pronunciation of my name for university graduation (there was a form to use), in both “this syllable rhymes with…” and IPA, and they still got it wrong.

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          3. Talvi

            One thing I loved about teaching tutorials as a grad student in Linguistics was that after they covered phonetics in class, I could ask my students to write out their names in IPA!

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        3. Merci Dee

          When I was growing up, I was friends with some siblings with a Polish* surname, Krzanak. I was rather surprised when I looked at the spelling, and then they told me it was pronounced “Shah-knock”.

          * My friends’ mother told me that her ex-husband’s surname was Polish, and since I was around 8 at the time, I had no reason to doubt her. If the name isn’t Polish, then I have no idea.

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          1. FortyTwo

            That’s entirely believable. After all, there’s a famous college basketball coach whose last name is pronounced “She-SHEV-ski,” but he’s know affectionately as “Coach K” (because his name, Krzyzewski, is Polish). It has the same “Krz” combination as your friends.

            Reply
      2. Fake old Converse shoes

        Baltic last name here. People usually take the easiest route and call me by my first name. Although I appreciate when someone asks me who to pronounce it.

        Reply
        1. Amy

          My husband has a difficult German last name, it’s not that hard but it’s long with lots of vowels so it’s intimidating when you first glance at it. He recently went through medical treatment that involved visits to lots of different office. We kept a running total of the people who tried his last name and the ones that just called him Mr. Firstname. You could see some people contemplating it and then just give up and go with his very easy first name.

          Reply
          1. BookishMiss

            Yep, I have an easy first name to compensate for my Very Polish Last Name. It’s an interesting game.

            Hope all the medical stuff worked out well.

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            1. Breda

              Hah, my sister and I got the opposite: interesting Irish first names to compensate for our Extremely Common English Surname. My sister’s is particularly bad – though my parents always tell her to be grateful they chose the spelling variant without the silent “gh!” But the only people who ever joke about it are people who also have unpronounceable names, so it’s never cruel or racially tinged, the way this is.

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              1. Parenthetically

                Waiting Room Nurse: “Uhh… See-OH-ban?” (Full disclosure: I was 30 before I saw the name Siobhan and heard it pronounced simultaneously, so I had NO idea how to say it until then.)

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            2. Parenthetically

              My husband and his brothers all have very simple (read: Anglo) names to balance out his Extremely Dutch Last Name. We are sadists, apparently, and gave our son an Extremely Dutch First Name as well. The nurses at the pediatrician have ALMOST gotten there. Poor kid. ;)

              Reply
          2. Just Another Techie

            I once had a lab technician come out, look at the sheet, look around the room, spot me (the only non-white person in the waiting area) then say “You with the green hair, I’m not even going to try to say your name.” Another time a different lab tech just called for “Annie” (my name starts with an “A” but otherwise bears no resemblance to any name related to Ann/Anna/Anne/Annete/etc.) Sigh.

            Reply
          3. Elizabeth West

            My last name is three English words stuck together and people STILL mess it up, even those for whom English is their first language. Sometimes, I call customer service and I get someone who is clearly stumbling over it and their training requires them to use the customer’s name repeatedly throughout the call. I just tell them to call me Liz or Elizabeth. Miss Liz, if they have to use the title, is fine.

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            1. Talvi

              My surname is only two (single-syllable) English words stuck together, and I get the same thing!

              (That being said, enough people feel the need to inform me that I have an awesome name that I can live with the ones who had a hard time deciphering it. Clearly, my parents did good when they picked my given name.)

              Reply
      3. ThatGirl

        I live near Chicago and there are a lot of Polish last names around here… I definitely can’t pronounce them all on first glance, those often seem harder to me than the Asian or Indian ones. And as someone with a name that people have trouble pronouncing, I try really hard to ask once and get it right from there.

        Reply
      4. all aboard the anon train

        Very Polish Last Name here as well. It’s frustrating how big of a deal people make over it. I’ve been told on more than one occasion that it’d be easier if my last name was “normal” – aka traditionally English like Smith or Owens, etc.

        It’s gotten to the point that I give people the Anglicized pronunciation since they apparently can’t get their head around letters not being pronounced the same in English – the W being pronounced as a V, etc. So I have a Polish pronunciation and an English pronunciation and I will never not be annoyed by it.

        Or I’ll get “First Name. W.” which annoys me more than people who at least try and butcher the pronunciation.

        Reply
    3. Mookie

      A lot of “western” names are counterintuitive and not easy to pronounce

      Yep. Classic Tchaikovsky syndrome. When it matters to us, we catch on real quick and make an effort to get it right. Failing to even try when it’s someone you work with or manage is so disrespectful, it’s ridiculous. Managers either doing this or allowing it to continue are acting like asses.

      I mean:
      “I ate a pair of pears I pared.”
      “All the other bids were too much higher, so Will Moore will need to hire one more moor mower because he won one more contract to mow two more moors.”
      “Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.”
      There’s a beam in Anglophones’s eyes here.

      This kind of thing is especially egregious when we have so much knowledge at our disposal. Either listen more closely when someone is introduced or introduces themselves (and speak up if you’re in doubt about the approximate pronunciation until you learn to get it right) or LOOK IT UP. Google a video of someone saying it. Check the IPA. Do something other than being hostile and nasty to distract from the fact that you’re willfully ignorant or too fearful of getting it wrong publicly that you have to make a joke of it.

      Reply
      1. Had Matter's Pea Tarty

        I don’t think Tchaikovsky is a fair example, because I – and probably more than a few others – heard the name way, way before I saw it spelt. If I saw it on its own, I would not be able to pronounce it at all. Also, unless I’m doing it wrong it’s kinda spelt how it’s said, except for the ‘t’ at the start. Chai-kov-ski, right?

        Reply
        1. Had Matter's Pea Tarty

          Wow, that was unclear and contradictory. I meant to say: it’s presented as an example of learning a difficult name easily (because it’s Western as opposed to Asian, I guess) but is actually quite simple to pronounce by comparison to many AND is probably learnt orally before it’s read.

          I need more coffee.

          Reply
        2. Specialk9

          Oh yeah Tchaikovsky – I could only think of Irish examples! All Polish names because I haven’t learned the rules. Most French words, because come on they’re just messing with us. :D

          Reply
          1. OtterB

            I acquired a French last name by marriage. There are only five letters but it’s still ambiguous in English. People’s first guess was usually right when we lived in New Orleans, but otherwise usually not. I’ve been doing the “call from waiting room in doctor’s office” thing a lot, and maybe a third go with my first name rather than trying to guess pronunciation on the last.

            Reply
        3. JN

          From doing music cataloging in an academic library, I’ve actually seen that last name spelled at least a couple different ways in the bibliographic records.

          Reply
          1. fposte

            One big reason is because the conventions of transliteration from the Cyrillic alphabet don’t stay the same. A cataloger can clarify, but I think there was a big authority-file transition a few decades ago.

            Reply
          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            The spelling has shifted over time because there’s several different transliteration formats that have been used for Russian. But the pronunciation doesn’t really shift.

            Reply
          3. FortyTwo

            As far as I know, the Library of Congress still classifies all his scores, correspondence, and books about him under the letter C for Chaikovsky, no matter how the individual books spell his name.

            Reply
      2. JamieS

        I’m not really sure where this is going. I’m a native English speaker and I can’t say Tchaikovsky or Anglophone, would struggle with the pear sentence, and flat out can’t say the moor sentence. I could probably manage buffalo but just saying the same word over and over is a little odd.

        Reply
        1. Mookie

          The phrases I quoted are commonly used to illustrate why English homophones are tough to master for people just beginning to acquire the language, “Buffalo” being the exception in that it mystifies almost everyone. The point being that English operating as a contemporary lingua franca makes Anglophones figuratively ‘tone-deaf’ to the challenges their irregular and idiomatic language, lacking most of its historical inflection, coupled with an enormous lexicon and a large diaspora boasting many accents, presents to non-native speakers; being a native English speaker also correlates heavily with monolingualism (the most monolingual countries in the EU, for example, are Ireland and the UK, and Australians and Americans are similarly more monolingual compared with much of the world). That contributes to the problem under discussion, where anything written or said aloud that feels ‘foreign’ is treated with hostility, contempt, or ‘humor’ of this nature (laughing at how Hard people’s names are and making a point of getting them wrong repeatedly). What’s particularly galling here in the LW’s example is that Chinese and Indian people are being singled out, and in a company that apparently touts itself as international and/or culturally and ethnically diverse. So it’s not because of a lack of contact with these names, it’s not a display of unconscious, benign ignorance butting up against something novel. It’s a weird exercise of privilege and it’s kind of hypocritical, too, because English is tough and our spelling is a gotdam nite mere.

          Reply
          1. JamieS

            So your used examples of Western sayings people can’t say to protest people mispronouncing non-Western words/names? That seems to defeat your purpose.

            Reply
            1. JB (not in Houston)

              I think you are misreading the point of Mookie’s comment, JamieS. “The point being that English operating as a contemporary lingua franca makes Anglophones figuratively ‘tone-deaf’ to the challenges their irregular and idiomatic language.” Native English speakers are so used to their language, and so used to non-natives learning it, that some of them lose sight of the fact that English words are also difficult. The OP was talking about people making tacky comments about how difficult “foreign” names are to pronounce, obviously forgetting that it’s all relative, and to nonnative English speakers, our words and names are difficult.

              Reply
            2. Specialk9

              The point being that non native speakers (often but not always brown, which lends subtexts) are expected to learn a wildly difficult and idiosyncratic language and any slip is seen as lack of intelligence… But somehow it’s ok to be ignorant and careless the other direction. It’s pretty crappy.

              Reply
        2. MashaKasha

          My married name was a long Eastern European last name (not Tchaikovsky) and I lost count of ways coworkers made fun of it. They would take a new hire around the office for introductions, and introduce me as “and this is Masha I’m-Not-Even-Trying-Her-Last-Name”. Every. Single. Damn. Time we had a new hire. Every. Single. Job. It was annoying at the least.

          With that, I agree that there are some long and difficult Anglo last names, and people somehow manage not to mangle them, at least not more than once; and definitely would not joke about them as if these names are the funniest thing in the world. I think it sadly all comes down to whether one’s heritage is being seen as “cool” and “not cool” by others. I’ll bet money that the hosts of OP’s meetings would never dream of trying the recurring “oh what a long name, funny haha” joke with, say, an Irish name.

          Reply
          1. General Ginger

            From a fellow Eastern European, same. Though my first name was also one of those “I’m not going to even attempt it”; college professors usually went, “first name starts with Letter, last name starts with Letter, are you present?”

            Reply
            1. MashaKasha

              And that’s cool with me. Much better than “funny haha”. When I briefly taught Sunday School in kindergarten and 4th grade, the students called me Mrs. LastInitial. I was ok with that.

              Reply
              1. General Ginger

                It was definitely better than “oh, haha, those names are so ridiculous I’m not even gonna try yours. I’m gonna call you Anglicized Version”.

                Reply
          2. Kathleen Adams

            My maiden name, which is what I use at work, is quite short (and of somewhat mysterious ancestry, but I digress), but its pronunciation doesn’t follow the ordinary rules of English spelling. Nearly everybody mispronounces it the first time, which is understandable. But some repeatedly mispronounce it. Jeez, people, it’s two syllables. Work with me a little!

            My point is that while some people repeatedly mispronounce names because they just won’t won’t take any trouble with names that sound too “foreign,” but others mispronounce just because they can’t be bothered, or because they’re jerks. True laziness knows no borders.

            Reply
          3. Wannabe Disney Princess

            I’m not married, but my last name is a Eastern European one. Whenever someone manages to pronounce it correctly, I’m stunned. I’ve spent my entire life answering to a name that isn’t mine (often, not even all that close).

            Reply
          4. Dust Bunny

            I have an uncommon first name for which my parents chose the simplest possible spelling, but I always knew when new teachers were getting to me in roll call because there would be a long pause . . . and I’d just say, “I’m here”. It’s actually not that hard, but I feel like people panic and then won’t even try it.

            But then I also have an anglicized German surname THAT IS COMPLETELY PHONETIC and people mess that up, too.

            Reply
            1. Buffay the Vampire Layer

              Ugh, my maiden name is German, two syllables, and pronounced exactly as it’s spelled. It ends in “der,” which is not unusual for German names. For some insane reason a solid 10% of people I met inserted an L into my name – turning “der” into “dler.” Whyyyyyyy

              Reply
      3. Lora

        This. Westerners miraculously learn how to pronounce Chow Yun-fat, Ken Watanabe, Zhang Ziyi when they see Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Kill Bill and House of Flying Daggers. They figure out how to say Aziz Ansari, Anil Kapoor (Slumdog Millionaire) and Kal Penn/Kumar Patel just fine. It’s whether or not they choose to make the effort.

        I am terrible at remembering any names, including Western names, so I have all the sympathy for someone who introduces Stephanie as Susanne or Janet as Jennifer or Aaron as Alan. But when you get Western names right but Eastern names wrong, that’s on you for not even trying.

        Reply
        1. Myrin

          Now I gotta ask because I’m seeing the Western-Eastern distinction all over this thread (which might of course arise from the OP’s specific mention of Indian and Chinese names): In you guys’ experience, do people (specifically Americans) make more of an effort to pronounce non-English-but-still-Western names correctly compared to Asian/African/Arabic names?

          I’m asking specifically because I’m German and 1. foreigners, especially English-speaking ones, usually butcher German names beyond recognition, even if there aren’t actually non-English sounds (like ü) in it, and 2. Germans are just plain horrible at pronouncing any kind of foreign name (English ones are usually alright but still so wrong omg) and I usually see a difference with how much they try from person to person (as in, Percigus can’t ever be bothered to try to pronounce names right whereas Marcelina is amazing about it) but not really regarding origin-of-foreign-name.

          Reply
          1. Julia

            I think what Germans (hi!) have in common with other language speakers is “adapting” the name into their own language. So, let’s say, Denver becomes DenweR in German and Denbaa in Japanese.

            My parents call Adele “A-dae-lae” because “if they say Berrrrrrlinnnn we can mispronounce their names, too!” I’m never sure how to respond to that.

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          2. Purplesaurus

            As an English speaker learning German, I know I butcher words like schlecht because I’m so unused to that arrangement of consonants.

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          3. Frozen Ginger

            From my own experience, white Americans are more likely to *try* to pronounce Western names rather than half-a**ing it like they do with Eastern names. And if they’re corrected it’s “Oh! I’m sorry [does better next time]” versus “Sorry, you’re name’s just so different [doesn’t try harder next time]”.

            Reply
            1. Matilda Jefferies

              I’ll add my data point here as well. My last name is unusual enough that most people haven’t heard of it, and most people who have it are probably related. It’s of English origin, and follows the rules of English pronunciation, but it does get mangled pretty often because people aren’t familiar with it.

              But yes, people do try, even if they get it wrong. I’ve never had anyone introduce me as “Megan I’m-not-even-going-to-try-her-last-name” or similar.

              Reply
              1. SimonTheGreyWarden

                My maiden name is like this also. It’s pronounced exactly as it is written, 3 syllables, long e in the middle (Follows the pattern of ChuckECheese, though of course that isn’t it). It is rare enough that if you have this last name, I’m related to you somehow. It was Anglicized from French in the 1600s. It was mispronounced at my high school and college graduations, students have never pronounced it correctly, people stick an L or a B or a Y in there at random, change letters, etc. People do tend to trail off when trying to pronounce it, but at least most people would try (my married last name is easier, but still gets its share of misuse).

                Reply
              2. Not Tom, just Petty

                That’s my situation. It’s foreign, and its unique to the point that anyone in the phone book for a major city is my dad and my brothers. Nobody gets it right. My sister corrects people. I sometimes do, sometimes don’t care. But people who need to speak to me and start with “I’m not even going to try…” Yeah, neither am I. What do you need? Now go away. Jerk.

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            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              This is my experience, as well. My last name is entirely phonetic, two syllables, and has no “hard” or difficult sounds despite being “Eastern.” It also follows standard English stress conventions (i.e., which syllable to stress/emphasize in multisyllabic words). And while Canadians, Brits, Irish folks, Germans, etc., figure out how to pronounce it properly, I have never been able to get a white American to pronounce it correctly.

              Reply
          4. MechanicalPencil

            This is pre-caffeine, so lord knows how this will go.

            As an English speaker with a German last name who learned German (it’s fading oh so quickly :( ), no one pronounces my last name correctly on the first try. I’ve learned to answer to all kinds of butcherings of my name.

            This is a gross simplification, but the interesting thing about the German alphabet is that once you learn what the letters sound like, words are pronounced how they are spelled. French words, in my opinion, have tons of letters that make no sound. English has homonyms and homophones and bizarre grammar rules. Different languages don’t always have a corresponding sound in another language. For example, German doesn’t have a th- sound, so that becomes a d- sound generally in English. And for German, an English w- is pronounced as a v-, making English all weird ( or veird).

            As an aside, and based on what I recall from my linguistics class and my professor’s fascination with one international student’s trying to teach her how to correctly pronounce Ahmadinejad, Eastern languages seem to require mouth/tongue movements that Western languages don’t, which may be part of why people struggle more.

            Reply
            1. Specialk9

              When in the US and pronouncing a foreign name in a language I’ve studied, I often have to stop and think of the right way to mangle the pronunciation.

              But it makes sense – my parents’ and grandparents’ generations had intense pressure to conform in order to show patriotism, and that usually meant shedding foreign languages. (And given how scary things got for people who weren’t seen as patriotic, it was likely wise.) But it still means mangling names. The exception is Spanish, depending on the region of the country.

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            2. fposte

              Though lots of languages contain phonemes that English doesn’t, and the general standard is actually that the English approximation is acceptable, same as we wouldn’t require French people not to use a uvular trill on the r in our English names when we were speaking French in France. I don’t think the issue is that English people aren’t getting the Welsh ll right in Llywelyn; it’s that they’re calling him Larry or starting with “Lie…” and then giving up.

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              1. Specialk9

                Whoa, didn’t know how to pronounce Llywelyn! I loved Lloyd Alexander books as a kid. An online pronunciation said “Lou Fell In” minus the F, but a YouTube video said it’s actually a whistling L/S. Whoa! So “Loid” must be way off for Lloyd – instead “hhl/s-oyd”?

                Reply
                1. fposte

                  That’s a really weird description of the Welsh double-l–I don’t think there’s anything particularly whistly about it.

                  The Louellen pronunciation is a standard Anglicization; Shakespeare went with “Fluellen” as a transliteration to get the fricative element in there. What’s funny is that “Lloyd,” maybe because it’s somewhat Anglicized (there’s some deliberate effort to go back to “Llwyd”) and became so widely known, is generally pronounced with the English single l anyway.

                2. fposte

                  Okay, thinking about it, Welsh is on the sibilant side generally so it is kind of sibilant. I’m still a little worried people are going to try to whistle as they speak, though.

          5. Amy

            I’m curious too, I posted above but my husband has a difficult German last name and I have a semi difficult Slavic last name. People mispronounce both all the time we both have simple Anglo first names and most people default to those. Both of us are to the point that we don’t care very much anymore. The only thing that annoys me is when people other than children call me Miss Amy.

            Reply
          6. Beckie

            It really depends on the person, and their immediate family and circle of friends. I usually have to ask with French names and Chinese names; I have trouble with the sounds in those languages and they aren’t super-common where I live. I find Indian names (even the very long ones) much easier, probably because they’re written out more phonetically (and I’ve figured out some of the stressing/metering conventions), but probably also because I’ve lived in areas with large Indian-American populations. Polish names aren’t written phonetically in English, but I’m from a Polish family and have figured most of them out.

            That said . . . I try not to be a jerk. And I think that’s the key thing.

            Reply
          7. Tau

            As people have said, my experience has been that people are relatively willing to make the effort. As a German, I had enough trouble with my name in the UK that I now reflexively spell it right after introductions, and people would generally do their best with it and apologise if they messed it up. They’d also generally tell me how pretty my name was, which I doubt the Eastern people are getting.

            Matters may be confused by:
            – my name is relatively straightforward/short, and my first name theoretically occurs in English although in practice most people hadn’t heard of it before
            – I have a speech disorder, which in this situation doubles as the superpower to make people want to go to lengths so I never, ever have to tell them my name again.

            Reply
          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            He did, and he chose it so that he wouldn’t be screened out of auditions based on his “ethnic” name. He’s talked extensively about how he received more audition offers and callbacks when he used “Kal Penn” instead of his full name.

            Reply
        2. fposte

          Though it’s not simply about Westernness/Europeanness–your examples lean toward short names and those that are orthographically familiar. As discussed in the thread, long Polish names also often fit neither condition and people struggle with those too.

          That’s why I really like pronunciation guides, as mentioned below. It both gives you the information you need and sets the expectation that you’ll follow it, and it doesn’t rely on people’s ability to memorize multisyllables from auditory input only.

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          1. Amy

            My MIL’s Polish maiden name starts with an “F” sound but with the letter K it confuses the crap out of me. And if I hadn’t heard it tons of times before I saw it spelled out I’m sure I would have struggled.

            Reply
            1. fposte

              Yeah, the false friends are hugely disruptive. I remember when I read an English language book about some Polish events as a kid and it had a glossary with pronunciation guide for the names, and I was convinced they’d been very lazy and gotten many of them wrong.

              Reply
          2. Lora

            That’s what I mean, though – my mother’s maiden name is long, German, and has a LOT of syllables and vowels. I will readily forgive anyone who cannot pronounce it, or who cannot pronounce the last names of my grade school friends: Waszkiewicz, Kzprcyk, Fenstermacher, etc. just by reading. But, because they are white women with American accents, people generally try, or give up and ask for the correct pronunciation. It’s when it’s something relatively simple to learn and people don’t bother to even try that it’s significant. Like, people know how to pronounce Shia LeBeouf but not Chiwetel Ejiofor, even though it is a stone cold fact that 12 Years A Slave and Love, Actually are vastly superior to Transformers II – V.

            Reply
            1. fposte

              Some of this may be generational, too (like I have no clue how to say Shia LeBeouf–is it really not even LeBoeuf?), but in my experience, a long Polish name gets pretty much the same response as a long Nigerian name, and people with long German names are saying they get similar. A long Anglo-Saxon name is what gets you the gallant try.

              Reply
              1. Lora

                It’s “SHY-ah La BUFF”. I did a double take the first time I heard it too, because in my head it should be “SHEE-ah Luh BOOF”.. And yeah, not the French spelling for beef, it’s a Cajun variant spelling. Apparently he hates the name too, but it’s a family name and now he’s stuck with it (thanks, IMDB).

                As one of seven Laura/Lora/Lori/Laurie/Laras in my grade school class, with a niece named Jennifer, I can assure you that children don’t really appreciate parental creativity when it comes to naming, and I am eternally grateful that my culture has a tradition of naming kids after dead relatives. My mother’s choice, had my maternal great-grandmother not died prior to my birthday, was Aretha, as in Aretha Franklin (I am the whitest freckled skinny redhead you ever met). I have a huge number of cousins named Mary, Anne, Marianne, Mary-Ann, Annamarie and every permutation thereof, and we are all very happy with that state of affairs. The cousins whose parents got creative…not so much.

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              2. MashaKasha

                Yes to “A long Anglo-Saxon name is what gets you the gallant try.” Everyone else goes in the same pile of “those weird foreign names”, in my experience.

