firing an employee who might cause sabotage, renegotiating a new job’s salary, and more

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

1. Firing an I.T. employee who might sabotage our systems

We have an employee who works from home and comes into the office one day a month. He handles all of our computer programming needs. He runs queries, reports, etc. that we cannot do for ourselves. He was supposed to create a new program for us, so we could run these reports on the front end. We have been waiting three years, and he has not produced a thing that we can do from the front end.

We are now purchasing software (very expensive) to ultimately replace him in a few months. He has been very adversarial, and I think he’s unstable. We HAVE to tell him in two weeks, but want him to stay on and help us through the transition. We do not know what kind of reaction he will have. (We imagine the Incredible Hulk going crazy vs. relief that the stress will soon be gone.) Do you have any suggestions for telling an employee who could potentially cause lots of harm to our systems, but if cooperates, he could stay on for a few more months, get a paycheck, unemployment, reference, etc.?

If you seriously think he’ll cause sabotage, you need to revoke his access and have him leave immediately. As in, revoke his access while you’re in the meeting with him. Since he’s your only I.T. person, I’m sure you’re thinking there’s no way to do that, but there is; you’ll need a contract I.T. person or firm who can work with you on it. More advice on this is here.

However, if you trusted him to behave like a normal, professional adult, then the typical thing to do here is to offer generous severance contingent on a smooth transition (and often on certain benchmarks being met during that time).

2. Can I renegotiate salary for my new job?

I recently accepted an offer as a full-time school social worker. During the hire process, the job was described as a team position – I would work with half of the student body and the other, part-time social worker would work with the other half.

Since the time I accepted, the part-time social worker submitted her notice, and the school has decided not to fill her position. Instead, they will hire contractors to do very limited spot-work, leaving me to work with the essentially the entire school. I’m curious if you think this situation lends itself to renegotiating salary?

No, or at least not without knowing a whole lot more. For instance, if you were going to working significantly more hours or needing to do tons of travel that wasn’t part of the original job — in other words, if the conditions of the job were significantly changing — then sure. But this kind of thing does happen, and generally people aren’t paid more for it right off the bat. (Although sometimes they’re able to use it as part of an argument for a raise down the road, once they have a successful track record of doing the work to point to.)

3. No one pronounces my name correctly

My manager and many of my colleagues have trouble pronouncing my name. My name is Andrea, and it is pronounced “On DRAY uh.” I realize that Andrea can be pronounced at least three ways. I’m named after my grandfather, Andreas. I get a lot of comments about “saying your name the fancy way” or even “being pretentious” but it is honestly my name. I even went by the nickname “Ondi” as a kid.

I am currently looking for another position and am wondering, when I move to another company should I change the spelling of my name or use another name altogether? I don’t like that people stumble over my name or are uncomfortable. It gets tiresome correcting people or giving in and being called Andy. Any thoughts?

I don’t think you should change it; it’s your name after all. But you’re the one who has to live with the aggravation, not me. The question I’d ask yourself is: Would eliminating whatever amount of aggravation you have to deal with from this be worth having a different name? I know my emphasis there makes it sound like I’m pushing you toward my original answer, and I suppose I am, but ultimately you’re the only one who can decide how you feel about that question.

4. Office lock-out

I am the office manager for our Human Resources department. I was out today and just found out that one of the directors was locked out of her office suite and didn’t realize it until after hours. Instead of simply calling security to let her in, she had a colleague call me and leave a message for my help – I LIVE 30 MILES AWAY. Since I was not home, she and another director unlocked my office, unlocked my desk, got the key to the key box, and let themselves into the key box that holds the spare keys. Then they called to let me know they didn’t need my help, what they had done and that, in the search to find the spare key, they knocked all the keys off the hooks in the key box and left them a mess in the bottom of the box, which will require someone taking a chunk of time to reorganize them.

Such drama. Was this ridiculous or what, considering security could have let her into her office in no time? Thank you for any insights you can shed on this. I’m baffled.

