know your rights, and pronounce your name

Two miscellaneous things…

1. If you’re interested in workplace rights, you need this book

Employment lawyer Donna Ballman — who you may recall has been nice enough to answer questions about employment law here from time to time — has just published a new book — Stand Up For Yourself Without Getting Fired.

This is a thorough, reader-friendly guide to your rights at work and how to handle it when an employer isn’t following the law. Donna covers everything from job offers to time off to whistle-blowing and much more, and it’s basically like having an employment lawyer explain to you how to deal with nearly any situation that might come up in the workplace. It’s well worth getting yourself a copy.

2. Do people mispronounce your name?

Yesterday, I noticed something new in the email signature of a colleague whose name people frequently butcher. Right below her name, she had a link that said “hear my name.” I clicked on it, and got a recording of her pronouncing her own name.

If you have a name that people often aren’t sure how to pronounce, this might be your salvation. It’s a free service from Audio Name. Once you set up your account, your email signature can be something like this:

Sincerely,
Alison Green
> Hear my name  

Obviously, you don’t need this if everyone knows how to say your name. But I like it for cases where they don’t.

{ 76 comments… read them below }

  1. jmkenrick

    Hm…my name isn’t spelled phonetically and it often causes problems. I wonder if something like that would make a difference.

    It’s a weirdly sticky situation, because while I prefer the proper pronunciation, I always feel uptight correcting people on my name more than once.

      1. Anna

        Yes, it’s your name, so your pronunciation is the right one. Most reasonable people understand this, so if they don’t pronounce your name right the first time they won’t be offended if you correct them.

        Oh, and my own last name is known to cause problems, so I’m used to having to correct people.

  2. Anonymous

    I phoned my sister’s workplace (we use the same surname, professionally),and asked to speak to her. Person on the other end of the phone said, “Pardon?” I gave her name again. Person on the other end of the phone said, “Oh, we pronounce it [ . . .] I’ll put you through, now. Whom shall I say is calling?”

    No prisoners, thought I, and told her.

    Moral: Use caution in correcting someone on a name that is not yours. It might be theirs.

  3. Anonymous

    1. bought the book and immediately read through the entire thing. I have the unfortunate need to have an employment attorney, and this book aligns with what I have learned from him, as well as another friend’s advice in the field . Wish I’d had it even sooner!

    2. I sent this to a person who has a note on pronouncing her name on her signature–she will LOVE this!

  4. Emily, admin extraordinaire

    My last name is a common three-word prepositional phrase that no one who hasn’t heard it pronounced before believes could possibly be pronounced the way it looks. If my freelance editing business ever gets of the ground, I will use this.

    1. Emily, admin extraordinaire

      Off the ground, not of it! That’ll teach me to proofread my comments before hitting submit instead of after. :)

    2. Your Mileage May Vary

      I know you don’t want to share your last name online, but I keep trying to figure out what it could be: Overthetop, Aroundthebend, Upthestairs. This is going to drive me crazy!!

      1. Emily, admin extraordinaire

        Meh, I don’t mind that much. I’ve got quite an online presence under my full name anyway. My last name is Bytheway. Yes, pronounced like it looks. It’s English.

        1. Lydia

          oh Emily that’s a fabulous name, and I can imagine some awkward situations. ‘Hi, I’m Emily Bytheway’, ‘oh Hi Emily, by the way I’m Fred’.

          As someone with an unusual surname everyone thinks is slightly different and not only pronounces wrongly but spells wrongly, I empathise (and as I’m unique in the world I’ll leave it at that!). :)

          1. Emily, admin extraordinaire

            Thanks! I actually really like my name, but yes, awkward situations abound. It’s one of the reasons my first name is so common– most of my relatives have very, very traditional first names (and they tend to be repeated; there’s a Benjamin Bytheway in pretty much every generation, and there’s lots of Emily Bytheways around besides me) because our last name is so outlandish that we need to balance it out. :P

            But yeah, I’ve heard “By the way, Emily, what’s your last name?” and variations thereof more times than I can count; you can always tell when there’s a telemarketer on the line because they ask for “Ms. Bithway” because there’s no way you actually pronounce it by the way; I always use “incidentally” instead of by the way because that would just be weird; certain names are absolutely not an option for any kids (Isabel and Owen are two that we often joke about); hyphenation when/if I get married would be a very bad idea (we told my cousin, who became an Anjeweirden, that she should hyphenate hers); and I definitely can’t marry anyone whose last name is a verb because then I would be a sentence.