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        3. bopper

          But Kal Penn’s name isnn’t really Kal Penn…it is Kalpen Suresh Modi. He semi anglicized his name for a stage name.

          Reply
        4. Linguist

          “Westerners miraculously learn how to pronounce Chow Yun-fat, Ken Watanabe, Zhang Ziyi when they see Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Kill Bill and House of Flying Daggers. They figure out how to say Aziz Ansari, Anil Kapoor (Slumdog Millionaire) and Kal Penn/Kumar Patel just fine. It’s whether or not they choose to make the effort.”

          All of those names are short and phonetic. Even then I thought they are getting the tones right in the Chinese names.

          Reply
        1. General Ginger

          Except they can’t say Dostoevsky. I wish it’d stop being used as an example of “they’ve learned to pronounce it”, since it’s usually not pronounced correctly.

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          1. Squeeble

            I think that the point, though, is that even if they don’t pronounce it exactly right, they’ll tend to give it a good try and not make a big thing of how difficult it is.

            Reply
            1. General Ginger

              I really wish that were the case, but it hasn’t been, in my experience. I’ve had English speakers argue with me on how Eastern European names should be pronounced; tell me they’re not even going to try with either my last or first name, because those are just ridiculous, usually with a laugh, like it’s so funny. And also argue with me on how those should be pronounced, or suggest, “wouldn’t it be easier if you went by Anglicized Name” or just say “I’m gonna call you Anglicized Name”.

              Reply
              1. Not Tom, just Petty

                Right there with you. Went to pick up photos at Walmart. Said my name. The cashier went to look. He was an older man with a strong accent of, my best guess, eastern European. He could not find my pictures, so I started to spell my name.
                “That’s not what you said.”
                What? I said [my last name]. That’s how it’s spelled.
                “No, it can’t be.”
                Oh, well, the letter makes that sound in my dad’s country, so that’s how we say it.
                “You should spell it the right way when you order next time.”
                Oh, no worries about next time, sir.

                Reply
          2. MashaKasha

            I went on a date once with an English teacher who proudly announced that he is never sure of how to say “Dostoyevsky”.

            Reply
    4. Someone

      I can totally understand how people might struggle with foreign names – I’m sure I still speak English with an accent so I probably still – after years and years of learning English – would still pronounce English words and names ever so slightly slightly wrong simply because it’s not my first language.
      And I know that when I was on England people kept mispronouncing my very common German name, and I didn’t blame them because my name has consonants and consonant constellations that don’t occur in English, so of course they’d struggle.

      I think that at an international company you are pretty much bound to mispronounce names, but the key is to at least make an effort! And unless the majority of coworkers with non-English names are Asian, it is really strange that the jokes would focus on just the non-Western names.

      Reply
    5. Monodon monoceros

      I work in Scandinavia, but I am not Scandinavian. There are sounds that I am convinced I will never be able to make properly. Even when I rehearse and try to say a name properly, I don’t joke about the pronunciation – I usually actually apologise for probably not getting the pronunciation correct.

      Reply
      1. Falling Diphthong

        I do not have an ear. My linguist husband insists I mispronounce ‘oven’ but as far as I can tell the conversation consists of
        “Oven.”
        “Oven.”
        “No, oven.”
        “Oven.”
        “Oven.”
        I sincerely cannot hear this difference, whatever it is. So I would probably be a mangler. The difference is I know not to joke about how hard these people are making my life by having names.

        Reply
        1. Julia

          I think there’s also a difference between being a “general mispronouncer” (and maybe known for it) and only ever mispronouncing foreign names, and without even trying.
          If you can say “inconspicable” you can say Sunnivah.

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        2. DeskBird

          I have the Tiffany Aching problem – I read a lot of bigger words before I ever heard them pronounced, and then they got set in my head in whatever way I decided they were pronounced at the time. Which lead to a wide vocabulary of slightly mispronounced words. I am the same way with names, if I hear them first I’m good and can remember and say them correctly, but if I read them first my mind will decide how they are pronounced and it is really hard for me to undo it and reset them if it turns out I am wrong. I read the Harry Potter books long before the first movie came out and was butchering the name Hermione. Once the movie came out it took me a long time to remember how to say it correctly – and I am a pretty big nerd so I said that name a lot. I mostly work on it by trying to casually say someones name a lot when I know I’ve gotten it right, but sometimes it comes across a little weird. Which all boils down to say – I have a lot of sympathy for people who struggle with remembering correct pronunciation, but none at all for people who don’t care that they do – or just blame the other party. Which really what it is, they are having trouble with something and rather than admit a failing they are blaming the person for having that name.

          Reply
          1. Anonygoose

            To be fair, I think so many people struggled with Hermione that JK Rowling actually snuck a phonetic pronunciation bit into the Yule Ball chapter in Book 4. You are definitely not alone in that, DeskBird.

            Reply
            1. Julia

              I always found it weird that Krum would mispronounce it as “Hermy-one” (was it?), because he HEARD her name before he saw it written.

              Like when they tried to make a character on a TV show sound dumb by making her pronounce gazebo as “gaze-bo” when she has heard that word several times in-show and we know she’s not a big reader, so it’s not like the Tiffany Aching problem at all.

              Then again, I’m picky about language. (Sorry for any oddities, I’m not a native speaker.)

              Reply
            2. JulieBulie

              Years ago, a friend told me that he listened to the audiobooks rather than reading the first few, and the narrator said “Hermy-own.” I imagine that this probably contributed to the issue!

              Reply
                1. JulieBulie

                  I posted a reply to this with a link to a July 2003 Chicago Tribune article that confirmed what my friend told me, and identified the reader as Jim Dale. However, that reply must be awaiting moderation.

                  I was wrong about the exact pronunciation (the article says it was “Her-MAAH-nee”), but sheesh it’s been at least 17 years since we had this conversation, and it was via email to boot.

                  (The one time when I thought this friend was putting me on, he told me that his new cell phone had a camera. I asked if it had a built-in umbrella and beer tap as well.)

          2. General Ginger

            Hermione, oh, man. I was pronouncing it Hermy-own in my head up until the Yule Ball. To be fair, it’s because in my native language it would be pronounced closer to that (Germiona), but I was so embarrassed to learn I’d been wrong that entire time, and with books I loved so much!

            Reply
            1. Camellia

              This is very interesting to me. I knew how it was pronounced because I’m old and remember the fabulous actress of that name in the movie Gigi.

              But I don’t understand Hermy-own if you only seen it and not heard it pronounced. Wouldn’t it more logically be Hermy-one, like the digit ‘1’? And now I’m hearing “Obi-wan” in my head…

              Reply
              1. General Ginger

                In my language, Hermione would be pronounced Gehr-mee-OH-na (with a hard G sound), so “Hermy-own” made perfect sense to me.

                Reply
              2. Blue Anne

                I’m a native English speaker and most of the people I knew (I was 9 when the books started coming out) pronounced it Hermy-own too… I think it’s because we’re so used to seeing names that end in -min or -mine, we parsed -mione as an extended version of that.

                Reply
                1. Camellia

                  Oh, now I was thinking of it sounding like Herm-ee but it looks like you are saying Herm-eye. So I’m not even getting the mispronouncing correct! (I love language; it is so weird!)

              3. fposte

                From a pronunciation standpoint, the standalone word “one” is a weird outlier–the “oan” pronunciation is much more common, as in bone, cone, tone, etc.

                (My favorite, which genuinely tickles me, is when I see people spell it “Hermoine.”)

                Reply
              4. General Ginger

                Oh, this reminds me of this one time from when I used to work in a bookstore, and a student was looking for a book for a poetry class. He didn’t have the syllabus, and wasn’t completely sure about the title, but he thought it might be The One Gin. I hadn’t heard of it; I looked it up via every method I could think of, and then I figured it out. The title? Eugene Onegin. Pronounced, of course, Oh-NEH-ghin, but One Gin does make sense when you look at the English spelling.

                Reply
          3. puzzld

            Me too. I read a lot as a kid. Still do. I also have a hearing problem, so I didn’t hear words as they were pronounced. I needed a ton of speech therapy to learn to say anything that people could understand, so words like anesthetic still boggle me.

            My Mothers name is a 7 & 9 conglomeration that people absolutely butcher. Her first name? I’ve never met anyone else called that and only heard of 2 others (both men) her maiden name? Never met anyone who wasn’t related to us called that either, and the two branches of the family pronounce it differently… so yeah. Tough duty. She ended up going by a nickname most of her life and using her much simpler 6 letter married name that people still mispronounce on the regular.

            I think as long as people try to say the names as close to correctly as they can, don’t make “funnies” and ask for help if its a name that they’ll be saying often their good.

            Or former dean of students used to meet with all the graduates and get the correct form and pronunciation of their names … so it’s Danny not Daniel? and Smyth rather than Smith? He did, to my ears a wonderful job with all the names. More recent folks sometimes act as if they been ordered to introduce a crop of Martians…

            Reply
            1. Not Tom, just Petty

              Reminds me, I went to a small, private college and graduated in December. We had to go to graduation ceremony rehearsal. Seriously? There are 40 people, we walk up, we walk back. Oh, the dean wanted to know what you wanted to be called and how to pronounce it. Having the most complicated name, I was quite grateful when I realized that.

              Reply
          4. Elizabeth West

            OMG me too. I pronounce words wrong all the time because I read them and never heard them said aloud. I appreciate corrections, but it’s still embarrassing AF when it happens.

            Reply
          5. readwitch

            I have this same problem, and a couple of hilarious stories involving me learning I was pronouncing words wrong. Some of them even really obvious ones. I think sometimes it’s a general problem too, as I had issues with addict, which I stressed wrong for the longest time. But the biggest problems were words I read and never heard.

            It’s been so long, I don’t know how I originally pronounced Hermione. Once I head it, I made the switch and now it’s like that was always my pronunciation… but hilariously Seamus was what I had problems with (also Sean I learned).

            I’d heard it before as an Irish name (THE Irish name) but never spelled and didn’t connect the dots. I thought Seamus was See-Muss and thought Sean was Seen.

            The day I realized the truth I felt like the biggest moron in the world.

            Reply
        3. Specialk9

          My brother is the same. He had lots of ear infections as a kid and it impacted his fine hearing, so he can’t hear the subtle language sounds. He loves a foreign language, and has a huge vocab… But people always assume he’s an utter newbie because of his terrible pronunciation. My other brother speaks very little, but since he got tubes in his ears as a kid, he can hear fine so his accent is really good. He skates by on his accent mimicry, while my actually expert brother gets super annoyed.

          Reply
        4. hypernatural

          I frequently have this conversation with my Romanian coworker.
          “Îmi”
          “Îmi”
          “No, îmi with a shorter I at the end.”
          “Okay. Îmi.”
          “More like îmi”
          “I AM SAYING IT EXACTLY LIKE YOU ARE!”
          We laugh about it and she appreciates the fact I make an effort to learn a few words in her native language. Making the honest effort is key.

          Reply
        5. Cherith Ponsonby

          I had a similar conversation with a Japanese friend about “year” and “ear” – she could not hear the difference between the two words no matter how carefully I pronounced them. (Then I teased her for wishing me a happy new ear, because the previous day she’d laughed at me when I got cranky at a jar and said in Japanese “I won’t open it!” when I meant “I can’t open it!”)

          I don’t know why Australians-in-general have such difficulty with Japanese vowels. We have exactly those sounds in English! They’re always pronounced the same way! Yet I still have to yell at the radio when the presenter tells me that kuh-ZOO-oh ishi-GOO-roo has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. I can understand not knowing that Kazuo is accented on the first syllable, but Ishiguro ends in an O, where are you getting the U from? *grumbles*

          Reply
    6. BookishMiss

      Seriously. My day job deals with people from a great variety of nations of origin/ancestry, and I often hear complaints about the non-Anglophonic names. One co-worker has even said “these people should get some real g-d names.” It’s appalling.

      Reply
      1. BookishMiss

        Hit post too soon…

        It’s also indicative of a larger attitude toward diversity, which the OP seems aware of. I’d definitely say go to HR with this – it devalues the existence of the people being honored, and definitely isn’t good optics. Maybe if you and a group of co-workers who have noticed the same thing raise this together, something will change.

        Reply
        1. BookishMiss

          Sadly, I’m the oddball in the office… What with being able to say “Petronilla” properly and all (yes, actual example). It doesn’t vary by perceived ethnicity, either. If you’re Jose or Yusuf or Jozef instead of Joseph, you’re going to get your name wrecked. Super-frustrating.

          Reply
          1. JustaCPA

            Petronilla?

            wouldnt pronounciation vary depending on whether or not its Italian (L sound) or Spanish (Y sound)?

            Reply
      2. paul

        That would make me livid. I’m pretty chill with name mispronunciations, if it seems like making an effort.

        I’m tone deaf (literally) so anything tonal I’m probably never going to get really right, and German/Polish/Czech are…difficult to impossible depending ont he word but I’m not going to tell them to change their damn name.

        Reply
        1. paul

          I accidentally a word there and it changed meaning. If it seems like someone is making in effort, is how it should read. Yikes

          Reply
    7. Foreign Octopus

      I’m an ESL teacher and I occasionally have students with names that I don’t know how to pronounce right away.

      I really struggled with Giuseppe from Italy. I had no idea how to pronounce it. The same with a Hebrew name, Haggai.

      It’s not difficult to learn how to pronounce them though. It takes, at most, five minutes effort and then you’re done and you don’t have to look like a silly Westerner.

      Reply
      1. RVA Cat

        Considering this is a workplace, wouldn’t an easy way for the presenter to learn pronunciation be to call the employee’s voicemail to hear how they pronounce it in their message?

        Reply
          1. RVA Cat

            But they’d introduce themselves so it serves the same purpose – and it’s less awkward than mispronouncing in front of everyone.

            Reply
            1. Camellia

              Not where I work. Our desk phones have Caller ID so most people would answer, “Hi, Camellia,” because they assume you know whom you have called.

              Even without that, at most they would answer with their first name, like, “Hi, this is Camellia.”.

              Reply
    8. TL -

      I have a difficult consonant sound in my name and a lot of ESL speakers don’t pronounce my name correctly (depends on native language and strength of accent); they do manage to make an effort and try and don’t make jokes about it being hard or weird. I think that’s what matters – you make a good effort.
      (With the exception of native Spanish speakers, who tend to use the Spanish version of my name, which I am cool with.)

      Reply
    9. Zip Silver

      Eh, it doesn’t bother me so much. I have a number of Latin American employees, and they all seem to have trouble with my normal Anglo name (granted it’s far more common in Britain than America, it’s not either of these, but think along the lines of Nigel or Basil). It seems like they’ve settled on flaco or jefe rather than mangling my name, which suits me just fine.

      Reply
        1. Amy

          Ok but that one really bothers me because the pronunciation makes no sense. I remember reading Jane Eyre thinking what an odd name it was and then when I saw a movie version I was just like WTF. I’m sure it’s colored for me by that fact I having lived in a city named Saint John the pronunciation is kinda locked for me.

          Reply
              1. General Ginger

                Where do you put the stress in that, first or second syllable? Since it’s John, would it be “sinJIN” or am I off base?

                Reply
                1. Parenthetically

                  In the films it’s pronounced SINjun, and my Brit Lit professor (who was English) said SINjun.

                2. Elizabeth H.

                  When I’ve heard it, it’s SIN-jun, where each syllable has some stress but first syllable a bit more (I don’t know the correct phonetic terms! sorry!)

              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                I thought the “Sinjin” pronunciation is more of a diminutive/nickname specific to that character in the time the novel was written, though, not the actual pronunciation of that name.

                Reply
                1. fposte

                  It’s definitely not a nickname or a diminutive; there are some class connotations to the pronunciation and the use that complicate things, of course, and there aren’t so many St. Johns anymore. But it’s more like the elisions in Worcester and Featherstoneshaugh, or even the way St. Clair just outright became Sinclair.

                2. Parenthetically

                  St. John in Jane Eyre is the LEAST diminutive-able/nicknamable human ever written, though. No way he’d let anyone give him a nickname! :’D

                3. Undine

                  Sinjin really is Sinjin. British names are famous for the spelling/pronunciation split, which makes the refusal to pronounce “foreign names” even more preposterous. Cholmondeley = Chumley. Magdalin College = Maudlin. Caius College = Keys.

                4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                  Thanks for the corrections! It has turned my understanding of the name sideways!

              3. FortyTwo

                I first encountered “St. John = Sinjin” when watching Mad Men, during the season when the firm gets bought out by English investors. I thought they were talking about someone named Sinjin, but…nope.

                Reply
            1. Chinook

              As a Canadian, you always pronounce the Saint because we have two cities named St. John and St. John’s that we have to learn in our geography class and “sinJIN” would not be an acceptable pronunciation in any of our dialects. So I had the same response when I saw it actually written down as a character’s name (that and wondered who would set their kid up like that by calling them Saint anything – you just know that irony will cause them to be a troublemaker)

              Reply
              1. Viva

                Yes, I’m also Canadian and I assumed St John (the character’s name) was pronounced the French way, as in sein-JEAN. Blown away that’s it pronounced sinjin….I’m actually learning a lot from this post today.

                Reply
                1. Viva

                  Actually I just realized non-French speakers probably think I meant jean as in blue jeans but Jean the name is pronounced more like zhahn. So I thought St John the character was sein-ZHAHN (but the n’s aren’t really pronounced – I’m not sure how to spell this in IPL)

      1. Marillenbaum

        My sister Bryony was so happy to move to the UK because it was the first time her name was pronounced correctly–after years of being called Byrony or Brianny, she could finally find people who were familiar with her name.

        Reply
        1. Rusty Shackelford

          And my friend Deirdre was annoyed when she moved to the UK and people started pronouncing her name Deer-dree instead of Dee-drah.

          (But it’s spelled Deer-dree, isn’t it? Yes, it is.)

          Is Bryony pronounced Bree-o-nee?

          Reply
          1. Elizabeth H.

            I have never met anyone named Deirdre who pronounced it Dee-drah! Is it the more common pronunciation? I’ve only met one or two people with the name – and I HAVE heard the Dee-drah pronunciation before, but didn’t realize it was common.

            Reply
            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              Dee-drah or Deer-drah has been the more common pronunciation among the Deirdres I’ve known.

              Reply
              1. Viva

                Ditto. Maybe it’s regional. I’m Canadian and every Deirdre I’ve known pronounced it either Deer-drah or Dee-drah (usually Deer-drah).

                Reply
    10. BusyBee

      Mispronunciation can be forgivable. I’ve had a lot of non-Westerners side eye my name when they see it and if they can’t initially follow my pronunciation, I offer up a shortened version until they can hear the longer version more — reduces awkwardness of “close, but it’s Sally Sells-Seashells ” repeatedly. I’ve also struggled with names when meeting new friends or co-workers and always appreciate their same patience.

      Making fun of names is what’s not cool.

      Reply
      1. BusyBee

        Sorry, side eye was the wrong descriptor. I meant I can see the “oooh, this is a tough one” moment unfolding.

        Reply
      2. Viva

        Agree. Honest mispronunciation + honest effort at getting it right = total cool in my book.

        Making fun of or being annoyed at ‘damn foreign names’ = disgusting bigotry.

        Reply
    11. Bunny

      You need pronouncers. People are going to make jokes about things they are uncomfortable with. I’m not saying that is okay. But a little prep — I’m talking about 30 seconds — would fix this. I encounter names ( as a broadcaster) I don’t know how to pronounce every day and I simply ask. I have never encountered someone being offended. YouTube and Howjsay also offer name pronunciations.

      How to write a pronouncer?

      Allison (AL ah son) Green

      Ivanka (EE vahn kah) Trump

      Bob Scheiffer (SHE-fer)

      Reply
    12. Life is Good

      Yeah, I agree it’s old fashioned bigotry at work. When my kids were in elementary school, we attended many “good report cards” congratulations breakfasts at the school. The principal, a white guy of the predominant religious persuasion, would read off the names of the high-achieving students. He would pronounce perfectly the last names of the white kids – names like “Waekadorfer”, but could never correctly pronounce common Hispanic last names – think “Martinez”. He would struggle through the names as if he’d never heard them spoken before. This is a thing with a lot of these folks in this particular church in our area. In this day and age, stuff like this is unbelievable. And, to think the OP’s employer allows it to happen is appalling.

      Reply
      1. Marillenbaum

        When I worked in college admissions, we had a full-ride scholarship student from Zimbabwe who was arriving on campus. Our boss asked to be reminded of his name, and before the person who was handling his case could answer, another assistant director piped up with “Hakuna Matata!” and giggled. I was set to throttle her, but since she was several rungs up the ladder and I was one of only three Black people in the office, I settled for never trusting her and going out to lunch regularly with my Black colleagues to commiserate.

        Reply
        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          That is so profoundly offensive it made my blood pressure spike. And to add injury to her bigoted insult, she’s not even using the right language. Gahhhhhh

          Reply
        2. SimonTheGreyWarden

          That’s just gross. It would be one thing if the student made the joke (not that they would, but I know I have made plenty of jokes about my maiden name since no one can say it right even though it’s pronounced exactly as it is spelled), but for an AD to do that? Yuck.

          Reply
        3. Lora

          Holy hecking sht.

          Some people I look at and think, wow, I wish I had huge brass ones like that, that I was at least that fearless. Things that would cause a normal person to die of embarrassment, they spit out like no big deal. Just…wow.

          Reply
    13. CM

      OP#3, thank you so much for noticing this and raising it as a concern at your company! I don’t care if someone mispronounces my name, but there are so many subtle ways throughout my life that I’ve been made to feel different and “other,” and somebody laughing about how they can’t possibly pronounce my name is one of them. Maybe it’s meant to mask awkwardness, but the message it sends to me is, “You don’t have a NORMAL name, like Jane or Sue. You have some weird foreign name because you don’t really belong here.” And while one incident isn’t a big deal, it is a big deal when all of these incidents add up over time.

      If addressing it with HR doesn’t work, would you consider mentioning it to some of your coworkers who this has happened to, and see if they would bring it up with their managers or HR? The complaint might be taken more seriously if it’s coming from multiple people.

      Reply
      1. Specialk9

        We just had a long conversation yesterday about how ‘othering’ Christmas can be for us non-Christians. Good reminder about other ways othering is harmful.

        Reply
      2. OP3

        I’m not in the main office, so I don’t tend to know many of the people it happens to, which makes bringing it up with them directly hard to do.

        One team in the main office shortened a woman’s name (without asking) because her name was “too hard”. It was something along the lines of changing “Savanya” to “Sa-sa.” Soooo… not the greatest track record, there.

        Reply
          1. Emac

            Wasn’t there a letter on here about something like this, and at least one coworker refusing to stop using the Anglicized nickname even after being told the employee didn’t like it?

            Reply
    14. Specialk9

      I know, right? Many Asian names are incredibly straightforward, esp compared to western names like Vaughan (“Vow-g-han”? “No, it’s Vawn, the gha is silent and also I don’t feel know what’s going on there”) and Sean (“actually it’s said shaun”) and Siobhan (“don’t even try, it’s Sha-vaun”).

      Apparently all my complicated names come from the British Isles. :)

      Reply
      1. Caoilfhoinn (Colleen)

        Those are all Irish names, and Ireland isn’t in the British Isles, thanks :)

        Once you know Irish pronunciation rules – bh and nm are v, gh is added to vowels for emphasis – it’s not too hard to say the names in your example, though

        Reply
        1. Parenthetically

          I can say Vaughan and Sean because I’m used to them (and I finally learned how to say Siobhan about 5 years ago). The point is that they’re objectively not phonetic for English speakers and yet many native English speakers manage to work them out, but freeze up at Sadiya or Vihaan which are much more phonetic.

          Reply
        2. fposte

          Ireland isn’t part of Great Britain (political/governmental), but it is part of the British Isles (geographic); it’s one of the two sovereign states that are.

          Reply
        3. SimonTheGreyWarden

          Ah, the passive aggressive smiley. Ireland is part of the British Isles. It’s just not part of Great Britain.

          Reply
            1. Elizabeth West

              Welsh looks incomprehensible, but its pronunciation rules are fairly straightforward. Before I went to Wales, I was looking at pronunciation in case I had to ask directions. I only know a few Welsh words well enough to use in conversation– Diolch (thanks), Os gwelwch yn dda (please), Bore da (good morning), and Nos da (good night). I said “Diolch,” to the clerk in the gift shop at Tintern Abbey after our transaction and she just lit up. She said, “Nobody even tries!”

              Places like Cardiff and Chepstow are fairly easy Even Llandaff isn’t that hard. And fortunately I wasn’t going to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch!

              Reply
        4. Loons with Gumption

          Wow, all of you. Let’s listen to the actual Irish person and try to be respectful…especially in a thread that’s basically all about respecting people’s identities.

          Reply
    15. ClownBaby

      This drives me absolutely nuts at my company. The names aren’t even hard to pronounce…they are just different.

      We recently hired a young woman from another country. Her name (changed the name, but this is a pretty similar example) is Melania. Pretty easy. Her boss calls her Melanie, Megan, Melanoma…really anything but her relatively simple to pronounce name. I don’t know if she does this because the employee looks foreign and speaks with an accent, so she just assume it’s some weird to pronounce name…I don’t get it.

      Even if there’s no time to meet with the new employee before these meetings…it’s not hard to put a good faith effort into pronunciation without having to make a joke. If someone’s name is Priyanka…don’t just say “Oh man, I’m not even going to attempt this…Prijoolau?” I think people would appreciate a slight mispronunciation and then a well-meaning, “did I say that correctly?” over a complete butchering and brushing off of their names.

      I love the deliberate mispronunciation of the offender’s name…I may use that tactic when I’m not at work…”Oh hi…(squints at name tag)…Day-weed. Oh, it’s David? What a weird name!”

      Reply
      1. Beatrice

        It bugs the heck out of me, too. One thing I realized is that, when I meet someone else with an Anglo background, their name is rarely “new” to me. I might meet Lois Pewterschmidt, for example, and even though I’ve never met anyone with that exact name before, I’ve known a couple of Loises, and I know the word pewter, and Schmidt and variants of it are common names, so it’s familiar and comfortable for me, even if I’ve never heard that exact combination before. Remembering it is easier, too, because I’m not remembering something completely new, I’m just remembering a combination of familiar things. A name like Shahnawaz Choudhury is completely new to me, and it can be a little intimidating to learn, because I don’t have the same background for it that I have with most Western names.

        My lizardbrain reaction to that is to think something like “I’m going to struggle to pronounce and spell that correctly and remember it” > “I feel dumb when I struggle with things” > “this person and their name is making me feel dumb” > “I don’t like this situation and this name and maybe this person, because they make me feel bad” > “I’ll blame the name and the person to shift responsibility and attention from my dumb self”. I am not saying this line of thinking is okay – it is most definitely not – but I think it’s easy for people to do, especially if they let their lizardbrain run the show and they’re not mindful of how they make other people feel.

        So when I hear someone complain about how hard Indian names are, I try to make a point of stepping in and pointing out why we find Western names easier, but then appeal to the person’s compassionate side, and point out how much it sucks to have someone not care about your name (I tell stories about how a coworker once told me my 9-letter first name is too much work to type out, and a ridiculous boss once told me I had to pick a different name, because someone on our team had a similar one, and she was tired of the confusion, and how a VP once thought she was making people feel valued by making a point of greeting them by name, except she got my name wrong for six months straight, every single time she saw me, which had the opposite effect). Then I point out that I think we owe it to our Indian colleagues NOT to make them feel that way, and we should try to remember/pronounce/spell their names correctly, even if it requires more effort. And if we fail, we shouldn’t try to make ourselves feel better by pointing out how hard their names are, we should just freaking apologize and keep trying.

        Reply
      2. strawberries and raspberries

        A former co-worker of mine had an extremely unique name with very non-intuitive spelling (I think she is actually the only person in the world with this name), and she went by a shortened version. People would CONSTANTLY get her name and her nickname wrong, in pronunciation and in writing, in awful ways, and usually she was able to laugh it off. But she also had a habit of mispronouncing everyone else’s names, even relatively simple ones, and I always wondered if she was doing it somewhat in retaliation for people butchering her name. She’d see a name like “Ramon Moreno” and be like, “Okay, I’m known to butcher names here, but I’ll do my best- Rayyyyy-MOWN More-ee-AHHHH-no?” Two wrongs, I guess?

        Reply
    16. Nolan

      I have a 10 letter Italian surname that, though it is pronounced according to English phonetics, people mangled constantly and unapologetically for most of my life, so I also have made it a point in my life to not do that to other people. There are people I’ve known for years and years who still pronounce it wrong, and on multiple occasions I’ve had people think that my first and last names were totally different because of how someone else pronounced just my last name. I have very little tolerance for people who pull this crap like OP#3’s company is doing.

      I have a childhood friend who has a 10 letter Greek surname, that people would also butcher horribly. She married a man with a 13 letter Russian surname, and their justice of the peace spent much of the rehearsal “trying” to learn to pronounce it. She never did get it though and actually MUMBLED the name whenever it came up in the ceremony. MUMBLED THE NAME OF THE PEOPLE PAYING HER TO MARRY THEM DURING THE WEDDING.

      I get it when someone sees my name and pauses in consternation, and messing up when you first learn a name is okay. But the people who don’t try, or who laugh off my gentle corrections, well, they’re showing me a bit of who they really are inside, and I remember that about them.

      ESL speakers get extra leeway, and points are not deducted for having an accent.

      Reply
    17. taco_emoji

      Also like, they do this every week and STILL have trouble with these names? This should be something they pick up after a while with a modicum of effort (short of them having some language processing disorder, in which case it’s still Decidedly Uncool to joke about the names).

      Reply
    18. Shrunken Hippo

      I’m sill struggling to understand how they think making jokes is acceptable. I always truly try to pronounce names correctly and when there are names I’m not sure about I apologize beforehand for any mistakes I might make. I even apologize about my bad pronunciation of names when making a presentation and the person isn’t even there! It’s only polite to try and find out how to say it properly and then apologize if you fail. During university I had housemates that had African, Indian, and Middle Eastern names and after asking them how to say them and having them correct me a bit I never had any problems. Some names can feel a bit weird on the tongue but after some effort they start feeling normal. It just takes a bit of time and people actually trying!

      Reply
    19. Artemesia

      When I worked for a prestigious university, great care was taken to learn the pronunciation of all names before graduation. In our college, I knew the Associate Dean responsible for reading the graduate’s names. He spent a couple of weeks making phonetic notes after inquiring about any name that was not clear to him. I don’t remember any mistakes in getting reasonable pronunciations of difficult Asian or other names.

      I think some joking comes from embarrassment as muffing the name, but then the person embarrassed needs to make the effort to master it.

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Same. I was a name-reader at my departmental graduation, and in addition to asking folks for the phonetic and preferred name, I held office hours (seriously) so people could come speak to me in person about pronunciation. [Aside: My department had an especially diverse population vis-a-vis its majors, and all graduates had to obtain intermediate mastery of at least 1 non-English language to graduate.] I had no less than 20 families come up to me after graduation (of Middle Eastern, South Asian, Subsaharan African and East Asian heritage) to thank me for saying their child’s name properly. Several cried because they said it was the first time anyone had ever pronounced their name properly in a public ceremony. I was blown away and humbled, not because I thought I was awesome, but just because I couldn’t imagine someone not even trying to say your name properly for 22+ years.

        Mispronunciation because you’re struggling is normal. Not making an effort is not ok. These “little” slights (I guess we can call them microaggressions? they seem bigger than that to me) have profound impacts on people’s sense of belonging.

        Reply
      2. Student

        We were all given cards to spell our name phonetically on, and the phonetic guide so we’d do it technically correctly.

        Then we handed our card to the guy announcing names right before our name was called out at graduation. Your name only got pronounced wrong if you hadn’t bothered to look at/use the phonetic guide. It worked well. Our college, and graduating classes, were huge, so it’d be extremely hard to do it correctly for so many students any other way.

        Reply
      3. Pathfinder Ryder

        I’m envious. My university had a space on the graduation registration form for how to pronounce your name. My Eastern European Jewish friend and I (Filipina) spent an afternoon transcribing our names in both “rhymes with…” and IPA, and the readers got both of us wrong.

        Reply
    20. chi type

      Kinda OT but I was had a heck of a time figuring out what friends from Italy meant when they wanted to visit the famous American restaurant “oou-tairr”.
      Turns out they wanted to go to Hooters. lol

      Reply
      1. chi type

        I suspect it coulda been cleared up faster if they weren’t a little embarrassed to describe the restaurant further. Haha

        Reply
  3. Juli G.

    OP1: I concur that you should be very explicit. Leaving at 5:03 v. 5:00 would not register for me at all as an issue. Anything less than 5 minutes would seem insignificant without explanation.

    Reply
    1. KarenT

      Agreed, but as someone who is irked by traffic I also get it. OP, another option is to drive her in the am, but not the pm. I did the reverse with a co-worker who I drove to work but was never ready in the morning.

      Reply
      1. Catalin

        @KarenT, EXACTLY. If the bus exists, the coworker has a way to get home. If she wants the privilege of being in a car instead of public transport, your car leaves at 5:00. If she doesn’t make it, she takes the bus. Make it completely clear to her, then implement without exception. After she’s been left behind a few times, I bet she’ll meet your time need.

        Reply
      2. Rusty Shackelford

        Yes, this. Tell her “I need to leave at straight-up 5:00” and then, when she’s not ready, say “I’m really sorry, but I’ve got to go” and then DO it.

        Reply
      3. Statler von Waldorf

        This was my thought as well. Tell her clearly that you leave at five on the dot, and if she isn’t ready than she can take the bus home. The secret to this is that you should only do it if you are willing to actually follow through on your promise of leaving right on time. If you attempt this and then don’t follow through, the behavior will get worse, I guarantee it.

        Reply
    2. Mookie

      Yes. Instead of “I need to leave on time tonight,” it’s “I’m leaving work at 5pm tonight on the dot” or whatever time suits you. If you’re normally ready at 4:55pm and clocking out is not an issue, make it for then. I wouldn’t “pick her up” from her desk, either. She can meet you in the car park or at your car. I’ve found that “escorting” someone I’m driving generally makes them dawdle because they won’t wrap things up until they see you and they’re relying on you to manage their time for them. Don’t manage this co-worker’s time for her. You’re leaving when you’re leaving, and give her a big, broad heads-up about this (maybe a week for practice) so she doesn’t get herself stranded. Don’t text message, don’t e-mail her, don’t remind her. She’s an employed grown-up. She knows how leaving-on-time works. She’ll either do it or this arrangement, which is not tenable for you, should end.

      Reply
      1. Grey

        I wouldn’t “pick her up” from her desk, either.

        I was thinking the same thing. With the current arrangement, coworker thinks, “I’ll work until OP shows up at my desk”. Some people don’t want to sit at their desk and do nothing, even if it’s only for 30 seconds. There’s too much temptation to one more quick thing, like check an email.

        Change the arrangement so she’ll think, “I’ll plan on being at OP’s desk at 5:00”. You can even tell her, “I’m leaving at 5:00. If you’re not here, I’ll just assume you’re in no rush to get home”.

        Reply
        1. EddieSherbert

          +1

          I am totally 100% this person – I’ll wait for the other person to finish before I will wrap things up (because I feel weird sitting/standing idly doing nothing).

          But when someone is like “meet you at the car” or whatever, I get it then :)

          Reply
          1. Parenthetically

            Same! My husband and I are sometimes late for stuff because we’re both killing time until the other is finished getting ready. Oops.

            Reply
      2. Specialk9

        It’s also worth noting that carpooling hits a lot of buttons for a lot of people. They’re in your space, impacting your schedule, expecting to talk in the morning, etc. You need to expect to have several level-setting conversations.

        And for context, this isn’t an egregious carpool violation. I would never have guessed that 3 minutes makes a difference, and I try really hard to be super careful of carpool partner’s time. This needs words, spoken calmly and without accusation. She sounds reasonable, so I think you can sort this out. Just no hinting or hoping – use your words.

        Reply
    3. Someone

      Exactly. I mean, if you invited people to come to your home at 5:00, would you even register that they “only” arrive at 5:03?
      In most circumstances, a few minutes more or less don’t matter at all, so people generally assume some leeway.

      If 5:00 and 5:02 really is a difference, you have to communicate that.

      Reply
        1. Grey

          5:00 is also not 4:57. Would you have them sit in their car watching the clock? Or standing on your porch for 3 minutes?

          Reply
          1. MashaKasha

            Ahhh early guests are my pet peeve. I learned to get dressed and do my hair and makeup first, and then finish setting the table and tidying up, after the several times I had to answer the door in my bathrobe/with frizzy hair/with only one eye made up, to a happy guest that looked proud of themselves for having arrived 20 minutes early.

            Agree that three minutes is within the margins, though.

            And an early carpool passenger would be far more welcome than an early guest. If I tell her we leave at 5:00 and she is ready at 4:50, awesome.

            Reply
          2. Marillenbaum

            I am this person. I routinely arrive five minutes early for my own peace of mind, and then spend that remaining time taking a walk around the block so I don’t knock on someone’s door until EXACTLY 5:00.

            Reply
        2. Parenthetically

          Wow. The clock in my car is two minutes fast. And traffic exists. That’s a recipe for spending your life in a haze of fury at everyone.

          Reply
    4. OP

      I understand the comments and I have clearly not been explicit enough about leaving exactly at 5 – I had kind of been assuming that she’d notice she gets home quicker when we leave nearer the normal finish time. Also, if I had someone waiting at my desk to give me a lift home after we were supposed to leave, I’d get a move on. But maybe my coworker isn’t receptive to hints!

      Reply
      1. Sabine the Very Mean

        Yeah, it’s an odd thing. I once had a parts lady who’d stop work every time I came for a part to make coffee as she said, “you’re not in a hurry are you?” Uh, not exactly but WTH? Some people are oblivious to these things.

        Reply
      2. Jeanne

        Time is a funny thing. Some notice one or two minutes, others don’t. I highly doubt she has correlated leaving 3 minutes late with getting home 15 minutes late. Or she may not care because 15 min late is better than the bus. It’s so easy when you’re riding not driving to miss those things. Be specific, ask for what you need, watch her reaction, and go from there. But if she ends up on the bus it is not your responsibility.

        Reply
      3. Had Matter's Pea Tarty

        Some people have awful pattern recognition. It took child me years to realise that TV programmes actually had schedules and aren’t just up to chance. So I could look these things up, rather than hope and pray that Pokémon was on after this one ad and not the end of the Saturday morning cartoons.

        More recently, I had to be told that Mum showers at 6:30 every other morning rather than on random days as I’d assumed.

        Reply
      4. Antilles

        To be honest, I’m guessing your hints aren’t nearly that clear on the other side. Someone showing up at the desk and saying “hey, you ready to leave?” doesn’t necessarily indicate *now* *now* *now* – if I’m in the middle of writing an email, taking the two minutes to finish that up wouldn’t seem like a big deal. And if I really needed to go, I wouldn’t think much of asking if I could hit up the restroom real quick.
        Also, the fact that leaving 5 minutes late is 20 minutes total on the commute is very hard to notice unless you’re paying very close attention over a long stretch of time (like weeks or months even). Why? There’s always some other more prominent obvious cause you can blame it on – we got home 10 minutes later than normal but there was that accident on the highway, we got home 15 minutes late yesterday but there was that jerk who blocked the intersection, etc. So it can take a while to connect the dots to “…but every time we leave at 5:04, there’s always Something, whereas if we leave at 5:00 exactly, we seem to miss those things.” This is even more true given her history – the difference between a 30 and 40 minutes drive might not even be registering on her radar given that her mental point of comparison is “60 minutes and two buses”.

        Reply
        1. always in email jail

          This is true and someone regional/cultural.
          When I moved from the American South to Canada in high school, I would often say things like “you about ready to leave?” to friends when I was ready to leave. Where I grew up, that was code for “I’m ready to leave are you going to object if we do that now?”. I finally explained that to someone who responded with “…OK here we just say ‘I’m ready to go now are you?'” which made sense once it was explained to me but it did have to be explained. Sometimes it feels like you’re being direct when you’re really not.

          Reply
          1. Dust Bunny

            “About ready to leave” means “OK, final notice to get your purse and make a bathroom trip”, not “we’re leaving now”. The qualifier is “about”. If you’re “about” ready, you’re still only approaching ready, but you’re not there yet. (I’m in Texas.)

            Reply
            1. BPT

              It can also be a hint saying “let’s leave now.” If you have Couple A visiting Couple B and Couple A is ready to leave, one of them might say, “You about ready to go?” Then they leave. It makes it seem not as abrupt to the couple they’re visiting and Southerners are not known for being super direct (am a Southerner).

              Reply
              1. The OG Anonsie

                Yeah, it means “now” but not “now” the way the letter writer is using it– which is literal and immediate. Say, in your scenario there, when Boyfriend A says that, the couple doesn’t get up and sprint for the door. They’ll say goodbye, maybe gather up whatever things they might need to take with them, maybe go to the bathroom.

                Reply
            2. DaBlonde

              My husband and I joke about “fixin’ to get ready” which is code for “as soon as I finish this snack/chapter/task I will go look for my shoes and keys.”

              Reply
        2. LQ

          I totally agree about the relative thing. I am a very punctual and time focused person. But I would not notice if we leave 4 minutes later we arrive 15 minutes later if the end thing wasn’t a time sensitive one. I’ll notice that at the start of the day, but I wouldn’t notice at the end, especially if my bus option was 60 minutes plus a transfer. Traffic is weird and especially once you are taking highways and you have to deal with traffic each incident becomes chalk-upable as traffic. Often a bus will be 4-5 minutes late and will manage to make up the time with a streak of not having to stop, no biggie (and sometimes it’s early and then ends up 50 minutes late because a whole bunch of whatevers). So if bus is my touchstone…it’s going to feel inconsequential.

          You have to be absolutely clear and spell it out.

          Reply
        3. a1

          If someone were standing at my desk waiting to leave I’d wrap up real fast. Even I thought we were early (which is not the case here). “Do unto others…” and all that – I don’t like waiting for other people so I never make them wait for me. Of course, I would also be the one that wants to be wrapped up and done, yes even waiting a minute or two for them, when they arrived. That said, I also wouldn’t see a problem with going to the bathroom on the way out, as long as it wasn’t all the time.

          Reply
      5. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)

        I am really, really bad at being able to recognize how much time is passing. I’ve tried timing myself and counting out when I think 5 minutes has passed, for instance, and I’m always wildly off (as in I think it’s only been 5 minutes but actually it’s been 8 or 10). So I don’t think that I would even notice that it took an extra 15 minutes to get home unless I was watching the clock because I had something to do at a specific time.

        Having said that, if you were hovering over my desk telling me it’s time to go I’d pick up my stuff and skedaddle.

        Reply
        1. ClownBaby

          Me too! I like to leave right on time for the same reasons as the OP, but I also hate not working until the absolute last minute. So if I get an email at 4:55…I’ll think to myself “Okay, ClownBaby, you got 5 minutes to respond. You got this.” I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to emails and will review it 3 or 4 times before sending it just to make sure there are no typos or grammatical errors, even if it’s just a one sentence response. By the time I hit “Send” it will be 5:07 and I’ll hit the worst of traffic.

          If there was someone hovering saying “4:59, log off and let’s get out of here,” I would definitely either leave the email for the next day, or forgo my obsessive spelling/grammar check.

          Reply
          1. Turquoisecow

            I almost never leave work on time. I don’t want to stop working at 4:58 – I could still do something in those 2 minutes! – and I’d feel odd about walking out two minutes later (especially because I’ve worked places where this would definitely be remarked on and talked about negatively), so I figure, oh, I’ll do this one thing. And then it’s 5:05.

            And I always use the bathroom before leaving. I have an hour or so commute right now, but even when I didn’t, I didn’t want to be partway home and find out I *really* need to go. If I was pregnant, I’d make doubly sure I hit the bathroom before leaving.

            Also, even though I appreciate punctuality, 5:03 would not register as “late” to me. When I worked at a place with a time clock, you had a 7 minute window. If you punched in at 9:06, you got paid as though you’d arrived at 9. If you punched at 9:08, it was like you’d arrived at 9:15. (Of course, the boss might still note 5 minute latenesses, but you wouldn’t be docked.) Anything under 5-10 would be “not late” in my book, but I seem to be surrounded by people who show up 15 minutes late and think they’re on time.

            Reply
        2. Specialk9

          She is pregnant though – sometimes standing up is all it takes to go, ooops, bathroom now.

          But saying seriously, 5 on the dot means she can wrap that up earlier.

          Reply
          1. Friday

            Pregs can plan the bathroom trip ahead of time just like anything else they need to do to get out the door right at 5. I’m pregnant and this is my world right now, and I make sure I am not late for meetings, leaving on time, etc. by staying ahead of my bladder.

            Reply
        3. Annabelle

          I’m the same way. I have ADHD so estimating time patterns is really hard for me. I definitely wouldn’t notice an additional 15 minutes unless I had a time-sensitive appointment or something.

          But yeah, that being said, I would feel really bad if someone was standing at my desk waiting to go home. Idk why OP’s coworker isn’t taking that as a signal to hurry it up.

          Reply
        4. Elizabeth West

          I have a similar issue–it’s part of my dyscalculia. I have to REALLY plan in order to be on time. It’s worse in the morning. I have major travel anxiety because of it; I’m always terrified I’ll miss a plane or it will take me hours to get somewhere because my estimate is off (the worry about getting lost is another jerkbrain thing altogether).

          Reply
      6. Optics

        i have a lot of sympathy for you, OP, but I just wanted to raise a couple of points. First, you might want to remember that pregnant people can’t always control the peeing part of things, so accept that you might need to be late some days – and that may get worse as the pregnancy progresses.

        Also, sexist discrimination against pregnant people and new parents coming back from parental leave is real, so be aware that if you are asking yor coworker to leave their desk early to get to you so you can leave at exactly 5pm, and coworker has to do that every day, the optics may look bad for them. They may be facing some blowback and pressure from their coworkers and their boss, as well as general hassle about pregnant = unable to cope with work.

        It might be worth enquiring about the culture on their team, in case they’re dealing with some kind of workaholic presenteeism and/or sexism. I mean, I’m sure they want to care about your commuting time, but not if their job might be at risk, you know?

        Reply
        1. caryatis

          None of that is OP’s problem. If the coworker wants to work later than five, she is free to do so, but she doesn’t get the ride.