  5. Sara

    my name is easy to pronounce but boy oh boy is it my biggest pet peeve when it’s misspelled….especially when bulk of communication is done online, and my name is right there (on facebook, in my emails etc) and I may ahve mentioned it to you once that this is the proper spelling. NO I dont’ care that YOU think it has to have an H, my name does not have an H at the end. I don’t intentionally misspell anyones name, so when it happens to me constantly I think either you’re 1-stupid because despite repeated corrections you still keep writing sarah, or 2-you don’t care about getting someone’s name right….which says more about you than me. /End rant.

    1. mh_76

      I hear you. My given name has a variety of spellings and it’s more commonly used as a nickname so I get the misspellings and people asking what my given name is (or acting like I’m trying to hide something). I don’t mind if people goof up the first letter because that makes a couple of other names but I don’t like it when they goof the rest of the spelling. Grrr.

      1. mh_76

        And if I introduce myself with first + last names, people often say “what” a few times. Both names are short and I have a “[old-school] newscaster’s accent”…no accent… I mostly intro. with just my first name because it’s easier.

    2. Rana

      Yup. My name is the simplest spelling of all the versions. There’s no extra “a” and for pity’s sake, don’t add an extra “l” and “e” on top of it.

      Six letters, phonetic, simplest spelling… and yet.

      On the other hand, my husband has a long and rather uncommon last name, coupled with a simple and yet easily confused with another similar name, and thus everything gets mangled in pretty amusing ways, so I perhaps should count myself lucky.

    3. Jen in RO

      I’m not American, but I work with Americans. I don’t expect anyone to pronounce my name right – it’s got a lot of vowels and it’s tricky unless you hear it (and even after you hear it). But it’s right there in my email address and in my signature. I – o – a – n – a. Not Iona, not Iana, it’s 5 letters and you could take 10 seconds and make sure it’s spelled correctly! This drives me up the wall.

      1. Anonymous

        I have an uncommon name – not an unusual one! People still get it wrong! I have said in the past, “I won’t call you Fred when your name is John so please try to get MY name right.” sometimes they make an effort and sometimes they don’t.

      2. Neeta (RO)

        *patpatpat* One of my coworkers is called Ionut… and the client CEO once asked “Who’s Lonut?” :P

        I had the same problem with my last name, when I went for a month long business trip to the US. At one point people just started introducing me as: “This is Neeta… Ican’tpronounceyourlastname”.

        1. Jen in RO

          To be honest, we have a division in India and I won’t even try to pronounce some of their last names… (Surprisingly, my foreign coworkers get my last name right more often than my first name [it’s an -escu].)

  6. Bre

    Thank you so much for the link to Audio Name! Both my first and last names are polysyllabic and people mispronounce them all the time. I always know when someone is going to call my name at the doctors office because they pause, look at my first and last, and try to figure out which one is easier.

    1. Anonymous

      I always recognise that pause as “they’re going to call me up” too!

      And I can practically hear the “Oh shit” in a telephone agent’s mind when they go to read my email address back to me and they realise they don’t remember how my name is pronounced ;)

  7. Randi not Randy

    I love this, I’m going to add this right away. Now if I could only teach folks how to spell my name. Even people I have worked with for 10 years spell it wrong. It makes me feel small to point it out, but I feel it indicates a lack of attention or caring. Am I too sensitive, Allycion? :)

    1. Jamie

      You aren’t too sensitive – it’s just polite to try to spell someone’s name correctly and you are totally within your rights to correct people.

      Me? I’ve given up. People who see my name in emails every single day will still type Jaime or Jaimie. Even when my name is right there in the email to which they’re replying. I should care – I just don’t.

      Janie and Amy I’ve corrected – those are different names. As it is I just find it’s easier to assume they are just really consistant typos and call it a day. After all – it’s spelled correctly on my paychecks – which is the important thing.