          Reply
        2. Rusty Shackelford

          i have a lot of sympathy for you, OP, but I just wanted to raise a couple of points. First, you might want to remember that pregnant people can’t always control the peeing part of things, so accept that you might need to be late some days – and that may get worse as the pregnancy progresses.

          When pregnant coworker finally understands that OP wants to leave *at 5:00*, she’ll learn to pee at 4:45. Easy peasy.

          Reply
            1. Rusty Shackelford

              Well, she can figure out how to hold it until the OP drops her off at her house, or she can figure out how to hold it until after her 60-minute bus commute, so…

              Reply
              1. JulieBulie

                Sure, just as soon as I finish answering emails, tidying up, and using the bathroom. It will just be a minute…

                Reply
        3. Baby Driver

          Apropos of my point last week that people who are eligible for a driver’s license ought to get one: here’s Exhibit A. If OP’s coworker needs to pee at 5:00 or suffers from “workholic presenteeism,” she can learn to drive, and stop foisting these problems on coworkers. Non-drivers do this kind of thing all the time.

          Reply
          1. Undine

            But now you’re asking her not to just get a license, but a car, which is a significant expense. She may have a licens –, we don’t know she doesn’t.

            Reply
          2. Jessie the First (or second)

            Baby driver, you’re reading a kind of aggressive problem-foisting onto the situation that is totally unjustified.

            For one, the OP has plainly admitted that she has not been direct – she has not *told* the coworker that she needs to be walking out the door at 5. She’s merely hinted around. So blaming a problem on the coworker does not make sense – she does not know there is a problem! We do not know that coworker can’t manager her time, or can’t pee earlier, or suffers from “workaholic presenteeism.” She is not an Exhibit A for any of that because OP has not told her she needs to leave earlier or to be ready to walk out at 5. If OP tells her and the coworker continues to be late, *then* she is being difficult. But right now, she has no idea there is an issue.

            She’s not “foisting these problems” (of not having a car to commute) onto her coworker, either, because aside from this one issue, OP specifically and very clearly says she likes the carpool. It is not a problem. She likes the company in the car, she likes the help with gas money.

            Reply
          3. Gazebo Slayer

            Or she can take the bus; OP specifically stated there is one.

            Why are you so obsessed with the idea that everyone must learn to drive and buy a car or otherwise they are bad and irresponsible people? (Even if they can’t afford one – and if they medically can’t drive, well then they’re still bad people we should look down on but maybe should also pity.) Given your screen name, I’m guessing it’s sort of a “zeal of the converted” thing – that you recently learned to drive or bought your first car and decided it’s the best thing in the world and everyone should do it no matter what.

            Reply
            1. Baby Driver

              >Why are you so obsessed with the idea that everyone must learn to drive…
              Setting aside whether I’m “obsessed” with it or not, I think they ought to learn how to drive because (1) it’s a useful skill, (2) you may miss opportunities, whether at work or simply to enjoy life, that you would have had as a driver, and (3) by and large, in the US, our cities, and certainly not our suburbs and exurbs, aren’t well-suited to non-drivers.

              > or otherwise they are bad and irresponsible people…
              I didn’t say they were “bad or irresponsible people”; that’s your conclusion. But I do say that they’re often externalizing an internality — in other words, foisting the consequences of their decision not to drive onto other people. OP here is a great example of this problem; she feels obligated to shuttle her non-driving co-worker around, even at the cost of a significantly longer commute for herself.

              >Even if medically can’t drive…
              …and here you’re outright ignoring what I wrote. (Namely, that “people eligible for a driver’s license” ought to get one.) If you medically can’t drive, your ineligible for a license.

              As for the other posters who ask whether the co-worker can afford a car, or a license, I have no idea. But none of that is OP’s problem. OP isn’t obligated to subsidize transportation for everyone else.

              Reply
        4. Delphine

          She’s generously driving her coworker to and from work, asking that coworker to be on time is hardly discriminatory.

          Reply
      7. Dust Bunny

        If she’s not the one driving, she probably doesn’t. It’s also possible that, while some trips take longer than others, it’s not obvious to her that it was the difference in time that caused it–if one day took longer but there was a stalled car, maybe it was that. Or some other thing. My commute is generally x amount of time but it varies even if I leave at the same time every day because there are so many other factors. I doubt it registers with her that 5 minutes is the root cause.

        Reply
      8. The OG Anonsie

        It sounds like she is, though. When you go over to her desk and ask if she’s ready to leave, she gets it together and leaves within a couple of minutes. That’s a typical, reasonable response. If you need her to do something else, you need to be more specific and explicit.

        Reply
      9. LCL

        Of course she doesn’t get the impact 3 minutes makes on traffic. She doesn’t drive. Just explain it to her, nicely. In many areas, an extra 15-20 minutes by car is still faster than public transit.

        Reply
    5. AnotherAlison

      Also, it does not sound like it’s the case here, but some people have different definitions of “work” time. I was taught that you are on the clock doing actual work from 8-5. You can log off and gather your stuff up at 5, but at best that probably puts you out the door at 5:03. (Similarly, on the front end, you get your coffee and turn on your computer before 8 am so you’re doing productive or billable work at 8 am.)

      If I was the ride-taker, I would be a little miffed that you think I should be at the door at 5, but also as the ride-taker, I would accommodate your routine instead of my own.

      Reply
      1. MCMonkeyBean

        I agree, I would consider leaving at 5 on the dot meaning that I’m stopping work early every day which would make me a little uncomfortable. And yeah, I’m probably going to have to use the bathroom before we go.

        Reply
      2. Casual Fribsday

        This is what I was thinking as well. She may feel like you’re pushing her to be dishonest about her work time by wrapping things up before five. Which is something she can adjust, but it’s probably helpful to have that frame of reference.

        Reply
      3. Turquoisecow

        Yes, same here. If I want to leave at five, I need to go use the bathroom by 4:50 and start packing up at 4:55. If OP is at Coworker’s desk at 5, then she’s definitely stopped working before 5.

        Reply
        1. Baby Driver

          In which case the solution is very simple. OP stops chauffering her coworker around. If that means coworker has to take the bus, so be it. She’s made a decision not to drive, and she should deal with the inconvenience this causes, rather than foist it on kindly co-workers.

          Reply
        1. CanCan

          Doesn’t that depend on when everyone gets in? If everybody else stays past 5, but also gets in fairly late, it would be quite ok to leave at 5 sharp if you also came in before everyone else (and before the “official” start time).

          Some people’s lives are highly scheduled (e.g. transit schedules, childcare pickup, etc.), so leaving on the dot doesn’t mean slacking off, unless you’re also getting in as late as possible, taking really long lunches, and generally not pulling your weight.

          Reply
      4. Oilpress

        I agree about the unrealistic expectation that someone working to 5:00 will be ready to leave the building at 5:00. I disagree about the ride-taker concept here, though, because the OP is taking money from the ride-taker. To me, that necessitates some sort of consensus rather than a dictatorial arrangement about times and conditions. If leaving her desk at 4:57 is going to get the ride-taker in trouble then the ride-giver should probably accommodate a 5:05 departure given she is sharing some of the costs.

        Reply
    6. NoMoreMrFixit

      When I was carpooling (driver) I would give my coworker a 10 minute heads-up that departure time was imminent. It made a huge difference in getting out the door on time.

      Reply
        1. NoMoreMrFixit

          that’s what happened in the end. I told them to find alternate means of getting to/from work after they caused us to get to work more than a half hour late on increasingly frequent occasions.

          Reply
    7. That Would Be a Good Band Name

      I’m going to also chime in and say that I wouldn’t register up to as much as 5:10 as *not* leaving at 5. Also, I’ve had it drilled into me by various jobs that you work until quitting time. So, I’d work until 5p and then close everything out, pack up my stuff, hit the bathroom, etc.

      Reply
      1. Subsriba

        Agree. And I would probably realise that if we left at 5 instead of 5:03 we would get home 15 minutes earlier, but in the same way that if we left at 2:39 we would also have a short trip – i.e. there’s no sense feeling bad about hypothetical faster trips that aren’t possible due to work commitments, and leaving bang on the dot of 5 and packing up earlier is one of those trips.

        Although it’s still entirely reasonable for the OP to set that as a condition of carpooling. It’s her car.

        Reply
  4. Amy

    OP1: I think most people will assume that if you get off at precisely 5:00, being out the door and in the car at 5:03 is still ‘on time’. Most people’s concept of ‘on time’ has a minute or two of leeway, realistically speaking. I’m not saying it’s wrong to need to be in the car and hitting the road at exactly 5:00, but it is something you’ll need to state outright–you can’t reasonably expect people to intuit that.

    If you do clarify and she continues to not be ready at 5:00, at some point it might be worth evaluating whether what you get out of this arrangement is worth the delay. You’re not obligated to continue carpooling with her forever–if it’s not working out, you can end the arrangement. But making sure you guys are on the same page might well fix this, so try that first.

    Reply
    1. nofelix

      Also clocks do differ. I can see right now my PC clock is showing a different time to the clock on my desk phone. It might be adding to OP’s anxiety about the situation to see every minute after 5pm being ‘late’. Presumably this would mean you could leave 5 minutes early each day and be home even quicker, but I doubt you’re stressing about that because a 30min commute is what you’ve decided is the baseline.

      Reply
      1. LQ

        OH! Yes! I’m in a different work area and all the clocks are off by 1-5 minutes, and all different from each other. One of these days I’m going to recruit someone to help me and I’ll come in early and get them all down and fix them because it’s so annoying.

        Reply
          1. LQ

            It’s gremlins, or lazy time setting. I suspect what actually happened in my space is someone said, ok it’s 8:05 and then set every clock in the space to 8:05, even when it was now 8:10 because it was 8:05 when they started…
            With microwaves I don’t think I’d be able to stop myself. The only thing that’s stopped me from fixing these is I’ll need to climb up on something and there’s nothing convenient and even slightly safeish.

            Reply
            1. Bagpuss

              I don’t think I could, either. I currently have 2 ovens in my (home) kitchen and after every power cut it takes me ages to get them dead in sync with each other. It really bothers me if they are out of step, even if it’s only a few seconds. The ovens being out of sync with each other bothers me much more than the microwave being out of sync with the ovens – I think it’s because the ovens are identical.
              I can’t wait to get to the point where I can refit my kitchen and don’t have to live with me predecessors weird layout and choices…

              Reply
    2. SLR

      OP, are you packing up at 4:55 & she waits until literally 5p to wrap up? I’ve worked in environments where if your shift ends at 5p, you are expected to be working until that time. Packing up even 5 minutes early was just not allowed. Maybe your coworker is doing something similar?

      Reply
      1. kittymommy

        Thus is what I was thinking. In my last job, also in an office, I was hourly so I did all of my personal, last minute things after my scheduled end of work time. For me my actual work ended at 4:30, not at 4:25 just so I could leave at 4:30.
        And I do understand about traffic, 5 minutes can turn my drive into and extra 20 too.

        Reply
        1. SLR

          Yes exactly, work ends at 5p, so you’re literally working until that time. I’ve been in many positions where that is A Thing you’re expected to do every day. Otherwise, they’d amend time sheets to reflect those 10 minutes you were packing up & not working. The only exceptions that were allowed were for folks taking public transit. AND they had to prove there was only 1 option for them to get approval. As in, if they want to take a train that leaves at 5:05 & the station is 15 minutes away they ask for the exception to leave at 4:45p but have to also show that there’s not a bus or some other public transport option at that same time with a closer location. A lot of those cases were folks that lived in suburbs & trains only ran their route once an hour. It was actually really hard for people to get that exception too.

          Reply
      2. Cercis

        I got “taken to task” because I left my desk at 5:01 every day. My bus picked me up across the street at 5:05, so staying even an extra few seconds meant that I’d miss it and have to wait until the next one (at 5:20) and wouldn’t get home until about 6:30 (instead of 6). I literally never shut my computer off until 5:00 on the dot, but being so “punctual” about logging off signaled that I didn’t really want to be there and resented my job.

        What the boss didn’t see was that my bus got me to work at 7:25 (because if I’d taken the next bus technically I should have gotten there at 7:40, but traffic being erratic meant that it was often more like 8:05). So I would get to work more than half an hour early (I started getting off the bus early and walking along the riverwalk and enjoying the pretty weather if the bus was running on time), time I’d use to get my tea, put my stuff away and generally have things ready for the workday and I’d log on to my computer promptly at 7:59.

        Plus, if I was even one minute late logging in, they’d assess me points and make me use leave for that minute (which meant they actually took more than a minute of leave because leave wasn’t in increments that small). So, they’d penalize me for being a minute late starting but wanted me to give them a minute or two each evening.

        I was very happy to leave that job, I clearly wasn’t a good cultural fit. Luckily (?) the boss never escalated it beyond talking to me about it and pulling passive aggressive stunts like coming to talk to me at 4:55 (about non work related things). If she had escalated it, I’d have made them pull my computer records to show that I’d put in a full 8 hours plus a couple of minutes.

        The other issue she had with me was that I’d take lunch late. I had to coordinate lunches with my coworker. My coworker was supposed to take lunch at 11:30 and I’d take lunch at 12:30, except boss would come to the coworker at 11:15 and have an urgent project that needed to be done, so coworker wouldn’t get to leave until 12:00, putting me taking lunch at 1:00. When I pointed out the issue, she just told me to figure it out (due to other coverage issues, coworker and I couldn’t switch lunch times on a regular basis so the easy answer was not an option). I talked to HR about that and was told to just not worry about it, but to take lunch when my coworker came back because I was required to make sure there was coverage.

        Reply
  5. saagpaneer

    OP1: If it wouldn’t be an obvious violation of your workplace’s policy, try telling her “It turns out leaving at 5 isn’t early enough to beat the traffic! From now on we have to leave at 4:50.” That way she can continue doing her last-minute things, and you’ll walk out the door at 5pm.

    Reply
    1. AcademiaNut

      I think when you’re doing someone a favour, you don’t need to play games with lying about when you actually need to leave to trick them into being on time.

      The OP does need to be clear that “on time” means exactly five, not 5:03, and that it’s for a good reason, because that’s not necessarily intuitive. However, once she’s made that clear, leaving exactly at five even if the coworker isn’t ready is a reasonable response. After that, either the coworker will either start being on time, or will take the bus.

      Reply
      1. Goya

        Agreed about the not needing to play games. I have zero patience for people who don’t respect other peoples time/efforts. If she had her own vehicle, tidying up, going to the bathroom, etc. is no big deal, because it’s only HER time being affected. Since she’s relying on someone else for transportation, it’s no longer only HER time that matters. I personally would skip right to the “Car is leaving at 5:00, with or without you.” She might have to ride the bus once to realize you were serious, but I doubt she would need much more then that!

        Reply
        1. Natalie

          There’s really no reason to jump to assuming that the OP’s coworker isn’t respecting OP’s time and efforts. A few minutes on either side *is* on time to practically everyone, given differing timepieces. OP would be better off being super explicit before she starts getting pissed off.

          Reply
          1. Jessie the First (or second)

            Exactly. For all we know, OP’s clock is 5 minutes faster for pete’s sake, but at the very least, I’d never think that leaving at 5:02 or 5:03 isn’t leaving on time. It’s just strange to go directly to the angry “HOW DARE YOU” before ever just saying explicitly what you need (“Hey, I have to walk out the door right at 5 on the dot, not even a minute or two later, because of traffic”)!

            (Not that OP is doing that! But a few commenters are.)

            Reply
  6. Amy

    OP3: Definitely the jokes need to stop. Ideally, they’ll be replaced by speakers actually making an effort to learn how to say people’s names! There are a lot of fairly easy ways to figure this out. Maybe your coworkers would benefit from trying the following:
    -Ask the person how to pronounce their name.
    -Google ‘(name) pronunciation’. For most languages, you’ll get results. This isn’t foolproof. For example, it doesn’t always work well with Chinese–if you’re using a romanized name rather than the actual characters, you might to get the wrong tonal pronunciation. Also, sometimes people pronounce their names in non-traditional ways. But it’s usually better than a random guess.
    -HR (or whoever onboarded them, or their manager, or the person in the next desk over) might have heard how they say their name/whether they use a nickname/etc.–try asking around
    -But asking the person is the surest bet. It’s also the easiest, generally least time consuming way to figure it out.

    Reply
    1. CM

      I agree — another trick is to call the person’s voicemail during off-hours to hear how they pronounce their name. We have an exec who does this because he wants to pronounce people’s names correctly in companywide meetings, but doesn’t have time to have conversations with each person.

      Even if you don’t bother to figure out correct pronunciation, completely mispronouncing somebody’s name is far preferable to joking about how you can’t pronounce the name. A brief, “I apologize in advance if I’m pronouncing anybody’s name incorrectly,” is OK to add but not necessary.

      Reply
    2. Emi.

      None of the Chinese people I know expect non-Chinese to get the tones right, and some Chinese-Americans don’t use them at all, so asking is probably your best bet. (And if you just had the characters, you still wouldn’t know the pronunciation, since different dialects are all written the same!)

      Reply
      1. Amy

        True! Like I said, google definitely isn’t foolproof, and asking is still the best way to go. But if you truly can’t ask for some reason, I think googling and getting a wrong-but-plausible result still at least shows that you tried? Whereas completely BSing your way through it and then joking about how hard it is shows that you don’t think you should have to try. Even if both of those scenarios end in mispronouncing the name, one shows a lot more respect than the other.

        Reply
        1. Emi.

          Yeah, the joking is really ridiculous. I used to have a lot of students with tricky-to-read names and when I messed up I would say “Oh, sorry!” and repeat it the correct way. It’s really not that difficult to be polite.

          Reply
    3. OP3

      It’s really the lack of attempt that is so appalling – they have the names, they know how to get in touch with their manager or the like, if they don’t feel comfortable asking directly. But even when they try and don’t just give up halfway through saying the name, the follow it up with things like, “That was a hard one! Good for me!” Ugh.

      Reply
      1. Emi.

        I’m so sorry! I think you should definitely focus on that if you push back again. If it sounds like you’re saying “they should get it right,” that’s not going to go as far as “they should be polite” (in general, since the line between “pronouncing a name wrong” and “pronouncing a name with a different accent” isn’t always bright,* but especially with a language like Chinese that has so many sounds English doesn’t).

        (*what your coworkers are doing is pretty clearly not just accents, of course)

        Reply
      2. JulieBulie

        Considering that you’ve already mentioned this on surveys before, I think Alison’s script might be too gentle.

        What I would say on the survey (or to anyone’s face if they asked me):

        “If you truly wish to embrace diversity, stop mocking the names of our new hires during the all-hands meetings. Has anyone considered what that sounds like to a new employee? Please take a moment before the meeting to ask new employees how to pronounce their names. This is respectful, welcoming, and professional behavior.”

        Reply
    4. anonak

      I had a boss who was atrociously bad at pronouncing people’s names. This included ones that were not typical English as well as some more complicated English names.

      I gently hinted about maybe having someone else read off the names during awards and corrected her pronunciation many many times, but unfortunately that did not.

      I think the issue is that she didn’t see it as a very big deal. She had a fairly simple name to pronounce and probably didn’t have to deal with people constantly mispronouncing her name. I on the other end have a deceptively simple last name that gets extra letters inserted all the time. Even though I try not to let it affect me, it’s still irks me especially when said by people who know me.

      Reply
      1. Cherith Ponsonby

        I had a coworker who was the same. We were all consultants, and on my first day at this particular client site she took me around and introduced me to everyone. Which would have been fine except she insisted on introducing me by name, with the wrong pronunciation.

        “Hi Bob, this is Charis.”
        “Hi Charis, welcome to Clientsite!”
        “Actually it’s Cherith, but thanks!”

        Then Bob would give us both a strange look, and she’d be all “oh, I’m so terrible with names, tee hee”, and we’d move on to the next person and I’d get Charis’d again. (My real name is much more common.)

        After a few iterations of this I had the chance to say between introductions, “hey, if you can’t pronounce my name, how about just letting me introduce myself?” And she drew herself up indignantly and said that she’d told me she was terrible with names and she couldn’t be expected to get mine right. And as I stood there in shock she said, magnanimously, “But you can mispronounce my name if you want to.”

        Reply
  7. OrphanBrown

    OP3: Ugh, I am so annoyed by your colleagues’ behavior. For the record, I have an Indian name that is extremely easy to pronounce, yet it’s not always clear if you’re reading it for the first time. I wouldn’t hold it against someone for mispronouncing it as long as they don’t hold it against me for correcting them, which I do every time. I spent my entire childhood having my name mispronounced but I am assertive enough not to take it anymore in the workplace.

    Making fun of mispronouncing someone’s name is hostile behavior. At a minimum I would call it a microaggression. Some readers might think it’s no big deal. I personally think people who do this are racist glassbowls. I hope you take the advice to speak up.

    Reply
    1. Mookie

      racist glassbowls

      Nice. Is that yours? Reminds me of the Mr Show episode where all the naughty language in a mafia film is replaced with absurdly sanitized dubbing to accommodate television broadcast censors (“the both of youze can grab onto my books, mother-father Chinese dentist”).

      Reply
      1. Gazebo Slayer

        My favorite real example of that sort of thing is the broadcast censorship of the car-smashing scene from The Big Lebowski: “This is what you get when you find a stranger in the Alps!”

        Reply
      2. Andraste's Knicker Weasels (formerly ancolie)

        The Die Hard movies have some classically terrible censor-dubs.

        “Yippee-ki-yay, Mr. Falcon!”
        “This is what happens when you friend a stranger in the Alps!”

        Reply
    2. CoffeeLover

      I have to agree and disagree with you. I agree that it’s rude (I too have a foreign name… mine is both hard to read and hard to pronounce for english speakers). But I don’t think this behaviour reaches the level of microagression, hostility or racism. I think people feel self conscious about not being able to pronounce someone’s name, about sounding stupid and about potentially insulting them as a result. They try to make light of the situation by joking. Misguided yes, but I dont think we need to assume racism or hostility. I’m sure most of these people would feel rightly horrified to find out how rude they’re actually being.

      OP if you feel inclined I don’t think it would be a big deal for you to reach out to the offenders directly. Send a quick “hey, I’m sure you didn’t mean to be interpreted this way, but joking about difficult to pronounce names can make people feel unwelcome.” Or however you’d like to phrase it….

      Reply
      1. JamieS

        This was my take on it too. Are the speakers obviously mocking the names or are they accidentally mispronouncing them and joking about the difficulty to cover up embarrassment?

        Granted I might bit more sympathetic because there are words and names that seem easy to others that I legitimately can’t pronounce even after spending a significant amount of time practicing so it’s hard for me to just automatically assume the speakers aren’t practicing the names or are being malicious.

        Regardless the jokes need to stop even if they’re the result of the speaker feeling self conscious.

        Reply
        1. hbc

          I can forgive the mispronunciations if they’re doing their actual best–my grandmother was French and she just couldn’t make the H sound leading my first name. The sound just wasn’t in her repertoire, not even for her first born grandchild.

          But yeah, any joke made by the mispronouncer needs to be at their own expense. And there’s a high correlation between people who put it off on others and who don’t even make the slightest effort. All the sounds in Dhinakar, Johan, and My-Van are found in everyday English.

          Reply
        2. paul

          I have a hell of a time with pronunciation in general; back in school I got lectured on it with my English teachers, my Spanish teachers and later on my English professors and my Japanese professor :/ Actually did 4-5 years of speech therapy in elementary and middle school.

          Not sure how much it helped or didn’t–too long ago–but it’s the sort of thing where I try and hope someone’s not too touchy about it because I’m doing what I can.

          Reply
          1. fposte

            My dad genuinely could not hear the difference between many different language sounds; probably not coincidentally, he was also tone-deaf.

            Reply
          2. OrphanBrown

            I think doing the best you can comes across to people like, doing the best you can. And I wouldn’t hold it against you. What these people are doing is different, and it’s not wrong to be touchy about it.

            Reply
      2. Jeanne

        It is definitely a microaggression. Even if the jokes are made for a benign reason, the speakers can learn to stop joking. No jokes, no giggling, act like a professional. It is offensive. An honest mispronunciation can be forgiven. The current behavior is not acceptable. What if the company starts to lose good employees or gets a bad reputation for being racist or gets involved in a lawsuit? It’s not worth it.

        Reply
        1. CoffeeLover

          Common now. When you live in a foreign land and have a foreign name (as I do), you’re not going to feel huge outrage to the point of leaving your well-paying job over people who are less than graceful at handling a sensitive subject. Because you’d have to leave every job. Because people will forever mispronounce your name and comment on how difficult it is. Some names (like mine) *cannot* be properly pronounced by germanic speakers because they contain certain sounds. That’s the price you pay for living in a foreign country – you will never be like everyone else. A lot of foreigners I know go by a “western” name for this reason… they’re not willing to battle over the small stuff when there’s bigger fish to fry like overt racism, pay gaps, and sounding stupid because you can’t speak the language well, for example.

          I’m not saying it should be like this or that we shouldn’t try to change. I’m not saying that what these people are doing is okay or that it shouldn’t be addressed, but let’s not act like they’re terrible humans or that we haven’t said something equally insensitive in the past.

          Reply
          1. Thursday Next

            “Foreign” names =/= “foreigners.” I have an Indian name, but was born in the American South…a long time ago. That’s decades of people butchering my name—which isn’t the worst of it. There were frequent jokes; people felt entitled to expect that they shouldn’t have to learn my name because it was too “hard”; and too many jerks attempted to rename me. Not like, “Your name is Katherine—May I call you Kate?” More like, “Your name is Katherine. I find that too hard. I will call you Sally.”

            I’ve lived in Japan and have no problem being the “stranger in a strange land.” That’s a different experience from being constantly othered in my own country.

            Reply
            1. CoffeeLover

              Sorry, I didn’t meant to imply that just because you have a foreign sounding name means you’re a foreigner (I noticed this after I posted but thought I was already going on a tangent). I moved to Canada at a very young age and for all intents and purposes am Canadian (I feel more that than anything else, though I now live in a different country). Still, I would never be 100% Canadian in a canadians eyes with a name like mine. I think cultural names are beautiful, but I plan to give my kid a name that transfers to as many languages as possible. It’s just not a fight I’m personally willing to fight (or make my kids fight) if I can avoid it. I do think it’s getting better though.

              I think your situation is a lot worse than what’s being described. Forcing a western name on someone or absolutely refusing to learn to pronounce it is blatantly horrible. I’m sorry you had to go through that.

              Reply
              1. Thursday Next

                Thanks! I appreciate the sympathy. I definitely thought about my kids’ names with this in mind. I think my parents never anticipated staying on in the U.S. permanently, so they didn’t even think about what school roll calls would be like!

                Reply
              2. Chinook

                ” Still, I would never be 100% Canadian in a canadians eyes with a name like mine.”

                As a Canadian, I highly disagree. If Shaun Mujumder, Naheed Nenshi, Jagmeet Singh can be considered well known (to Canadians) examples of locally born Canadians, then I think it is possible to look past the names as making you Canadian. Western names were never forced on them for them to succeed in life and, once they open their mouth and you hear their local accent, you realize that they are from here and not away.

                Reply
                1. CoffeeLover

                  Here’s the thing, if you ask a John Adams where he’s from and he says Manitoba, the conversation stops there. If you ask a Naheed Nenshi (ok not THE Naheed Nenshi ;) the same thing, and he says Manitoba, the followup question will be “yes, but where are you FROM.” Or the polite “what’s your ethnicity.”

                  Don’t get me wrong, Canada is a super inclusive country. We don’t have the same level of racism and prejudice as the US. I loved growing up there; I never felt like I had less of a chance at success than others and I got to grow up surrounded by people from all cultures. But I will never be an Ashley Johnson or a Joe Smith. I’m sure one day that won’t matter, but today is not that day.

          2. MashaKasha

            Yeah, most of us have learned to suck it up and live with it. But one day, these meeting hosts are going to make fun of the wrong Dhinakar, and there will be consequences.

            Reply
            1. Specialk9

              My company promoted several people with non-Western names to VP and C-level positions. I can ASSURE YOU that everyone learned how to pronounce their names. (Within a reasonable range.) Because they are important.

              So turn that one around and tell me what it says when one doesn’t learn to pronounce a name. Not even get close.

              Yup. Ouch.

              Reply
          3. OrphanBrown

            I guess I just don’t see this comment as true: “Because people will forever mispronounce your name and comment on how difficult it is.”

            Respectful people will not forever mispronounce your name, and respectful people will get a clue and will not forever comment on how difficult it is. If people were behaving the way the OP’s colleagues were in my company? I would not be sticking around. I’m grateful to be privileged enough to be able to walk out though, not everyone is. Which is why I hope the OP takes the advice to make the working environment a little less racist, for her coworkers.

            Reply
            1. CoffeeLover

              Sorry, you misinterpreted what I meant there. I didn’t mean an individual person would continue to mispronounce your name or comment on it, I meant that you will continue to encounter new people that will mispronounce your name and comment on it.

              It is of course

              Reply
              1. CoffeeLover

                Accidentally hit submit!

                Anyway, I wanted to add that it’s your prerogative to leave a company over this, and I think it’s great that you can do so. I think the majority of people give up on this battle after a few years of playing the name pronunciation and origin game. Personally, I choose not to feel hurt when no hurt was intended.

                Reply
      3. Emac

        Microagressions are generally not intentional, that’s the point. They’re little things that those of us who are not part of the marginalized group do unthinkingly, but that add up over time to point out the otherness of the minority group.

        Constantly pronouncing non-Western names correctly is definitely a microagression. Especially as I imagine there are some repeated names. The OP mentions Chinese & Indian names; there are lots of common Chinese & Indian names. I would be surprised if *all* the names that have been mispronounced have been unique from each other.

        Reply
        1. Julia

          I agree with you and Jeanne. It’s a form of othering, and often hard to push back against because “it’s so hard for me to pronounce your foreign name!”

          Reply
          1. Akcipitrokulo

            “Obviously speech impediments are covered by disability equality laws – do you want me to chat to HR about some reasonable adjustments for you?”

            Reply
      4. Oryx

        Mispronouncing a name and then *doubling down* by joking about it is, at the very least, a form of microagression. Because of the repetition and the doubling down, it could easily be elevated to more hostile racism.

        The thing about microagressions is that they tend to be more subtle than overt racism. That’s why they aren’t easily recognized and can happen accidentally or unintentionally.

        I have a job that frequently requires pronouncing unfamiliar names. Know what I do? I try to find out how to pronounce it in advance. If I’m not able to, I apologize if I pronounce it wrong — I don’t joke about it.

        Reply
      5. Xay

        The jokes are microaggressions.

        I have an African first name with a fairly easy Anglicized pronunciation – once explained. I don’t hold it against anyone who mispronounces my name the first couple of times.

        Jokes are different, especially in this case where the jokes don’t seem to be deprecating jokes directed at the pronouncer and are a repeated fall back for mispronouncing the names of a specific ethnicity. When it happens over and over, after a while, it doesn’t matter what type of joke it is – it’s just a demonstration of how little the speaker cares about getting this one sign of respect right.

        Reply
        1. Myrin

          Yeah, I’m not really understanding how some commenters got the idea that the jokes in the letter are of the self-deprecating or embarrased variety. The OP is the one actually participating in these meetings and she clearly perceives these jokes as the inappropriate and belittling kind, which is generally very easy to tell.

          Reply
      6. OP3

        To be clear, it’s going one of two ways at the meetings:

        “We’d like to welcome… Ja- ye… ugh, this is a hard one? Jayesh? Something like that. Welcome!”
        or
        “We’d like to welcome… Jayesh? Lakshmi? Ha! I did it! Good for me!”

        It never strikes me as the presenter making fun of himself for being terrible (because they could just ask, if they cared), but rather as “ha ha, funny names! so hard!” and just ugh.

        Reply
        1. Parenthetically

          Man, it’s just so easy to look in advance. And even if they can’t, it’s just so easy to say, “Is it JAY-esh? Pardon me for bumbling — please correct me if I’ve gotten it wrong!”

          Reply
    3. TL -

      I used to work a bunch of kids’ parties and I ended up doing a blanket policy of “all kids spelled their names” (for labeling take homes) because I felt so bad because I couldn’t spell common Indian names (lots of Indian America kids) and you could tell the kids were so used to spelling out their names – so I figured it was better to ask everyone and make it clear that this was just procedure, rather than single out kids with “difficult” names.

      One time, I knew how to spell one Indian girl’s name because my coworker had the same name – so when she told me her name, I asked, “spelled XYZ?” and she just lit up and gave me this huge smile. (Though this happened a second time and that girl couldn’t care less.)

      Which is just to say, even as a little kid this stuff can matter. (or not matter. Mileage may vary.)

      Reply
      1. ronda

        my last name is almost always mispronounced or if they hear it, misspelled. When i have to have someone look up my name i always spell it instead of saying it.

        people often ask if they are pronouncing it right, but dont really joke about it.

        It doesnt bother me. Maybe if they were joking about it, it would.

        And people are often adding a silent letter to my first name :)

        Reply
        1. Cherith Ponsonby

          People always take the silent letters out of my first name! Even when it is RIGHT THERE in my email address and my signature and my email signoff and the fifteen other emails I have sent you this week alone.

          Reason N+1 that I love my current job: I just looked over at my email client and saw all the emails starting “Hi Cherith’s-real-name-spelt-correctly” :)

          Reply
      2. blackcat

        My first, middle, and last names all have alternate spellings that end up sounding the same with an American accent. Fortunately, my particular name is the most common (within the US) variant of all three, which has made my life easier, but sometimes people get it wrong (dropping a double consonant, for example). But having such a name as taught me that a uniform policy of asking people to spell their names is totally fine and often quite helpful.

        (It helps with Alison vs Allison, for example!)

        Reply
      3. CM

        ESPECIALLY as a little kid, this stuff matters, because as an adult you’ve built up some defenses and accepted that some people will never see you as being one of them. It’s awesome that you made every kid spell their name instead of singling out some kids. (And as you pointed out, some people are more sensitive to this than others, but it can’t hurt to be considerate to the thick-skinned people too!)

        Reply
      4. blackcat

        Oh, and it totally can matter to kids! I once taught a hispanic Andres (that’s how it was written on the roster). I asked him on the first day if it was “Andres” (emphasis on first syllable, which is what his peers called him) or “Andrés” (with the emphasis on the drés, as is common in Spanish). He wasn’t even little–he was 14–but his eyes just lit up and he said “The second one.”

        The kid was known as a bit distant and hard to reach, but he and I had a great relationship. It was all built on me making sure I got his name right on day 1.

        Reply
      5. OrphanBrown

        I appreciate this response. I was targeted as a kid by two crappy boys who would chase me home screaming my name with the wrong pronunciation. Literally their method of bullying was centered around othering me. To have teachers make a point to get my name right would have made all the difference to me.

        Reply
    4. Detective Amy Santiago

      I always ask if I said someone’s name correctly if I have any hesitation that I may not have.

      Reply
    5. Marillenbaum

      Oh, it’s totally a microaggression. I’m Black, but have a “traditional” Western-sounding name, and I’ve seen this so often with friends who have names more in line with African-American naming conventions, like Latisha or Sade, especially when we’re in a class together or something.

      Reply
    6. Annabelle

      I’m with you on this. My grandfather “Westernized” our last name when he emigrated from Lebanon, and it’s pretty easier to pronounce phonetically. Yet people still screw it up, which is fine like, once. But making jokes about it isn’t okay, and I dealt with that most of my life. OP should definitely speak up.

      Reply
    7. beep

      Thank you for doing something about it! I’m Chinese, and my parents gave me a very Western first name precisely to avoid this kind of stuff. They tried really hard to assimilate us. Even so, I grew up hearing “ching chong” -a lot- and can’t avoid people reminding me how different I am.

      Your colleagues with foreign-sounding names are probably used to it in a way :|… but that doesn’t make it okay of course. I feel for them! It’s both eyeroll-inducing and alienating to have to experience.

      Reply
  8. Another Jamie

    OP 3: Since it sounds like the remote offices are required to join the meeting, I wonder if it might be useful to suggest that hosting duties rotate to different offices? I’ve worked with a bunch of international satellite offices and the staff from those offices always struggled to feel like they were part of the team. I can’t imagine being made fun of like you aren’t right there listening helps much.

    Reply
    1. OP3

      Alas, they’re not international locations, and the company invested a bunch in broadcasting equipment from the main office, so they are unlikely to let other locations host.

      Reply
    1. Crystal

      It reads like she didn’t even get it yet, she’s just wants a reason TO get it. So if she’s got it she’s not returning it.

      Reply
      1. Triplestep

        Yup. To me, the letter reads as if the gift was purchased but had not made its way to the OP. The headline (Alison’s interpretation) reads as if the gift traded hands already. (Actually, the headline made me think that the letter was going to ask “how do I give back this lavish gift without insulting anyone?”)

        Reply
    2. KarenT

      It does sound like the purse may be in the position of the co-worker and not the OP, but there’s really nothing in the lettter that indicates she’s unwilling to give it back, just that she’d rather not.

      Reply
      1. Not Australian

        Quite the opposite IMHO; if she was totally unwilling to give it back, she wouldn’t have asked the question at all.

        Reply
        1. Mookie

          But I don’t even really see how this would function as a quid pro quo. The LW’s not the one trying to buy off her manager, it’s the other way round, except not really. It’s just a weird objection unless the newly-minted manager didn’t like the idea in the first place and is seeking a plausible reason for rescinding the gift on her parent’s behalf (with or without their blessing). Or, I suppose the big boss may think that as a result of the gift the LW will feel indebted, at an inappropriate level, to her new manager.

          Reply
          1. Colette

            It’s more that no one else is getting purses, so it appears she has a closer relationship with her manager than her coworkers. That can cause problems, both if there is favouritism or if her coworkers believe there is favouritism.

            Reply
          2. hermit crab

            In an employment law context, isn’t quid pro quo a type of sexual harassment? That’s definitely not what’s happening here.

            Reply
            1. Detective Amy Santiago

              No, it’s basically getting a kickback.

              Like the episode of Friends where Monica gets the steaks from a distributor and gets fired. That was a quid pro quo situation because the implication is that by giving her the steaks, she will give business to the distributor.

              Reply
            2. Cherith Ponsonby

              Literally it just means something like “this for that”.

              Problems arise when it’s “a bit of this for that, if you know what I mean, nudge nudge wink wink say no more”

              Reply
          3. Falling Diphthong

            It’s similar to the idea that you don’t have an affair with one subordinate, expecting all the other subordinates to realize that there is no favoritism going on and you just happen to SUPER like accounts receivable, but not in a way that will impact any work assignments or assessments.

            Reply
            1. Mookie

              Ah, that makes sense, thank you. But quid pro quo is decidedly the wrong phrase to express the dynamic you and Colette have explained.

              Reply
    3. Charlie Bradbury's Girlfriend

      Listen, I’ve had jobs before that I would trade for a Kate Spade purse in a hot second, but OP, you should think about whether that’s the case for you right now. It’s just a bag, not your livelihood.

      Reply
  9. Ramona Flowers

    #2 Seeming pleasant and professional during one short chat just isn’t sufficient to recommend someone – I’m amazed that you did, and I wouldn’t do it again in future.

    Reply
    1. CoffeeLover

      I wonder if she really did recommend her. People often say recommend when all they mean is passed along the resume. I don’t think saying “I met Jane briefly at a conference and she seemed nice. She’s interested in your position and asked me to pass on her resume” is bad. It may or may not help her chances.

      Reply
      1. Jeanne

        I would say I was networking and agreed to pass it along but don’t know her work. I think that’s fine. The hiring manager will still hire who she wants and that resume may well be in the circular file.

        Reply
    2. Antilles

      This is what OP said: “I then passed her resume along to the appropriate hiring manager, though nothing came of it. ”
      Assuming that OP was clear about how loose the connection was (met a couple time at conferences), I don’t see anything wrong with that.
      Though we can certainly discuss whether or not such a loose connection has any real value to the applicant. At absolute most, it might be a small leg up over “random resume #47 through the website” in the initial resume screening phase, but no more than that.

      Reply
      1. OP2

        OP here, CoffeeLover is correct. I passed her resume on with an “FYI, I met this person and she seemed excited about the job.”

        Reply
  10. Ramona Flowers

    #5 When you say she’s out of the office, do you mean she’s out doing something work related or that she’s off sick or taking PTO? If it’s the latter you really need to stop doing that.

    Reply
    1. sstabeler

      I don’t entirely agree- for a start, these are questions that need answering before OP #5 can continue with her own work- which- if they really can only be answered by the manager- are legitimate to ask even when someone is out if it can’t wait. Second, the manager’s not answering when they get back to the office- even if they were being strict about not doing work while off-duty, they really need to answer the work questions when back at work.

      Reply
      1. Ramona Flowers

        You think it’s okay to text your manager when they are off sick?

        I suspect it won’t be possible for us to agree.

        Reply
        1. paul

          She also mentioned the manager never responding to emails.

          Texting when they’re out sick isn’t good unless it’s a real SHTF thing, but if they’re not responding to emails when they get back in, that’s a gigantic problem.

          Reply
    2. Mme Marie

      I agree. If employees expect that their away-from-work time is off limits for work, then we should extend the same to our managers. There are exceptions for true emergencies, but if I were off work, sick, or on PTO I would expect my employees to plan ahead on their work, make decisions on how to best move forward when there is an obstacle, or find another resource to get their question answered.

      OP#5 – your best bet is to talk to your Manager to find the best way to communicate questions and issues, and when it’s appropriate to text her those questions vs. waiting to ask when she’s in the office, and whether she needs something different than an email (or if she needs you to mark emails as urgent, or provide a time frame for response, or whatever).

      Reply
    3. Where's the Le-Toose?

      I agree that if the boss is out of the office on PTO or sick leave, the OP needs to figure out a solution based on the resources and personnel still at the office. Also, these aren’t OMG type questions. The OP gave the example of asking clarifying questions by text and email.

      What I think is missing from Alison’s response is whether the questions OP is texting or emailing things that the OP (1) should know or (2) could find out relatively easily? If the answer to either one is yes, then the OP shouldn’t be emailing or texting the boss at all. When the OP says the questions are clarifying, I take it to mean there is ambiguity in the boss’s directions to OP, such as “hey boss, when you said give it to Fergus, did you mean Fergus Smith or Fergus Franklin?”

      But if the OP is asking, “hey boss, where did you put the Llama Husbandry file?” I’m not sure that’s a text or email I’d enjoying getting if I were out of the office because it’s either on my desk or file cabinet.

      Reply
    4. OP#5

      OP#5 here!

      Couple things:
      1. No, this is never on the boss’ day off or anything like that. These occurences happen when my boss is out of the office (which can be most of the day at times) and I have questions regarding projects.
      2. The questions I ask my boss are things that only my boss would know and project-specific questions.
      3. She will come back to the office, not acknowledge my text/email, and continue with her day. I literally have to go up to her and be like “hey I texted you, but (question)?”

      I plan to take Allison’s advice of clarifying which communication method is working better, because her inability/ignoring of my texts is really slowing things down in my queue.

      Reply
  11. Rick Tq

    OP #1: Alison said, try setting the stage on your way in to work that it is important for you to leave at 5PM sharp to avoid a lot of traffic, and get your rider to agree leave on time. Note: not ‘try to be on time’, but ‘be standing at your car at 5:05PM (or whenever you get to it) ‘. You really need to set the consequence up front, baldly laying it out: if you can’t be ready to leave work on time that terminates this carpool arrangement.

    If she complies then all well and good, but if she still faffs about in the afternoon be willing to leave her and go home that day, and don’t bother picking her up the next morning, evidently your rider doesn’t consider an extra hour commuting each way much of a problem.

    Walking out to an empty parking space may wake her up…

    Reply
      1. Traffic_Spiral

        Think of yourself as a bus for 1. If the person is at the bus stop, they get picked up, if not, the bus moves on. So long as you very clearly explain that’s what the terms of the deal are, it’s on her to take it or leave it.

        Reply
        1. Someone

          The clear explanation is really crucial for this.
          Make it 100% clear that even a few minutes late make a big difference, and that this difference is really, really important to you, and that you will apply this new rule rigidly.

          Though I would recommend to start by just telling her that 5:00 really means 5:00 on the dot and that any minute later has a negative effect on you. Point out that you are being nice by letting her drive with you, and that SHE can be nice about this by being absolutely punctual every time (and maybe leaving a bit earlier rather than later). Remind her of this every time she is late, and see how things develop.

          If things don’t improve, you can apply the suggested rigid rule and always leave at 5:00 exactly no matter if she’s there already or not.

          It’s like Alison’s advice with firings, really. Give people a head’s up that the expectations have changed, mention it every time, and if they still don’t comply – well, in that case you can assume it’s not ignorance but carelessness and act accordingly.

          Reply
      2. always in email jail

        I wouldn’t point out that you’re being nice givnig her a ride, that escalates it to a different level. I’d say:
        “I need to start leaving- as in in my car pulling out of the parking lot- at EXACTLY 5:00. With traffic around here, a delay of even 5 minutes means I’m almost half an hour late getting home, and its interfering with my evening commitments. I wanted to let you know so that if that won’t work for you, you have time to find other arrangements”. She doesn’t have to know your evening commitments are to be home eating snacks and watching TV or whatever. It’s YOUR time.

        Reply
        1. Kyrielle

          Yes this. (And if she’s on time in the morning and you still want to be nice, if the afternoon part doesn’t work for her, you could still offer to drive her in in the mornings. She’d have only the leg home to sort out then.)

          Reply
      3. FiveWheels

        I either get the bus or a lift from a colleague. If he’s in a hurry and needs to leave at a set time, and I’m not ready, I take the bus. He’s not a taxi, he’s doing me a favour, and it’s not mean for him to not do it.

        Reply
        1. emmylou

          OP, I don’t think you need to escalate to leaving her behind just yet — there is a TON here you haven’t said out loud. As many people here have said, “on time” means 5 minute leeway for many people — if you haven’t said out loud ever “5 mins makes a difference for traffic,” how can you expect a non-driver to know that? (I once drove a non-driver around in a smart car who didn’t even notice the car didn’t have a back seat, lol!) Non-drivers are notorious for not factoring traffic or weather in in my mind — like a friend of mine who lives across town who always asks me to do driving errands for her (I offer, she has tiny twins and no car) at *exactly* the wrong time for traffic, when it will take me 90 minutes, not 20. Say it out loud and make her your partner in this.