      1. Randi not Randy

        I know a Jamie, a Jayme, a Jaime, and an Amy J. There is something to be said for naming your children normal names with normal spellings. Me, I have a totally ethnic name (it’s Norwegian) and it’s been a royal pain my whole life.

  8. Sabrina

    I might use that for my last name. Or my first name since I’ve been called Stephanie, Samantha, Stacey, and Gloria. Yes. Gloria. By three different people.

    1. Rana

      *laughs* For some reason, my “alternate” name is Esther. There are maybe two letters in common with my actual name, and it sounds nothing like Esther, at all.

      Yet more than one person has made that mistake – what the heck?

      1. Katie, NOT Kathy

        I’ve never had a problem with my name until I moved jobs. My name is Katie, spelled that way. Not Kati, not Katy, and certainly not Kathy. But only my direct department seems to get my name right. And one person, after repeated corrections, is now just cyclying between the three names above. So maybe she is just passive agressive? Other than that everyone is delightful.

        1. Katieinthemountains

          Oh my goodness yes! I think people who can’t hear very well mistake Katherine for Kathy, and it drives me nuts.
          ~not Kathy, Kathleen, Kattie, or Katy

    2. Anonymous

      I have an evil twin somewhere in the world. It’s the only explanation for the number of times I get called Pamela.

    3. Liz in a Library

      I’ve gotten Lisa, Ellie, and Lila before, which sort of make sense to me. The one I don’t get, and have been called by multiple different people as well, is Julie.

      I mean…I think my name was in the top three in popularity the year I was born. It’s not rocket science.

    4. 22dncr

      I have a VERY easy first name that all Americans of a certain age learned to read with and still I get called other off-the-wall things. Even had a teacher in HS that refused to call me by my name because: “you don’t look like one!” And don’t get me started on my last name – no one I know (including friends of long standing) says it right.

    5. Natalie

      For some reason I get “Nancy” a lot – doesn’t sound like Natalie, doesn’t look like Natalie… I think it’s because people say “N as in Nancy” a lot.

      One of many reasons we should all just use the NATO phonetic alphabet – no one is going to assume my name is November!

      1. Anna

        At least my first name is (usually) spelled right. Parents have been known to inflict all sorts of names on their children, so saying my name is “Alpha-November-November-Alpha” might lead some to start calling me “Alpha.”

        This reminds me of the bit in Eats, Shoots and Leaves about the guy with the double-barreled last name who simply couldn’t get his credit card company to understand the concept. I think one of the resulting cards even listed his name as “Anthony Armstrong Hyphen” (the fact that I didn’t have to think too much about what the name was proves how many times I’ve read that passage).

  9. Daisy

    How much of employment law is state specific? I see that Donna practices in Florida (not my state). I know there are definitely elements that are federal, but curious how state issues are handled in the book as there are no reviews yet.

  10. Ellie H.

    The “Hear my name” idea is fantastic – I would use this all the time. (To listen to people’s names, not correct mine – I think my name is pretty easy to pronounce, just terrible to spell) Because I have a “difficult” name and a bunch of complexes about it I am really committed to getting other people’s names right in both spelling and pronunciation.

  11. Angela S.

    My last name only has 2 letters (no kidding!) but I still find some people mis-spelling the name.

    But that “hear my name” idea is wonderful!

    1. TheSnarkyB

      I have to say though, having many friends/acquaintances with the last name Ng has made me sympathetic to mispronunciations of even short names. :)

  12. ChristineH

    I love that Audio Name idea…my husband would probably wish all the people he deals with at his job would use it since many of them are overseas.

    Both my maiden AND married names are easy to remember; yet, I’ve had both get mangled in pronunciation, some even going so far as adding an extra letter or two. Oy.

  13. Zee

    My name is hard to pronounce apparently for some. “Zee” is a failed nickname of my real name; relatives had wanted to give it to me but my parents refused (but I kind of like it).