          Reply
        2. Sarah

          I agree — I had sort of a very casual carpool thing with a coworker a while back — we would sometimes share rides if the timing worked out, maybe 2 times a week. But, we work in a flexible workplace and often the timing wasn’t right for it to work. We also both took public transit or a Lyft on a fairly regular basis (at the time, both of us shared one car w/ our spouse, so would sometimes drive and sometimes not). Although we didn’t have the traffic issue described here, there would be frequent times when one person would say “Hey, do you want a ride tonight? I’m leaving in 5 minutes if so!” and if that worked for the other person, great, if not, that was also okay. Not mean at all, and no one got offended. Keep in mind your coworker is not going to be literally stranded in this situation — she has options to get home on transit (as well as the option of purchasing a second car if other options aren’t working out).

          I would also keep in mind that regardless of what you decide to do with this situation now, the carpooling is definitely time-limited since your coworker is pregnant. After the baby arrives, she is certainly not going to be able to expect you to install a car seat into your car, take the baby to daycare, and wait outside while she drops him/her off. :) So, I think it’s fine to draw clear boundaries, but also regardless it is going to be limited in time.

          Reply
      4. Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way!

        You have to realize that you are doing her a favor and sometimes those favors come with basic requests like being on time as not to inconvenience (further) the person who has already gone out of their way to help. So please stop beating yourself up over the idea that you are being “mean” if you enforce your rule of needing to leave at a certain time. If your colleague cannot work within your time restraints they will need to find an alternative mode of transportation. It’s really okay to tell them that and not feel bad about it. Besides, what happens when you are out sick or on vacation, they still find a way to work, correct?

        Reply
  12. Catalina

    It’s not always easy to ask people how to pronounce, say or spell the names you aren’t familiar with. It can go both ways, where some are happy to help and others are incensed that a forgeign name, proniunciation or language isn’t immediately known.

    Which to me explains the nervous joke of not being sure. People make poor jokes when they are nervous. I think they’re covering their back by saying they aren’t sure and trying on their own and not asking.

    No need to consolidate their fears by making it seem like a character flaw to not know a myriad of other languages.

    I didn’t even know how “Parvati” was pronounced in Harry Potter and when I tried I was castigated for asking. Turns out it’s pretty simple, phonetically.

    My Spanish teacher wondered why I chose a Hispanic name for Spanish class. Mine includes a lot of vowels and an “ll” (double L), which didn’t translate well. So I became Catalina. I did the bestI could, name wise and corrected as necessary. A quick word is better than an HR report. It’s overkill.

    So please do your best on both parts to make it simple to ask questions. Not make assumptions of course, but just to ask and make a note. Set aside feelings and assume the other person means the best.

    Reply
    1. Julia

      You’re interpreting a lot of your own feelings into this. We don’t know if the name-botchers would be laughed at if asked how to pronounce something correctly. I would assume that minorities don’t really have the luxury of doing that and are mostly just glad someone asked.

      I had a terribly difficult last name (I changed my name upon marriage) and I always preferred people asking instead of just calling me whatever or assuming that they could simply call me by my first name in a last-name-culture.

      This isn’t like your classmates laughing at you for not knowing how to say Parvati. This is about someone laughing about a minority member’s “hard” name. A lot of those names aren’t hard at all, but people just don’t want to try.

      Reply
      1. Colette

        I thin’ the likely cause of the jokes is insecurity. They know they didn’t get it right, and they want to point that out first.

        That doesn’t make it right, but I doubt it’s coming from a malicious place, so it should be approached (like most things) with the assumption of good will.

        Reply
        1. Julia

          But they’re still ending up othering some of their colleagues, just because they apparently can’t be bothered to learn someone’s name correctly. That’s really uncool, no matter what their intention is.

          Reply
              1. Tuxedo Cat

                I’ve been going through with racial and gender issues recently. I’m exhausted from being made to feel small yet simultaneously expected to be the “bigger person” and be understanding.

                It’s really off-putting that people’s names are being made fun of when they’re supposed welcomed or congratulated.

                Reply
                1. Marillenbaum

                  Ding ding ding! It’s like when I used to visit my father in southern Georgia, where I was literally known as “Alan’s Yankee daughter” until they found out I was born in Virginia, and all of a sudden, everyone wanted me to join the Children of the Confederacy and like country music, and took great pains to tell me about the Black people they knew who took part in these activities–except that I was still the only Black person in these spaces. It was exhausting.

            1. Astor

              Like some commenters above I also have an Eastern European last name, although one that’s been anglicized in a really easy way, so that it’s two English words compounded together. People get it wrong all the time because they’re not confident if it’s a long i or a short i, but almost everyone shrugs that difficulty off. None of that bothers me, because I also struggle with similar things as I learn new languages, even as a child surrounded by those languages, and so I definitely have problems with names in languages or from regions that have sound patterns that I’m not familiar with.

              In my experience, the exact same people who make a point to comment that my name is too difficult or otherwise make those comments about how weird/difficult my Eastern European last name are later the same ones who make weird/rude comments about my family’s Jewish heritage. And who are also weird/rude about my colleagues from Asian and African countries.

              Those who ask for help, or make self-depreciating jokes? Maybe awkward but generally fine. Those who make jokes about the names themselves? No matter how much I approach it as if they have good intentions have always proved to me hat they don’t.

              Reply
    2. Emac

      “No need to consolidate their fears by making it seem like a character flaw to not know a myriad of other languages.”

      No one is saying it’s a character flaw to not automatically know how to pronounce names from other languages. They’re saying that they should at least ask. And I think it’s very common, at least in the U.S., for people to ask for pronunciation or spelling help with unfamiliar names. I think extrapolating that many will be ‘incensed’ from one instance of being made fun of by classmates is reaching.

      Not thinking it’s important to learn how to pronounce foreign names and/or making fun of foreign names is a character flaw, in my opinion.

      And it’s not making a report to HR, just asking HR to step in and speak to those who are mispronouncing and making jokes, presumably because the OP doesn’t have the standing or relationship to do it directly.

      Reply
      1. Falling Diphthong

        They’re saying that they should at least ask.

        The context of these meetings would make it very simple to ask the person’s manager for guidance on how to pronounce their name before the meeting. Then the speaker can at least make a decent stab at “Cerdych” and “Nguyen.”

        Similarly, the context is one in which the audience also don’t know how to pronounce the names (in large part), so “Oh no everyone in the room will laugh at my pronunciation, better start joking” isn’t actually in play.

        Reply
        1. Emac

          “the context is one in which the audience also don’t know how to pronounce the names (in large part), ”

          That’s a good point, too, for the new employees. TPTB should be making an effort to learn to pronounce the new employees’ names correctly so that all their coworkers won’t go around saying their names wrong and possibly making them feel unwelcome.

          Reply
        2. Rusty Shackelford

          Then the speaker can at least make a decent stab at “Cerdych” and “Nguyen.”

          I’m ashamed to say I still don’t know how to pronounce “Nguyen,” and it’s not even that uncommon. But I’ve heard it pronounced “New-gen” and “New-yen” and “Win” by people who seemed confident in their pronunciation and I can’t wrap my head around it.

          Reply
          1. chi type

            That was my high school best friend’s last name and she told my to pronounce it basically as “n’win” as the closest approximation my English-speaking mouth could make. Not that that’s definitive!

            Reply
            1. chi type

              I understand it’s a very common Vietnamese last name so maybe a native speaker can correct me if I’m wrong!

              Reply
              1. Emac

                I had a first generation Vietnamese-American coworker who used to sit behind me with that last name. I got to hear him say it a lot (and he was fluent in Vietnamese). That’s how it sounded to me too.

                Reply
      2. Erin

        Proper nouns are the hardest things to learn in an any foreign language. They usually aren’t in the translation dictionary. I always ask how to pronounce a name or a place. Don’t be rude just say “Excuse me, please tell me how to pronounce your name?”

        Reply
    3. Lioness

      As someone with a Spanish name, I’ve never known it to be a requirement to know Spanish to pronounce my name.
      You’re right that it is not a character flaw to not know a myriad of languages, but I agree with Emac that it is a character flaw to not think the pronunciation of names or making fun of names is a character flaw. In high school, I once had a teacher come up to me during a bomb threat to tell me how she thought that my sister’s name was more elegant than mine (I had her the year before, my sister was currently in her class; her name is more common in the US). Slightly different, but names and attitudes towards them can affect people in a variety of ways, and if you have the opportunity, practice pronunciation.
      I’ve also found that most people would rather be asked the pronunciation or at least have visible effort be shown than just have their name blatantly butchered without any effort.

      Reply
    4. New Bee

      The thing is, a lot of the time nervous jokes = racist jokes. (See: Tyrion vs. Tyrone, Siobhan vs. Shavonne, and reactions to Lucretia depending on the race of the person.)

      Reply
      1. Mookie

        Right. The intent doesn’t matter, but if they were intending to appear light-hearted, they failed and they need to do better.

        Also, no one is asking anyone to casually pick up “myriad” languages; I’m not speaking Italian when I say “Pacino” out loud while referring to the actor. Maybe “Pacino” as a surname for someone else sounds a little different, but this particular “Pacino” is roughly (accounting for unfamiliarity with certain tones or vowels, et al) the same for every speaker of every language because the owner of the name gets to decide what they’re called and how that sounds. It’s the same with the LW’s colleagues. They have one name they use at work with one correct pronunciation. Just learn it, be done with it, and stop pretending this is hard. The character flaw, if it exists, is the stubbornness, not the ignorance.

        Reply
        1. TL -

          It can actually be really hard to learn a correct pronunciation (I’ve worked with a ton of international people and I’ve played the pronounce and repeat game a lot and it’s only successful sometimes) – most people are okay with a reasonable approximation.

          The problem here isn’t that they can’t pronounce it correctly; the problem is that the appropriate response is “Am I saying that correctly? Forgive me,” and either repeating the correct pronunciation or moving on.

          Reply
          1. Mookie

            Well, precisely. “Roughly” correct is all most people ask for, not scoffing and complaining and giggling that it’s hard, with absolutely no effort put forth to at least imitate correct pronunciation.

            Reply
            1. Xay

              Exactly.

              Most non-Bantu language speakers will never pronounce my name correctly because those sounds simply don’t exist in other language families. All I ask is an effort at the simpler, Anglicized pronunciation that almost everyone can use.

              Reply
        1. chi type

          Mookie might be referring to the the way certain white people suddenly have trouble pronouncing a name when it is attached to a person of color as opposed to a white person.

          Reply
    5. vesket

      Some people do get mad at folks for not being able to pronounce their name or not knowing how without asking. Those people are jerks.

      That said, I’m a white dude with a weird, non-intuitive last name (Eastern European that was weirdly anglicized when my great-grandparents immigrated to the US), and while it does get vexing to be asked sometimes (usually when it’s a person who literally just heard me tell someone else), what I have noticed is that … no one has ever joked about my last name, or made nasty comments about how hard it is. They just ask me how to pronounce or spell it, and do so seriously. The most commentary I’ve ever gotten is a few curious people asking where it’s from or what it means.

      And yet I’ve watched non-white classmates or coworkers get their names joked about, or heard comments made about how difficult it was to even try to pronounce those names, or heard people say that “those people” should just pick a “real” name or an “easier” name and go with it instead of expecting folks to learn how to pronounce their names. Very often, I watch white coworkers/classmates not even bother to ask because they decided that name was hard and they weren’t going to try. But they’re happy to try with my weird name.

      Also, bluntly, your desire not to be laughed at for not knowing how to pronounce a name doesn’t actually trump their right to a good-faith effort on getting their name right. It’s also pretty easy to tell when people aren’t even bothering, in my experience – that’s usually the point when someone starts cracking racist jokes or making passive-aggressive comments about how hard someone’s name is, and a desire to not be humiliated by botching a name doesn’t excuse either. I have no sympathy for people who look at a non-white name and jump to nastiness.

      Reply
      1. Emac

        “Also, bluntly, your desire not to be laughed at for not knowing how to pronounce a name doesn’t actually trump their right to a good-faith effort on getting their name right.”

        Yes, plus a million!!!

        And the point of a lot of white people not even bothering to try doesn’t even get into names that sound like bad/funny words in English. I’m thinking of several Thai and Vietnamese students I had when I worked with immigrants. I was just glad they had mostly come to the US as adults, though I can unfortunately still imagine them getting made fun of for their names.

        Reply
    6. OldMom

      This reminds me that when I read the Harry Potter books, I had no idea how to pronounce Hermione. In my head as I was reading it was her-me-own. I was so surprised when the movie came out and it turned out to be her-my-nee. Still have never met anyone named that but I think I would apologize, not joke, if I did and botched it so badly. For me, Indian and Chinese names are relatively easy, it’s the non phonetic spellings of some English or maybe Irish names that throw me. Also, some names just slip out of my head. I can never remember how to say Siobhan unless I look it up first.
      Is there some graceful phrasing to use when you botch a name that makes it clear this is my problem and it doesn’t stem from racism? I usually say something like, “sorry, I have trouble remembering how to pronounce … ” if I conclude with”unusual names” does that seem racist? I recall having trouble with some children’s names when I was working with kids more but that was usually due to unusual pronunciations of names I was familiar with. Example: white girl named Jaime but it was pronounced Jamie, that is Jay-me, like a nickname for James. I know other kids, Hispanic boys with that name pronounced hi-may. I wanted to tell the parents they spelled their kid’s name wrong. But it wasn’t wrong, just a peculiar way they choose. Still I feel badly for that girl who will go through life correcting others usage.

      Reply
      1. CM

        OldMom, since you asked, I think it’s fine to say something like, “Sorry, I’m not sure how to pronounce your name,” or “Can you correct me if I’m pronouncing this incorrectly?” or anything that makes it clear that it’s not that you think there’s something wrong or strange about their name, it’s just that you don’t know how to pronounce it. This happens to be something I’m sensitive about that goes way back to my childhood, so I would bristle at being told I have an “unusual name” — maybe it’s a name that YOU’RE not used to, but in my culture it’s not an unusual name at all, so to me it’s yet another signal that I don’t belong. (But if it makes you feel better, I don’t automatically think “this person is racist.” I get that not everybody is going to say the perfect thing all the time.)

        Reply
      2. MCMonkeyBean

        I also pronounced it her-me-own–I think Rowling knew a lot of us were way off base and threw us a bone with Viktor Krum having to learn how to pronounce it.

        And yes it is really not great that you wanted to tell parents they spelled their kids name wrong??? That’s not even an exceedingly unusual spelling of the name.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          That’s how the Bionic Woman spelled it, so it must be right!

          In reality, OldMom, I’d say don’t take that apology sentence as far as you’re taking it. “Sorry, I stumble on pronunciations sometimes” is fine. No need to categorize anybody’s name at all.

          Reply
          1. Andraste's Knicker Weasels (formerly ancolie)

            Hah! I have to reply to say that my name is because of the Bionic Woman, too (though not Jaime).

            Reply
      3. OlympiasEpiriot

        Jamie for a girl is pretty common in standard-white-bread-usa. There was a television series in the 1970s called The Bionic Woman…you may have heard of it?…which had a main character named Jamie Sommers.

        And Jaime is pronounced that way in Spanish.

        I don’t understand the confusion?

        Reply
        1. fposte

          It’s not “Jamie” for a girl, it’s “Jaime” for a girl. She knows more men named Jaime (pronounced in the Spanish way) than women named Jaime (pronounced like “Jamie”) and she found the latter orthographically confusing. There was actually an episode of the Bionic Woman that featured this very issue :-).

          Reply
          1. Alton

            I think it probably depends on where you’re from. My first exposure to “Jaime” was seeing it used as a boy’s name but pronounced like “Jamie,” so that’s primarily what I think of–a slightly more masculine spelling of “Jamie” that’s pronounced the same.

            Reply
          2. OlympiasEpiriot

            Ahhhhh….I think I need more sleep. Thank you. I kept re-reading and just didn’t get it.

            Now I’m thinking I’d have probably pronounced it like <>.

            Totally tangential…did you know that it seems there are more alternates, versions, and nicknames for James than just about any other boys’ names?

            Reply
      4. Allison

        My mom thought it was Her-me-on, I only “knew” the correct pronunciation because of how my 4th grade teacher pronounced it when she read the first book to us.

        I once heard that you should never judge someone for pronouncing a word wrong, they probably learned it from reading it. BUT there’s a difference between getting it wrong the first time and making zero effort to learn, and continuing to comment on how haaaard the name is, and can’t we use an easier name for this person?

        Reply
        1. vesket

          you should never judge someone for pronouncing a word wrong, they probably learned it from reading it

          In addition to that, there are sounds and such you almost certainly cannot pronounce properly unless you’ve grown up with the language or at least had long exposure and put in a lot of effort. This is why it’s worth emphasizing that it’s the jokes and the comments that are the problem, and the lack of even basic effort, not the inability to say a name correctly.

          You can botch a name every time you say it and not be a racist, as long as you are making a good-faith attempt and not turning your problems pronouncing it into a referendum on how your culture’s names are obviously superior.

          Reply
        2. Eli

          Reminds me—as a kid, I named my first kitten Portia after a character in a book I had just read. I thought it was pronounced “Poor-tee-uh” until my mother’s friend mocked me for it.

          Reply
      5. vesket

        Is there some graceful phrasing to use when you botch a name that makes it clear this is my problem and it doesn’t stem from racism?

        “Unusual names” does strike me as kind of racist, honestly, especially because it suggests that normal names are by default English. My general rule of thumb with this stuff is to emphasize that it’s my own failure, not that they are somehow wrong, weird, or abnormal for having a non-English name (or non-standard spelling). I personally default to something along the lines of a sheepish “sorry, I still don’t have your name down yet,” and while I know I’ve exasperated at least one person with that (I literally could not hear the difference between how she pronounced her name and how I was saying it), no one has to my knowledge been terribly offended.

        Also, speaking for myself, I’d find it a lot less off-putting for someone to say “I can’t pronounce your name” as opposed to “I can’t pronounce [ethnicity] names” or something like that, because the former suggests to me that it’s something particular to my name tripping up the person, not something particular to all names from my culture. It leaves the door open to the possibility that they’d be fine with other [ethnicity] names and are genuinely making an effort with mine, as opposed to them preemptively slamming that door shut by making xenophobic assumptions.

        Reply
    7. Sue Wilson

      I mean I DO think it’s a character flaw to a) have a list of names for people who are getting honored or recognized for the first time, b) know there will be names not common to English often, and c) still don’t bother to try to figure out how the names are pronounced. It’s at best laziness.

      Reply
  13. Mad Baggins

    #3 I’m pretty horrified that they openly joke that the award winners’ (!) names are hard to pronounce! Some honoring that is! It’s pretty simple to shoot the award winner an email and say “Hey, is that Xu as in ‘shoe’?”
    I wish these people could spend a year abroad teaching ESL and try to get Chinese-speakers to pronounce “Roger”… talk about a hard-to-pronounce name!

    Reply
    1. OlympiasEpiriot

      Or French or Spanish speakers to pronounce Keith. Will Not Happen. It’ll sound like Kate, Keet, Kit…only closest approximation is if one is actually in Spain (and not Catalan/Basque/Gallego/Valencian) and someone will mentally spell the name Kez. (The “Z” is lisped, more or less depending on the region, but it is the closest you’ll get.)

      Reply
      1. OP3

        It’s not that people are giving it a real try and failing – I get that, language have different sounds. It’s that it goes one of two ways:

        “And welcome to our new hire…. Ja..yes – man, this is a hard one!”
        or
        “And welcome to our new hire… Jayesh? Lakshmi? Ha! I got that one right! Good for me!”

        Reply
        1. Mad Baggins

          Sounds like you need to use that technique in the Twitter feed posted above and start calling them every kind of white boy name (Chad, Josh, Ethan, Mike, Chris…)

          *cough* I mean take the high road and report them to HR/your manager of course.

          Reply
      2. EmilyAnn

        My parents immigrated from an English-speaking country, but there are no non-bible names in their home country so my dad has never been able to pronounce Keith correctly.

        Reply
  14. min

    #2 Are these facebook posts public or “friends only”? For me, that greatly changes the calculus of how bad her judgement is.

    Reply
    1. Emac

      I would agree, except that she friended the OP, who is a professional contact not a close friend. So even if the posts are ‘friends only’, she’s inviting her professional contacts to see those.

      Reply
      1. Bess

        Yeah, that’s so weird. I would never use FB for networking. I mean, I can barely tolerate FB as is and I’m generally only FB friends with coworkers I knew previously from something else. If someone wants to friend me, I bring up that I tend to post political stuff and usually people drop it.

        Reply
    2. CM

      I have a friend (both IRL and on FB) who posts stuff like this — it’s friends only, but I still would never recommend her for a job because she’s incredibly negative about work and posts inappropriately detailed messages about work on FB. I like her as a person and enjoy hanging out with her, but I don’t trust her judgment. So I would go with Alison’s, “I don’t have influence over the hiring process, you should just apply through the website,” line or something similar. You could throw in a “Good luck!” to sweeten it a little.

      Reply
  15. Boss lady

    OP1 I wonder if your co worker likes to finish work at 5 rather than than just before so she doesn’t appear to be skiving off. I know when I worked at a place with clearly defined hours it would irritate me to see people leaving the office exactly on time while I was working until the time I was paid til. I’m a bit of a nerd that way, maybe your coworker wants to make a good impression before going on leave.

    Reply
    1. Jekhar

      That’s exactly what i was thinking. People who regularly pack their stuff early, and leave exactly at their end of shift, instead of working the full time were at least raising some eyebrows in my experience. I don’t see what leaving five minutes early would gain you either. I live and work in areas with heavy traffic, it really doesn’t make a difference when you leave.

      Reply
      1. Murphy

        I’m willing to take OP at their word about the traffic. Plus it’s pretty common, in a lot of places that traffic can escalate pretty quickly in a few minutes does make a huge difference. I left my house 15 minutes later than usual the other day and got to work a half hour later than normal.

        Reply
        1. Triplestep

          Yup, I commuted to a city like this. Most people took the train and the workplace culture dictated that you never tried to engage someone in conversation as they were headed out the door. But when I carpooled, leaving only a few minutes late added time exactly the way the OP describes.

          Reply
            1. peachie

              It is, and I’m terrible at planning for it! I used to have a job where I could leave before 8 and get there in half an hour, or leave after 8 and get there in 45-60 minutes. If you wanted to get there between 8:30-8:45, that was… just not an option.

              Reply
            2. puzzld

              Yep. It’s literally impossible to get to our work at 8 AM during the school year. Leave a bit early and you’re here at 7:45 or sooner. Leave 5 minutes later, and it could be 8:30 to get here. 5 PM is not quiet as bad, but it’s still ugly.

              I am lucky enough to set my own hours, so I just plan accordingly.

              Reply
        2. Squeeble

          A few minutes can make such a difference. Reminds me of when my mom used to pick me up from middle school–she figured out pretty quickly that if she left the house 10, 15 minutes later than she had been doing, she’d be able to pull right up to the steps rather than sit in the long line of other parents picking up their kids.

          Reply
          1. Rusty Shackelford

            Yep. You can sit in line for 10 minutes and the kid gets in your car at 3:40, or you can sit at home for 10 minutes, skip the line, and the kid gets in your car at 3:41.

            Reply
        3. NextStop

          When I was a kid, my dad usually stayed at his office an hour later than he was required to, because he’d get home the same time he would if he left at the usual time.

          Reply
      2. DarcyPennell

        It makes a huge difference to my commute. If I leave at 5 it takes 30-35 minutes to get home; if I leave at 5:05 it’s more like 45 minutes, by 5:10 it can easily be 60 minutes. If I get caught up in work and don’t leave by 5 on the dot, I stay at work until 6 to let the worst of the traffic die down.

        It sounds like the OP needs to be more clear about the need to leave on time and what “on time” means, but I totally understand how they feel. I’d be really annoyed if I did someone a favor like that every day and they routinely dawdled me into being caught in rush hour traffic.

        Reply
      3. A Non E. Mouse

        Just a few minutes can add a ton of time to my commute, and in the evenings I have a hard deadline to be at my youngest’s daycare by 6pm. $1 a minute I’m late kinda deadline!

        So yeah, I run out of the door rightatfive. Even a 5 minute delay can throw the whole thing out of whack, because I have to switch highways three times – a 5 minute delay *here* means I’m at least 7 to 10 minutes later hitting the exchange *there*, which puts me at least 10 to 15 minutes behind the last change *there*.

        Normal day it’s a 30 minute drive. If I leave 5 minutes late, I’m lucky to get there in 45 minutes and I’m sweating bullets the whole time.

        Reply
      4. GG

        I was commuting into Boston until recently (from about 30 miles away). If I left at 5am, I’d get to my office in 35 minutes. If I left at 6, about 60 minutes. 6:30 would be about 75-80 minutes. This is the fun one – if I left at 6:55 I’d get there in about 90 minutes. If I left 5 minutes later at 7am, it would be 2 hours to 2.5 hours. First time it happened I was like “wow, traffic sucked today.” A few more times and I realized, no, that 5 minute span between 6:55 and 7 actually adds up to an entire HOUR of additional traffic.

        Reply
        1. Allison

          I used to commute from Brighton to Waltham, and I can absolutely confirm that even five minutes can make a big difference.

          Reply
        2. Jessie the First (or second)

          OMG, YES.
          There was a particular part of my route into Boston, when I lived on the south shore, that I had to get to before 7:05 am. If I got there at 7:05 or later, it would be a nightmare to get to work. If I got there at 7, it’d be a long but manageable commute. (The few times I managed to be at that section of road by 6:55, it was a dream of a commute – relatively speaking, anyway.)

          In some areas, a few specific minutes can seriously make all the difference!

          Reply
        3. Just Another Techie

          Even a reverse commute (I used to go from Kendall St area to Burlington) has the same sort of thing. If I could be out the door before 6:30 it was smooth sailing, but by 6:45 — forget about it. At that point I’d just fire up the VPN and work from home until 9. Thank god for flex time and WFH policies.

          Reply
        4. Elizabeth H.

          Driving from Providence to Boston, I could either leave at either 5:20 or 6:20 and get to Boston at 7:30pm. Craziness.

          Reply
      5. Bea

        In this city, if I leave any time after 7am, it adds 30+ minutes. Leaving at 6:55-59 I’m there early. It’s all because everyone is aiming to leave around the same time and in this world the majority are like the OPs co-worker. Just a few minutes behind. Do with each passing minute more people are on the road.

        Reply
      6. Kyrielle

        It depends on the length and direction of your commute, and the end of your day.

        When I worked in an office 25 miles from our house, it was a 35-mile drive in clear traffic. Which meant the commute at 3 am was *great*. (Ironically, that’s not theoretical snark – due to a client emergency, I had to go retrieve my laptop one night and provide support. That was fun, and I started taking my laptop home when I was not on call, too.)

        If I left the office at 4 pm – which wouldn’t have worked with my schedule – I would have a 45-60 minute commute.

        Leaving at 5 was a 60-90 minute commute.

        Since I needed to stay until 5, I tended to leave at 5:45, when it was back to a 45-60 minute commute. Yes, I got home a little later, but I also got more work done and spent less time sitting in traffic.

        Reply
    2. HeyAnonnyNonnyNo

      I was coming on to say pretty much this. If you’re leaving on the dot of 5 (or whenever your finish time is) you’re presumably turning off your computer and packing up before that. Your colleague may well not feel she can do that – in most teams I’ve worked in behaving like that every day, rather than as an occasional thing, would be frowned upon.

      Reply
      1. Anastasia Beaverhausen

        I clock out (over a telephone) at 6 pm and am easily out the door in under a minute. That’s because 1. I travel light, and 2. I pay attention to what I’m doing as the afternoon wanes and wrap things up accordingly, including a run to the bathroom if needed. Occasionally there is a hiccup and something unexpected comes up or needs extra attention, but that just pushes me into justified (and paid) overtime. I don’t care how it’s perceived. Indeed, my company is very strict about time and were I to start clocking out too many minutes past 6 too often, I would get an email about it. Not everyone who leaves on the dot is a clockwatcher or malingerer. It depends on your situation and work rules.

        However, since coworker is fairly compensating the OP for the rides, I think OP should let coworker know how the extra minutes affect the drive time exponentially, because as a non-driver, the coworker may not realize it. Should the coworker continue to take extra minutes to be ready, OP should weigh the extra time versus the compensation and decide which is more important. Hopefully the coworker won’t think OP is being petty, but that can happen. I have a chronically late sister who I refuse to make plans with because she is always about an hour late for anything at all. She tells me time is intangible and there’s no reason to fuss about it at all ever and people are stupid to be a slave to time ever. But then, she does go through a lot of jobs.

        Reply
    3. OP

      OP here! Thanks to all for the constructive suggestions, I realize I likely haven’t been being blunt enough. To clarify, it’s an office job with no set hours (we choose our own hours), so getting out of the office on our exact finish time would not be seen as an issue. Also, we always arrive 5-15 minutes early in the morning (depending on traffic), so there’s a bit of leeway time there.

      Reply
      1. Triplestep

        OP, it occurs to me that this problem is going to go away soon because your carpool buddy is going to either go on maternity leave, or simply leave once she gives birth. If she’s taking maternity leave, she will likely have different timing needs herself when she returns, unless her spouse or a flexible family-member is providing child-care.

        I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t be explicit now (there’s no reason not to spell out the commute times for her as you have in the post) but if you’re not as successful as you hope to be, you’ll have another opportunity to address this and really set some ground rules once she returns to work.

        Reply
      2. ZVA

        Yeah, my guess is that your coworker doesn’t understand how much of an effect those 3–5 minutes of lateness are having on both of you — she may well think that leaving at 5:03 is “on time” until you tell her otherwise! So I echo Alison’s advice to be super clear with her — my guess is that once you’ve spelled it out, she will change her ways. I’m sure she will appreciate the reduced commute time, too.

        Reply
      3. Portia

        Yeah, it really sounds like if you spell it out to her, the problem will probably stop if she’s otherwise a considerate person. I consider myself generally punctual, and I still really wouldn’t notice a difference between 5 and 5:04. And, I probably would not connect the dots and realize that leaving at 5 got us home 15 minutes earlier; I’d just be like “huh, traffic was lighter today.”

        Reply
      4. That Would Be a Good Band Name

        I think you’ll need to actually spell out that you want to walk out the door at 5p. I know if it were me, anything less direct wouldn’t work. I’d probably just wonder why you kept specifying that you want to leave on-time today when we never leave late.

        Reply
  16. Tealeaves

    OP1, we had a similar situation in the past. What would happen was the driver would remind us at 4.45pm that she would be leaving on the dot at 5pm, like “time to get ready if you want a ride. I’m leaving at 5pm on the dot”. She would just walk out the door with whoever was waiting at 5pm and just say bye to the rest of us as she sauntered out. Fair warning given, no guilt felt.

    Reply
  17. On Fire

    OP 2: had a similar situation, except in my case a coworker was trashing our mutual boss to multiple people in our small, tightly-knit industry. Then she left and tried to get a job with several other companies, and wondered why she couldn’t even land an interview. I did let her know that it was because of her own actions (I had this on good authority from contacts in those other companies). She refused to believe me and denied the denigrating comments, even though I had been an eyewitness on a couple of occasions. I distanced myself from the entire situation. She is still unemployed.

    So, my $0.02, I’d only say something if you think she is likely to listen, but you don’t have any obligation or responsibility here.

    Reply
  18. Ian Mac Eochagáin

    With number 3, surely the issue isn’t mispronouncing the names, as anybody can make that mistake, but rather the joking about how “hard to prononuce” they are? That’s really not on. I would imagine that if the names were mispronounced but with the speaker trying her best that would cause much less offence than joking about how hard to say there are (who does that)?

    Reply
    1. Julia

      Right? I mean, I could understand a self-deprecating joke, maybe, like “how am I still not getting this right? Sorry!”, but honestly, just try to learn your co-workers’ names, people. They don’t have to sound perfect (some people just can’t get the tones right in Chinese, it seems), but a least show some effort and stop othering the poor people.

      When people repeatetly butcher my name, I sometimes feel like I should accidentally mispronounce theirs. “What do you mean, John isn’t pronounced with a long o?”

      Reply
      1. BookishMiss

        I…May have done that to a few people who just couldn’t be bothered to figure out my name after multiple requests to knock it off. Shockingly effective, once they registered what I was doing. “Oh, I thought we just said names however we wanted. Sorry.”

        At the same time, I’m the person who emailed a future roommate to ask preferred pronunciation.

        Reply
        1. Julia

          I might have to start doing that with the people who first present themselves with their last name only, then ask for mine and when I say it, respond with “no, what’s your first name?”

          I’m a grown-ass woman fluent in the language and so sick of this “we’re strictly a last-name country except for foreigners” cr*p here in Japan. My married last name is Japanese, for crying out loud – but I guess it bothers them calling a gaijin (foreigner) by a Japanese name…

          Then again, I guess people will just think I’m a stupid foreigner who doesn’t understand Japanese business practices if I start doing this.

          Reply
          1. Triplestep

            Wait, you are responding with a Japanese last name and they are *still* asking for your first name because you don’t have a Japanese face to match it?

            Reply
            1. Julia

              Yes.
              A lot of non-Japanese people here tend to go by first name either out of habit from their own country or because the Japanese people throw away all convention when it comes to foreigners.

              So if you happen to be living in Japan and contemplating a name change, it might not be worth it. (I did it because my maiden name is a horribly difficult Polish one – and because I thought it would be funny to answer the phone with *Yamada Maria* (not my real name, but German-Julia-pronounced-with-a-Y works in Japanese as well)), have them expect someone Japanese and then show up and confuse them.)

              Reply
              1. Chinook

                Julie, you have no clarified for me why, when my coworkers went to the effort of getting me my own henko (name stamp) they did so for my first name rather than my family name (and they even took the time to find the “most beautiful kanji” for the syllables, so they clearly put some thought in it). For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why I didn’t get one in my family name but I was raised that it was rude to ask any questions about a gift that might make the gift giver think you didn’t appreciate it, so I didn’t know how to raise the question.

                Reply
                1. Julia

                  I’m glad I could clarify that for you. Although I guess another reason is that maybe your first name was shorter and as such easier to put on a small hanko?

                  By the way, I find it highly ironic that on a thread about names, you called me Julie instead of Julia. ;)

          2. Falling Diphthong

            I’m in the US, my last name could be a first name, and I unbelievably still get people who figure I just didn’t understand the question. I’m 49. I have my first and last name straight.

            Reply
        2. hermit crab

          One time (this was back in high school), I had to read off a long list of fellow students’ names at a large event. It wasn’t a big school, I knew most of the kids and their names, but I asked a few people how to say their last names if I wasn’t sure. This one kid, who had a very long and complex last name, just shrugged and said “say it however you want.” So I did the best I could and totally butchered his name in front of school administrators, parents (including his parents!), etc. I still cringe when I think about this.

          Reply
            1. hermit crab

              I actually thought about asking his mom (who worked in the public library) but I was too chicken! Human behavior concerning names is just so weird sometimes.

              Reply
    2. Murphy

      I think the mispronouncing names itself is only a problem because they seem to be making no attempt to learn how to pronounce them, when they have the names in advance of the meeting and presumably could try to find out.

      Reply
      1. vesket

        Yeah, and honestly, I think almost everyone understands that some people just won’t be able to pronounce some names properly, and as long as a good-faith attempt is made, it’s not generally an issue. People tend to get the stress wrong in my last name (amusingly enough, because they generally try to make a good effort to pronounce it properly … for the wrong non-English culture) and I don’t mind as long as they are not nasty about it and don’t try to correct me on my own pronunciation of my own name.

        Reply
  19. Stellaaaaa

    OP1: It’s a bit buried, but you mention that she’s still answering emails and wrapping things up when you get to her desk. She’s still doing her job at 5:00 on the dot. It’s your car and you’re well within your rights to end the carpooling for whatever reason you want, but I don’t think it’s accurate to view it as if she’s making you late by doing unnecessary stuff. She can’t fail to send those emails on your account. I’m not sure that urging her to get a move on would solve the problem of her workload always taking her a little past 5:00. That might not be something she can change so you should be prepared to end the arrangement if this permanent component of her job isn’t easy to adjust.

    Reply
  20. Nan

    Op #1. I’d give them a couple more chances, then I’d leave without them. Have the talk and explain why you need to jet at 5. Then, for a few days, hit her up at 4:55 with a reminder that the ride is leaving in 5 minutes, sharp. If she continues to flake, I’d go with “It’s 5, so I have to leave. I’ll see you tomorrow” and then leave. She’ll get it together or find another ride.

    I used to work til 9 as the supervising manager of a call center. My 9pm people knew that 9 oh oh was time to go! Don’t be using the facilities or grabbing your stuff out of the fridge. We were leaving at 9 on the nose.

    Reply
  21. Pepper77

    My office is pretty strictly 9-5 but I always get weird looks if I actually leave at 5 on the dot… I commute and have a train to catch (leaving at 5 vs. leaving at 5:20 can be the difference between a 1-hour train ride and a 2-hour train ride), plus I arrive into the office in the morning a good 30-45 minutes early, but I’m still the office weirdo for leaving on time. I’ve never actually been reprimanded for it, but I get “vibes.”

    Reply
    1. Bea

      We have 2 folks who ride the bus, I have never used public transit in my life and I still understand why they leave promptly! I’m sorry to hear your co-workers give you bad vibes for adhering to a train schedule that’s ridiculous!

      Reply
    2. Subsriba

      Doesn’t work in strict 9-5 offices, but someone I know deliberately changed her schedule to leave at 4.45 (even though she could have left at 5) so that she would be “the one with the adjusted schedule” instead of “the clock-watcher”. This way, people asked “why is Mary leaving early” and got the answer “oh, she starts half an hour early” – whereas when she left at 5, and started at the same time, no-one asked, and her early start was ignored.

      Reply
      1. Anastasia Beaverhausen

        I like that. It bugs me when people feel guilty for refusing to work without being paid for it. It’s the law. Maybe there are some companies out there who will regularly gift you some cash without your working for it, but I doubt there are many, if any. So why feel guilty about starting and ending work on time as agreed and compensated for? That’s you giving money to the company. Do you think they would reciprocate? You: Oh hey, something’s come up, and I need $20. Company: What?? Oh hell no. We’re not paying you to not work.

        I know, I know, sometimes there are extreme circumstances like that phone is ringing just as you’re about to log out because it’s 5 o’clock. If it’s a really quick fix, okay. But otherwise, just take down the particulars so you can get to it first thing in the morning, transfer the call to someone who’s still on the clock, or put the caller on hold while you get approval for overtime.

        And obviously I speak as an hourly employee. It’s very different as a salaried or exempt employee. I’ve been there too, and was compensated accordingly.*

        *Actually no, no I wasn’t. Which is why I insist on working as nonexempt. Too many jobs with crazy hours that diluted the seemingly generous yearly salary to a sad hourly rate if you did the math. But that’s another topic.

        Reply
        1. Evan Þ

          I’m exempt, but ever since I started my job (four years ago after graduating college), I’ve been quietly tracking my time just for myself. I often go an hour or so over at the end of the week, but then I usually make it back in “flex time” later.

          Of course, then there’re things like the software release last month where I ended up going well over forty hours that week. Oh well; that project was rather fun anyway.

          Reply
    1. Murphy

      Ha, I tried several names I’ve come across at work lately and they’re not in there! (One was though, and it was informative, because I never would have pronounced it that way.)

      Reply
    2. Rockhopper

      Not foolproof though. I teach ESL and one of my Peruvian students has a first name that is common in English but she pronounces it very differently. I checked the website and they only have the English pronunciation.

      Reply
      1. Lily Rowan

        Oh man, I knew someone who was considering Michaela for her daughter, but only liked it pronounced in Spanish (mee-kai-eh-la), and actively disliked the English pronunciation. I had to tell her that 99% of people in the US would say “mick-AY-la” the first time and some percentage would keep saying it that way!

        Reply
        1. Allison

          I had a classmate with the Spanish pronunciation, and I thought it was awesome, but our elderly creative writing professor had trouble with it, and made it seem like she was a silly, picky little girl for insisting he get it right.

          We didn’t like him.

          Reply
      2. it_guy

        I know someone who had a German last name of Mueller, but she pronounced it “Miller”. So it’s always best to ask if you don’t know for 100% sure.

        Reply
  22. OlympiasEpiriot

    #1) Yes, be explicit. have the conversation in the morning during the drive, reinforce with a convo/call/message during the workday around lunch, probably tell her again at 4:45 for the first few days.

    #2) Argh. You haven’t worked with her. You can’t recommend her for a job!

    #3) A$$holes. Too bad no one joining the company has that traditional English surname Cholmondeley…it is pronounced (approximately) Chumley.

    #4) Just give it back and chalk it up to experience. If she’s a close friend outside of work, you know her family for years since before you started working there, or something along those lines, you can try explaining that to the Boss, but, that might make you get transferred to work under someone else.

    #5) Did she tell you to use text or e-mail to contact her in the first place? Definitely have that conversation with her. I have a mental list of which people I work with and how they can be contacted. One, only one, of the partners at my firm does well with text; but, he’s very much of an early adopter type. Also, if someone gets a lot of e-mails, e-mails can get lost in the shuffle. If she still tells you to use e-mail, try using the BLUF system (Military acronym for Bottom Line Up Front. Service handbooks have good examples of how to use it.) and adapt the USNA e-mail standards for your subject line. Here’s a cut-and-paste from some notes I made about it. I find it very useful:
    • ACTION – Compulsory for the recipient to take some action
    • SIGN – Requires the signature of the recipient
    • INFO – For informational purposes only, and there is no response or action required
    • DECISION – Requires a decision by the recipient
    • REQUEST – Seeks permission or approval by the recipient
    • COORD – Coordination by or with the recipient is needed
    High likelihood that if you start doing this, she’ll instantly know which e-mail are from you, too.

    Reply
    1. CM

      For #5, if the conversation doesn’t work (some people will say they prefer email even though they never respond) I would try saving up questions and talking to her in person. That way you know you’ll get a response. If it’s important to document your questions in emails, you could still send the email but make a list of issues that you’re waiting for her input on, and walk into her office with that list when she returns.

      Reply
      1. OlympiasEpiriot

        I think that should be a given. If I don’t get responses to something within a reasonable amount of time (which varies with the subject matter), I will escalate it to a different communication method. Ultimately, there is the (worst) option of chasing someone into an elevator as they leave and asking the questions on the way to the ground floor. They can’t get away. If your building is tall enough, you might get a few questions answered.

        ;-)

        Reply
  23. a different Vicki

    The jokes are a problem even if the jokers “mean well.”

    I have a German-Jewish name that something like 90 percent of the people I meet pronounce wrong, and wrong in the same way. As in, I can leave a message “this is Vicki Ashkenazi-name, that’s A-s-h-k-e-n-a-z-i” on their voicemail and I’ll still get a call back “May I speak to Vicki Ash[pause]enasi-name”? In medical waiting rooms, I get up for either “Vicki [pause]” or the first half of my surname. The first half is familiar: think “Goldsmith” for “Goldensteiner.”

    The difference is that people don’t joke about it, at least where I can hear it, probably because they’re not reading it as ethnic/recent immigrant. They certainly don’t ask me why I don’t have a “normal” or “American” name, or say “I’ll just call you Vicki Ash” or expect me to answer to “Astor” because my real name is “too difficult” (even though they are finding it difficult). When I tell those people “just call me Vicki” they do so without saying “good, I can’t pronounce your name”: it’s as if “Jane Smith” had said “Please, call me Jane” when addressed as “Ms. Smith.”

    The person who can’t pronounce “Sucharitkul” acts as though it’s Mr. Sucharitkul’s fault; the one who can’t pronounce “Worcester” may blame English spelling, but is unlikely to say “how can you expect me to pronounce that?”

    Reply
    1. Granny K

      This just made me think of a scene from Beverly Hills Cop (and yes I’m totally dating myself):
      Serge: [Serge is having trouble understanding/pronouncing Axel’s first name] Donny, run and tell Miss Summers that, uh, Mister Achmed Foley is here to see her…
      Axel Foley: No, *Axel* Foley. Axel.
      Serge: Achnell…? Achwell…
      Axel Foley: *Axel*.
      Serge: …Foley is here to see her, he’s an old acquaintance.

      Reply
  24. BadPlanning

    On OP #1 — I might address the leave time as something you’ve somewhat recently discovered. Like, “Hey, I noticed that a couple minutes adds a 15 minute impact on the driveway time. Leaving 2 minutes later turns a decent drive into a crappy drive. It’s crazy the window is so small, right? I need to leave at 5:00 to maintain my driving sanity.”

    Reply
  25. Allison

    1) I’m a stickler for punctuality, and I’m the type who likes to beat traffic (or, in some cases, wait it out) for sanity’s sake so I get where you’re coming from. But are you actually “late” for something? It’s one thing if you have a kid to pick up or an after-work commitment (like a class) you need to be on time for, but just trying to beat traffic may not garner a lot of sympathy.

    There are people in the workforce who believe that if the day ends up at 5, you keep working until 5, and then you start wrapping up – saving files, putting things away, checking in with people to make sure they don’t need anything from you before you leave, etc. and THEN heading for the door. There are people who feel that wrapping up before 5 and making an effort to walk out the door at exactly 5 “looks bad,” regardless of what you actually need to do at that point in the day. Professionalism, optics, work ethic, etc.

    Workplace politics aside, there are also people who, for whatever reason, don’t start getting ready until it’s time to go. I was probably like that as a kid, because at one point my dad very firmly explained that “when I say I wanna leave at 6, that means I want everyone walking out the door at 6. You should already have your things, your shoes should already be on, so you need to start getting yourself together ten minutes before 6.” Now I’m always the first one ready.

    Your coworker either believes she should work until 5 on the dot, or she’s aware of this expectation and doesn’t want people to question her work ethic, or she’s the type to wait until it’s “time to go” to start getting ready to leave. So you need to talk to her and say “I enjoy carpooling with you, but I really want to leave at 5 on the dot. If you need to wrap things up after 5 and walk out the door closer to 5:10 or so, that’s fine, but I will need to end our carpool arrangement if that’s the case. If you want me to drive you home, you need to be ready to leave at 5, and that may mean starting to wrap things up at 4:50.”

    Or something like that.

    Reply
    1. Anastasia Beaverhausen

      Garner sympathy from the person to whom she is doing a favor? I don’t see it that way. The coworker is chipping in for gas, not paying the OP for her time. If the coworker’s timing is costing the OP her personal time, that’s not right.