    My first name I share with a famous actress, and for what I know, she’s the only actress of that fame level to have that name. Everyone knows her! They know how to read her name when it is written. But when people see it written down as my name, I get its derivatives (other names that are in the same family name) or the nicknames. I don’t know if people don’t know how to actually read that name or if they are just lazy. Actually, I had someone ask me my name, I told them, and then they say, “It’s nice to me you ‘Other Name.'” Really? I just told you my name and you already screwed it up? I instantly corrected him, and he looked at me funny. I said, “Have you heard of ‘Actress?'” Yeah…well same name buddy!

    1. Anon in the UK

      I had a colleague whose last name was Boucher. Pronounced to rhyme with voucher. Not only did he get people who called him Mr Voucher, but he also got people who had studied some French, recognised Boucher it as the French word for ‘butcher’, and pronounced it as such. BooSHER.

  14. Tara

    Love the Audio Name idea! There are two ways to say my name (I pronounce it Tar – a, hard R) and for some reason even when I say my name, and often repeat myself two to three times, Americans will default to the second pronunciation (Tear-a). It’s both annoying and uncomfortable to have to correct people or be called by the wrong name – wrong pronunciation = wrong name. The hardest part is trying to correct people without coming across as snot/diva. Especially if it’s a higher up and/or client.

    1. AMG

      I finally got this when someone said ‘like a car’. Lar-a, Tar-a. Seems to help if you can connect it to something familiar.

      1. Tara

        I’ll tried “like a car, what you drive on, etc…” and people still don’t get it right. Several of my teachers and professors solved the problem by calling Miss Maiden Name and I actually rather enjoyed that as I love my maiden name. Unfortunately going by Mrs. Married Name does not work when everyone else you work with uses first names (and I really don’t like the sound of Mrs. Married Name).

  15. Charlotte

    my first name is bad enough, people can pronounce it when they see it, spelling it is another story! but my last – if I had a dime for every time it’s been mispronounced or misspelled I’d be a millionaire! Therefore, hear my name = GENIUS!!!

  16. Lauren = Warren

    I may have a lisp, but seriously think people are just lazy especially when I spell my name and still get called WARREN!

    1. Liz

      My name is Elizabeth, I am a receptionist and over the phone I get Alyssa and Melissa? Mainly Alyssa.

  17. Anon

    I went to school with a Mythile Sreegananathen. The principal would just say, “Mythile come to the office” over the speaker, no last name.

  18. Frank

    This is my last name and I am a woman with a very female first name. I am still astounded by the number of emails I get in the workplace that begin with Hi Frank! Nope, that is not my first name. We all have our work emails show as last name, first name so please people, pay attention. I am hoping that once I get married the new name would fix this issue. Unfortunately, I talked to someone who has what will be my new last name that works in our company. He said that he always gets emails beginning with Hi Gary! (My new last name will be Gray).

    1. starts & ends with A

      Ah. My previous last name was not a first name, yet sometimes I’d get emails (and often emails that were in response to one I just sent them and signed Firstname) that addressed me as Lastname. As in “Hi Lastname, blah blah blah.” My name is in my signature and I signed the email below with only Firstname – which is without a doubt a feminine name (see starts & ends with A). This has yet to happen with my new last name, although it can also be a man’s first name. Life is hard sometimes. ;)

  19. alinn

    I have a name that is very popular now, but wasn’t back when I was born, which really isn’t all that long ago. My first job was in HR filling jobs. Great managers. However, some just couldn’t get my name. My two favorite mispronunciations were Alysious and Excaliber. Yes, as in the sword. I can only figure it’s because my name has an x in it.

    My boss form my first job out of college could never pronounce my name and went to calling me Little Bit. Not kidding. The me of today, more mature and little crankier, would put a stop to it pretty darn quick, back then I just didn’t know what to do.

  20. AnotherAdmin

    My married last name has two variations, one with “ress” in the middle and one with “rus” in the middle. My husband’s family is of the “ress” variety. However, here in town were I work there is a building with the “rus” version engraved in stone in giant letters, and also a couple streets that use the name. If I say my name to anyone in this town, they always say, “Oh! Like the building!” I use to try and correct people but they just looked at me like I’m insane. It’s hard to argue with letters engraved in stone – clearly I’m the one who’s wrong!