      Reply
  26. AnonToday

    I speak Chinese. One of my husband’s colleagues is from China and is named Meili (annonymized). His organization is such that there is a decent amount of socializing and spouses are generally welcome. Once I mentioned Meili to another spouse and she looked me dead in the eye and said “It’s pronounced Mellie.” This woman knows I speak Chinese. There is no end to people’s arrogance.

    Reply
    1. Argh!

      “Mellie” may have become the de facto nickname there. I know a “Lily” who is definitely not originally “Lily.”

      Reply
    2. AnonToday

      Ummmm, Meili and I speak Chinese together. Her name is Meili. I think that maybe the fake name made it confusing, but it was pretty clear that the person who corrected my pronunciation was just trying to big dog me or something. But this is kind of my point, people can be exposed to the “correct” pronunciation and still be completely intransigent.

      Reply
      1. Specialk9

        Honestly, from that story it sounds 50/50 that you’re being arrogant vs that person. If Meilie is properly said one way but Meilie themself had told people to go with an anglicized version, then the person correcting you would be correct. We go by the name someone tells us to use.

        Personally, in other languages I find a way to say my first or middle name in a way that works with their phonemes. In one language, I go by a guy’s name (I’m female), the closest to my middle name that people know. If someone said, actually, you’re wrong, I speak English, it’s actually X, I’d be pretty pissed for making my friends feel uncomfortable for following my lead.

        Just some context for how you may be seeing a black and white situation when there’s grey.

        Reply
        1. Myrin

          As far as I can tell, Meili hasn’t actually told people to go with an aglicised version. Am I missing something?

          Reply
        2. AnonToday

          Would your answer be different if the person were a David from Mexico? If I spoke Spanish with David and called him Da-veed while the rest of the office (or whatever) called him David? I could be arrogant, but believe me when I write here that if I know how to say this woman’s name. It is frankly really weird that some commenters are suggesting that I don’t know that this woman has a nickname when I am just saying her name as it is written on her business cards/office door/email, and you know, how she says it. Frankly, I think that because this is Chinese, it comes off as arrogant. I just don’t think saying a Spanish name in Spanish would get treated the same way.

          Reply
          1. fposte

            But it’s come up here before that some people don’t actually like that; I prefer my name to be pronounced according to the language I’m speaking in, and other people have said the same. I don’t know Meili or what she likes, but right now you’re describing a situation where two people are arguing about a third person’s name, and there’s no indication of what the person with the name actually thinks about the matter.

            Reply
            1. The OG Anonsie

              It sounds like Meili and AnonToday know each other and Anon does indeed know how Meili says her own name, and it’s not Mellie.

              Reply
              1. fposte

                And if AnonToday knows that Meili doesn’t accept Mellie as a term, that’s fine; I can imagine situations where this was clear as crystal in the moment and just didn’t convey in the anecdote.

                Reply
          2. Specialk9

            Nope, same sitch. (And how is just simply speaking Chinese “arrogant” but Spanish isn’t? Aside from perceiving arrogance in innocuous interactions, that seems kinda loaded.)

            I’m not saying you don’t know how to pronounce their name in the native language, I’m sure you do. I’m saying you’re taking a *huge* amount of umbrage about a situation that seems like it wasn’t about you at all. The spouse could easily be trying to be respectful to co-worker by using a name co-worker ok’ed. Your outrage seems disproportionate, unless you have history with this spouse, in which case YES, look at how that bitch is eating crackers.

            Reply
            1. nosy nelly

              yeah this kind of well-meaning-ness can work and it can come across as rude, in itself. if mei li prefers to be called the chinese version of her name, great for you for sticking up for her. if she finds it jarring to hear american english-speakers mangle a tone or something and thus prefers mellie, then you’re going against her wishes. i used to attend school with a variety of international students, some who were given an anglicized name by their parents (sometimes with a country-of-origin “middle” name), some who would take on an anglicized name of their own choosing (while maintaining their country-of-origin name for paperwork), and some who would always use the non-anglicized/country-of-origin name given by their parents. one fellow student of mine insisted on calling everyone by their “real names” aka the non-anglicized names. meeting and interacting with someone who calls herself melody (along with everyone else) gets really confusing when this holier-than-thou person would waltz into the conversation like “oh, xiao jing, what do you think of this title slide?”

              melody didn’t necessarily appreciate the extra attention and confusion that followed such an interaction. it was presumptuous.

              Reply
            2. nosy nelly

              And one last thing… no need to “out-progressive-politics” each other here:

              And how is just simply speaking Chinese “arrogant” but Spanish isn’t? Aside from perceiving arrogance in innocuous interactions, that seems kinda loaded.

              The original poster was either describing people as seeing Spanish as closer to English and easier to mimic by English speakers…or accusing people of seeing it as “less impressive” and thus less worth bragging about than Chinese. And you have picked up on that but merely implied that you think it’s the latter. Seems pretty clear that neither of you actually believe that.

              Reply
              1. Specialk9

                I don’t think it could be perfectly clear that I didn’t mean that, when I did mean that. Saying that speaking Chinese comes across as arrogant in a way that speaking Spanish never would is actually incredibly loaded. Speaking a language is not about intelligence, it’s just a language. Chinese is not the language of kings and Spanish the language of peasants. So yeah, actually, I found that offensive. My Hispanic husband and MIL would likely find it so as well.

                Reply
                1. nosy nelly

                  Yep I didn’t think either of you believed anything negative of speakers of either language–just that you’re both trying to accuse others of such a belief in order to bolster your point. And the topic is very far afield from the original problem and the solutions posed.

  27. Newbie

    #2- I had something similar happen that you may appreciate! I started a new position about a year ago where I do hiring/interviewing for a warehouse. A former co-worker from my first job after college wound up applying for a position without knowing that I worked at the company and would be the one reviewing her information. She and I aren’t very close, however we did become Facebook friends while working together and I discovered that she has similar social media antics as you described- very negative, complaining about previous employers, oversharing about personal life drama, etc. I loved being an observer to the drama but knowing all this background information (especially the issues with previous employers) I was not comfortable moving her forward in our hiring process.

    Reply
  28. Argh!

    OP5: My boss is like that too. Nothing short of coming to her office in person seems to work and then she’ll complain if she doesn’t think it’s important enough to interrupt her. She’s just not a good thinker. She will reply right away to a request for time off but delay for weeks or never respond to something more complex than that. It’s crazy-making. If you have one-on-ones (I do, except when they’re cancelled which is 75% of the time), keep a log of unanswered questions & go through them. If you don’t have regular meetings, you could set up a special meeting to deal with them. If your boss is like mine, you may find out that the problem isn’t lack of communication, it’s fuzzy or indecisive thinking. At least I have documented my attempts to get my questions answered in case I get blamed for “miscommunication” (considering my boss is perfect and grandboss loves her, I can count on this)

    Reply
  29. KK

    #1 – I so, so get this! I too have a commute where leaving even a few minutes late will significantly delay the time I get home. I leave at 4:30 on the dot every day, so I would also be super frustrated having to wait for a coworker to wrap things up (especially since you indicated that she could definitely finish her work by quitting time). The few times I’ve been forced to leave a few minutes later due to a phone call or a last minute time sensitive request, I’ve not gotten home until 5:00 or later, when normally I make it home by 4:45 when I leave on time.

    I think you could (as others have mentioned) tell your coworker you have a new commitment in which you have to leave on time to get to. I also think you could mention the value you place on work life balance (assuming that’s true), and although 20-25 minutes a day doesn’t seem like a lot, it adds up.

    Reply
  30. Sal

    God, what is wrong with people. Give it your best shot, ask respectfully if you were close, and try to do better. Basic respect. Good for you, OP3.

    Reply
  31. Justin

    The name thing really bothers me.

    My first name you can see, but my last name is also pretty easy to pronounce (it’s just a man’s first name). People still get it wrong sometimes but it’s rare.

    I was an ESL teacher for many years, and was in charge of managing volunteers. These were nice people, but if presented with a name that was new to them, they’d usually just guess, and then, when corrected, continue to say it wrong and say they were “bad with names.” Argh. I spent a lot of time trying to solve this.

    I always knew that my (adult) students appreciated taking half a second to really listen when they said their own names. But even these mistakes weren’t as bad as teasing people. These folks are dismissing these peoples’ identities (which your name is a part of!) and it’s also really really lazy lowest-common-denominator, in-group out-group humor. Please try again with HR! Or if you have any such standing, with the people who run the meetings?

    I will admit to having an internal chuckle when I had a student named “Yu Pu” (yes, really), but publicly shaming folks is so far beyond the pale.

    (Side note: I also had a coworker whom everyone insisted was named (x). Korean lady, very nice. I used to live in Korea, and I realized when she actually said her name, it was not what everyone else said. So I asked if she could write her name down in Korean, and she did, and lo and behold, everyone (including her bosses) was saying her name wrong, to the point where they would correct me (and others) when we said her actual name. People who were trying to bend over backwards to be kind yet hadn’t taken the time to listen to the person in question.)

    Sorry for rambling. This particular issue really gets under my skin.

    Reply
    1. FormerOP

      Ugh, it totally grinds my dears too when people say, “oh, I’m bad with names.” Who has ever said, “I’m good with names, don’t worry just introduce yourself exactly one time and I will remember your name, its spelling and how to pronounce it?” People just honestly need to try harder at being kind and considerate of other people.

      Reply
      1. Justin

        I got a reputation for being a bit surly because some of the volunteers would call me “Jesse” or “Jason” and I’d gently remind them that, no, my name is Justin. (I admit, at my worst, it might not be gentle.) People have been calling me Jason since i was, like, two, and it’s a fine name.

        But, that’s not my name. That’s not my name. That’s not my name. That’s not my… name.

        Reply
        1. Friday

          You just nailed why my spouse and I go with the tricky Irish names for our kids. Both our names have another regular english “swap” name that people who are lazy will turn to, instead of using our correct names. Give them a more complicated name and it will probably stump them at first but at least they are less likely to be lazy and more likely to actually try to get it right.

          Reply
    2. MoodyMoody

      I agree; ESOL students doing their best get a pass on both pronunciation and spelling. Of course, my last name, Moody, is very easy for most students to say correctly as long as they don’t try to read it. My first name is a lot trickier.

      Reply
  32. Imaginary Number

    OP #1: I would never consider that leaving 5-minutes late could be considered “not getting out on time.” It sounds like you’re very familiar with the traffic patterns in your area and have a good justification for wanting to leave on the dot, but it’s totally reasonable for your coworker not to understand it.

    You’re doing your coworker a favor, but it also sounds like you want to keep carpooling because, as you said, you like having the company in traffic and the extra gas money.

    I would point out, however, that no matter how real the problem is (that one minute late really does add five minutes to your drive every single time) it’s possible that complaining about it is going to come across as a little weirdly uptight. It’s really ordinary to take a few minutes after clocking out to do things like packing up, saying goodbye, and stopping at the restroom. That’s probably why traffic is so much worse after only a couple minutes: most people are doing these things before they leave.

    Reply
    1. a1

      Yes and no, imo. Yeah, 15 minutes may not seem that much longer to some people, but it’s 50% longer than “normal” (if normal is leaving on time/when requested). So, if you leave at 5 and get home at 5:30, yay. Leave at 5:05 and get home at 5:50*, that’s a big difference.

      *5 minutes late, plus 15 minutes increase in drive time

      All that said, I agree with everyone up thread, and Alison’s advice, but being explicitly clear about expectations and taking it from there.

      Reply
  33. Manager-at-Large

    For #3
    Another option for the Monday call would be to have the direct managers introduce the new hires by name. It gets the managers to speak in the town-hall context and you have a chance that they will have mastered the name of their own employee. That is not to excuse the behavior. Making fun of a persons name to excuse your incompetance and lack of research or investment to learn it correctly is a terrible first impression to have upper management make for the new employees. How much better to have the CEO pronounce every new and difficult employee name correctly in the all-hands meeting!

    Hint for those who have trouble with long words or names from non-English languages – you can try building up the name a syllable at a time, starting from the end. So Ramachandran is “dran” then “chan dran” then “ma chandran” then “Ra machandran” then “Ramachandran”
    It doesn’t work all the time or for languages where the letter combinations are more challenging (like Polish or or Czech or Hungarian for English speakers) but it can help. I find these fairly easy to learn to say. That is, the speaking aspect isn’t too hard but the letter-to-pronounciation decoding is tough. So I learn the name and look up the spelling.

    I had a co-worker from India who was introduced to us by her hiring manager. We all then pronounced her name all the time as the way she was introduced to us. Meetings, phone calls, in the hallway – all the time. After about two years of knowing her, I happened to call her and needed to leave her a voice mail and heard her voice for the first time saying her own name – it was NOT THE SAME. Then I had to go ask her how she would prefer me to say her name- as she did, or as literally the other 60 people in the office did. (shri-VAHL-lee versus SHREE-va-lee).

    Reply
  34. Manager-at-Large

    more on Names – an anecdote
    When I started out in IT in the dark ages (80s), we had many people from China and Taiwan in the field and often they had adapted an English first name to use at work rather than their Chinese name. I remember clearly a lovely woman, maybe in her late 30s or early 40s, who used a first name that had some association with what you might think a cartoon name for a dog might be. As an example, let’s call her Fifi. One day, I overheard someone actually say to her “Fifi – what kind of name is that, that’s a name for a poodle” — oh my stars- she was mortified and I was horrified. His intention was to be friendly teasing not hurtful – but he was a big, loud, and gregarious male and she was a petite, quiet and reserved female – it was not good. She started asking around if she should change her name :(

    Reply
    1. Rusty Shackelford

      “Fifi – what kind of name is that, that’s a name for a poodle”

      Or a Geldof. ;-)

      I’ve worked with international students at a university, and many of them took what they considered “American” names. I wish someone had worked with them on those, since they names they chose sometimes created even more issues for them, like this one.

      Reply
      1. Lindsay J

        An international worker at one of my jobs went with “Electron”. Which I thought was pretty darn cool, but I don’t think they chose it intending to stick out like it did.

        Reply
      2. Parenthetically

        I went to school in Hong Kong with a Cactus, a Kitten, and an Avis (as in the rental car place). I think it’s delightful at age 20 but I wonder if Cactus picked a different name eventually.

        Reply
    2. Justin

      Aw.

      A lot of my students in Korea (and here) would choose Western names. But sometimes, for similar reasons, I had to let them know their choice might be seen differently.

      Like the young girl who said she wanted to go by “Eugene” (which was how her name was actually pronounced in Korean). Now, farbeit for me to mess with someone’s gender expression if that had been what she was going for, but she definitely had no idea it was a male name. So she chose something else.

      Reply
    3. Emi.

      When my mother was in school in Canada, all the Chinese-Canadian parents gave their children weird stuffy Anglo names like Winston and Preston. In *French* Canada.

      Reply
  35. Manager-at-Large

    for #3 – one more thing –
    What is the common pronounciation for a name in English can change over time – and if you learned it when young you might need to pay attention now and ask again.
    Example: during the Vietnam war, news coverage almost universally pronounced the Nguyen of Nguyen Van Thieu as “New-yen” . Nowadays, if I meet someone named Nguyen, it is almost always pronouced more like “Nwin”.

    Reply
  36. Eddie

    LW #1 My workplace would not accept “leaving on time” as dashing out the door the moment the second hand on the clock hits 5:00, as if you’re all a bunch of high schoolers waiting for the lunch bell. You stop working at 5:00, then you use your own time to clean up, get organized, and pack your belongings. Your colleague does not sounds like the passive aggressive one in this scenario.

    Reply
    1. Matilda Jefferies

      That’s really unnecessary towards the OP. It’s written in big bold letters right above the commenting block, please be kind to letter writers.

      Whatever happens in your office, it’s reasonable to assume that the OP is acting within normal boundaries for *her* office. And the letter is about how she can speak to her coworker about being ready at an agreed time, not whether or not the agreed time is reasonable in any other office.

      Reply
  37. Westward

    I have been introduced to a couple of coworkers over the years whose name is very common in their region of the EU, but the pronunciation of which is a slur in the U.S. That’s incredibly uncomfortable.

    Reply
      1. MoodyMoody

        I can’t speak to Westward’s example, but I tutored a Chinese math professor in English who had worked in Germany. He gave his son the German name “Heine,” pronounced very close to “hiney,” a word referring to the hindquarters. I felt sorry for that kid!

        Reply
  38. MD

    I have a foreign name but was born and raised in the US (my parents immigrated before I was born). So I have a foreign name which can only be pronounced correctly in the accent of the homeland language. An accent I don’t have. Meaning, I cannot pronounce my *own* name correctly, technically. So usually I don’t get too upset when others can’t either :-)

    Reply
  39. EmilyAnn

    I have a difficult to pronounce first and last name and I’ve been on vacation a lot this year. My boss is just kind of generally clueless so every time I come back and we have to discuss who was looking for me while I was gone he’ll tell me about a person who struggled to say my name. I’ve had the name for almost 30 years in two different western countries. It’s not funny and it’s not a new story. I am very understanding about my name being mispronounced because I know people haven’t seen it before and they’re doing their best, but I’d have a real issue with it being made fun of in a conference call.

    Reply
  40. mf

    LW#1: Don’t meet your coworker at her desk–tell her to meet you at your car at 5 PM. Tell her you’re going to start leaving promptly at 5 PM and that from now on, you can’t wait for her.

    Give her 2 min. If she’s not there by 5:02 PM, text her that you’re leaving now and that you’ll see her tomorrow morning. Then leave.

    It’s nice of you to drive her so she doesn’t have to do a 60 min commute while pregnant, but she’s being rude and inconsiderate. I bet after the first time you leave without her, she’ll start being prompt.

    Reply
    1. JoJo

      Maybe the coworker’s boss is one of those who frowns on people spending the last 5 minutes of the day packing things up and shutting down the computer. I’ve had those types before, and I’ve always wanted to say, “just how much work do you think I’m going to do in 5 minutes?”

      Reply
    2. Parenthetically

      Honestly, the few people in this thread who are saying Coworker is being “rude” are blowing my mind. Two minutes is nothing. It’s not even a commercial break. It’s like ten deep breaths. It’s not enough time to pee! It’s not like she’s dawdling, finding excuses to go back, being disorganized, whatever. She’s just not ready to leave as the clock strikes 5. But LW1 said above that she’s never really said, “Hey, because of traffic, we really need to be standing up with our stuff packed/walking out the door/in the car/pulling out of the parking lot (there’s your two minutes’ difference right there) at the stroke of 5. Every minute we’re late equals 3-5 minutes extra drive time for me, so can you please meet me by the door at 4:55 at the latest so I’m not a half hour late getting home?” You can’t expect to hold people to a razor-thin timeframe unless you bother to tell them your timeframe is razor-thin. And you’ll certainly have an easier time with compliance if you explain your reasoning.

      Reply
  41. LawBee

    #1 – it’s entirely possible your coworker doesn’t have a sense of time passing. I say this because she sounds a lot like me – a chronically late person. Ten minutes feels the same as two. I’ll check the clock, see I’ve got half an hour before I have to leave, and a blink later, it’s been 40 minutes and I’m late. For me, it’s a dyscalculia symptom. Who knows for her.

    I have solutions for her, but she didn’t write in. For you, if you feel so moved, it might help if you buzzed her right before you start getting your stuff ready. “I’m heading over now! Grab your bag and let’s scoot!” Of course, you’re under no obligation, but it could help.

    Reply
  42. peachie

    Related to #3–I heard this wonderful piece of advice from a friend who teaches kids and teens. If he hears someone called by a nickname or if they have a name commonly nicknam-ed (e.g., Jonathan or Katherine), he asks if they prefer the nickname or the full name or something else.

    I think everyone should do at least that, but it was the next part that was really interesting. He said that some would have an immediate preference, but most would say, “You can call me either, that’s fine.” But then he’d ask, “Are you sure you don’t prefer one over the other?”–and he said that 90% of the time, they actually do, it’s just that no one ever really asked them before, not in a way that made it clear that the asker really cared about the answer.

    (Incidentally, he told me this because he did it to me. I always introduce myself by my full name but I have a kind of “third party” nickname that’s just the first syllable in my name–I never introduce myself by it, but people often just start calling me it and I do answer to it. I truly don’t have a preference, but it was fascinating–I did realize that no one ever really asked me what I prefer to be called before.)

    Reply
    1. Specialk9

      Oh yeah, I totally do that. My name can be said 4 ways. General co-workers, meh, just get close, I don’t care. But if we become friends, yeah say my name right. So I’ll say I don’t care, but I do have a preference.

      Reply
    2. CM

      I’m going to start doing that! I always ask and most of the time people say they don’t care. But the worst is when I ask and they DO care and then later I forget which one they preferred. :/

      Reply
  43. GreenDoor

    #3, I staff our public school board and we have lots of public hearings. Members of the public sign up to speak on the spot, so there’s no opportunity ahead of time to seek them out to get a pronunciation ahead of time. One of our directors has a great way of handling harder to pronounce names. He makes it self-deprecating and shifts the blame to himself by saying, in a friendly tone of voice, “I’m afraid I may pronounce this next name wrong. If I do, will you please correct me when you come to the podium to speak?” Then he reads the name.

    From what I’ve seen, people seem to appreciate the advance apology and the invitation to advise the whole room of how to say their name.

    Reply
  44. Janelle

    The name thing is so rude. At least they should say “I apologize I may pronounce this wrong…” as people do to me often. It at least acknowledges thT they care and are considerate.

    Reply
  45. Janelle

    Oh and the name thing. If one more person calls me Janello I may blow. Last letter of my last name is O. I mean Janelle isn’t even that rare of a name. Drives me bonkers.

    Reply
    1. Janelle

      Oh and the amount of people who tell me I’m saying my last name wrong. Fun to give them some schooling on how grammar rules work though.

      Reply
  46. Laura

    #1 – I’ve worked with people/managers who feel like they are cheating the job if they shut down their computer prior to 5pm. You may want to make sure her manager is okay with it and then decide where to go from there.

    #5 – I feel you. I emailed my manager for feedback, left post its on reports, and tried to schedule meetings that were ignored. About two months ago, she brought me a spreadsheet of things she’d been changing and not telling me about and put me on probation. Two weeks ago, I fixed some printing parameters without explicitly telling her. So she fired me because I’d been in the position for 16 months without a review and she wasn’t sure how to write it. Anyway, I have a new job starting on Monday as more money. I had been in the position longer than my two predecessors. At some point, they will figure out who the problem is.

    Reply
  47. Ruth

    #1: Is it possible your coworker takes you coming to get her as a message to get ready rather than a message to get up and leave? Maybe a 5-minute warning (possibly by email, if you think she’d see it, to save you getting up and going over there twice) could help her start winding things down ahead of time so she’d be ready when you are – going to the bathroom, sending a last email, etc.

    But yeah, if you do something like this/what Alison suggested and it doesn’t help, I think it’s fine to say carpooling doesn’t work for you unless you can leave right on time.

    Reply
  48. uh

    I used to ask a coworker not only how to pronounce names but whether they were male or female. (Not sure why that mattered honestly, but I could not tell). He would laugh as I would try but murder them. . . He told me they had trouble with many names in the US as well and not to feel badly. I think it is partly a function of being hard of hearing in my case. I do no think anyone ever thought I was not trying though.

    Reply

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