  21. Aimee

    Thanks for sharing the audio name link. I just added it to my signature because often times people mispronounce my last name making it sound like it’s a device used for constipation! I’m hoping people will now see this and realize how to say my name the correct way.

    Interestingly, I had someone a few years ago who didn’t even know how to pronounce my first name either!

  22. Anonymous

    I have a foreign name that is only pronounced correctly by those from my culture. I don’t really care though. I’m so used to people mispronouncing it or asking how to pronounce it that I’ve found it to be a great conversation starter.

    As an aside, I was once told by a resume reviewer that I should include a phoentic pronunciation on my resume as some interviewers may not contact me for an interview if they don’t know how to pronounce my name. I thought this was ridiculous and ignored the advice.

    Alison, is there any truth to this?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Ugh, I’d love to say no, but in truth, there probably are at least a few people who, consciously or not, might be less inclined. (Certainly not most though.) This “hear my name” thing could be a great way to mitigate that though!

  23. Lexy

    I love the hear my name thing! I haveo nly recently joined the ranks of the unpronouncables. My first name is not common but is very easy for Americans to pronounce and besides misreading it and thinking it’s another variation of “Alexander” (the masculine root name for my first name) I never have any problems.

    My maiden name is a very common one syllable adjective, but not a very common name (think: Swift [it’s not Swift]). So if I was introducing myself I would say “Lexy Swift” and someone might look at me quizzically ’cause it’s a weird last name and I’d say “not slow, Swift” and we’d laugh and it was perfect.

    My married name however is a super unusual welsh name that no one can pronounce. In fact I said it wrong the first year my husband and I were dating (there’s a silent letter in the middle that I pronounced, my sweetie never corrected me). I’m still getting used to how to tell people how to say my name. There’s nothing pithy (Swift, not Slow). I’ve taken to spelling it almost every time I say it which is boring and still doesn’t help people who don’t know which letters to pronounce (the “w”) and which not to (the “l”).

    So… that’s a super long comment to say “Neat! Thanks!”

  24. crazy name

    I have the craziest Swedish name, and it is not at all spelled how it sounds, so this will be great!!!

  25. Snow

    I have a complicated first and last name. It used to bother me that people could never pronounce my last name, but these days I don’t care as much. However, if I’m dealing with someone on a regular basis and that person still manage to misspell any of my names, I’ll be annoyed!

  26. Sheetal Dube

    Thank you Alison for writing about Audioname. I am so encouraged to read all the comments. They remind me of why I left my job to develop Audioname.

    My own experience was that when people felt awkward pronouncing my name, they would avoid calling it and I would miss an opportunity to build a connection. I truly hope Audioname helps break that barrier and facilitates smoother introductions.

  27. Alana

    Ugh, I know all about this! First name, as you can see, has multiple pronunciations. Middle name has an “-e” at the end, so even though it rhymes with “May” that little “-e” always confuses people. And maiden surname was always misspelled, even though it’s not *so* uncommon, but don’t even get me started on my married surname. I like to joke it sounds like the phonetic spelling of someone letting loose a huge sneeze.

    I had a Latin teacher in 7th grade who just would NOT call me by the proper version of my first name. I finally just started ignoring him when he’d call on me, and when he got frustrated I told him I wasn’t responding because it wasn’t my name. Still never did change a thing, he said my name wrong the whole year :-/

  28. Frenchie

    Audioname seems perfect. Thank you Sheetal Dube for thinking about this !

    I have a perfect first name – great ring to it, pretty, quick, easy to spell and fairly common … in my home country (France). Now I moved to an English speaking country and it went from pretty shiny girly name to an über-manly word. It makes me sad :(.

    I avoid Starbucks like the plague. “What’s your name ?” “Just write Frenchie, I’ll come and pick it up”.

  29. Jess

    A name is Jesunsuelaborakateyarunso. Pronounced Jess-sun-sue-eelab-orak-ate-yarun-show. And my last name is Parastar. Pronounced Para -star. I prefere to go by just Jess for short. But i get so ennoyed when i’m in line. No one can ever pronounce myname. I know its hard but hopefuly they will try more! Tell me if u think this is a hard-ish name

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