It sounds silly but not outrageous (although the key mess is rude, unless it was an accident and they were apologetic). In their defense, they might not have known or remembered how far away you lived, and they might not have realized that security would be able to help. It might be worth reminding people that security can help in those situations. Also, if you don’t want them doing all that unlocking of your stuff (office, desk, key box), which I imagine might be especially true for an HR office, make sure people know that too. But on a ridiculousness scale of 1-10, I am rating this only a 3!

5. Do I need a new cover letter when reapplying for job?

I applied for a company a year ago with a cover letter that got me an interview (which I botched). Would it reflect poorly on me to resend a similar cover letter but with a few adjustments?

Yeah. You need to come up with a new letter. Think of how weird it would seem to you if your friend sent you an identical letter to something she’d sent to you a year ago. Cover letters aren’t just a cover sheet; they’re substantive, so it really can’t be the same one that you know they’ve already read and interviewed you from.

{ 344 comments… read them below }

  1. Reader*

    #1 – It amazes me the amount of time that is allowed to pass with an employee not doing the job they were hired to do. While I realize a program can’t be written over night it just seems a little odd that 3 years have gone by and now outside software is being bought and no one has told him anything. Also if there have been problems with him before (you say he has been adversarial) why wasn’t he replaced long ago?

    1. Stephanie*

      It sounds like the software purchase has been a long time coming. Maybe they just got the funds for it now and/or were hoping that the IT Guy would improve?

      1. Ruffingit*

        I can see hoping he would improve, but three years is a long time to wait for that. Even a year would be a long time in some cases. He’s been adversarial and not doing his job for way too long. I’m with Reader on this one.

    2. MentalEngineer*

      My guess is that since I.T. guy is the only one there with the expertise to create the solution they’re looking for, whoever supervises him wasn’t qualified to figure out how long it should take to create or adequately scope the project at all, really.

      Plus, since he works from home, it’s probably difficult for the rest of the company to assess his progress. He can throw out excuses about the program not being modular, so the only way to know when it’s done is when it’s done (and I suppose that might even be true). They could have him send over code, but nobody would be able to assess its quality, so he could just send them a piece of Linux source code or something and they’d be none the wiser.

      (According to StackExchange, which I read too much for a non-programmer) situations like this are a major pet peeve of programmers who want to actually get work done rather than coast on their supervisors’ laxity or naivety.

      1. De (Germany)*

        Any software project will go through iterations that the ones paying for it will be able to look at, at least with some help by the person programming it. Maybe not with a pretty interface, maybe with some unexpected behavior, but the programmer will have some way to test the functionality. But if nobody in the organization is good with these things, having a supposed expert tell you “it will be done when it’s done and then I will show you” or something like that probably led to this 3 year wait.

      2. Artemesia*

        Anyone who lets one person hoard information is a bad manager. And to let the person holding the business hostage work from home is insane. I once worked with an office like this who had developed the software used to manage all their data — and data management was core to the mission of the office. No one could supervise because no one else knew how the system work.

        Step one was making sure someone else had the expertise to manage the system. Step two was making sure the supervisor had the expertise to supervise. This was early in computerization when many offices operated with in house programs, but even today it is unwise to let anyone especially a difficult personality who works from home and resists supervision had this kind of power.

        As usual the problem is bad management. I’d be inclined to block access before it gets worse.

    3. Laura*

      Also re #1, if he wasn’t able or willing to deliver the project in three years (or even any evidence of it), what makes you think he’ll be able or willing to help usefully with the transition to the new software? It’s not just a question of sabotage – what is your fallback strategy if you approach him like a reasonable professional, he accepts like a reasonable professional, and he _fails to deliver_?

      You already know, as a data point, that either he’s terrible at delivery or your company is terrible at setting reasonable goals, with the former being far more likely. Now, maybe guiding the placement of a new software package is something he’s better at than developing what you asked for – but still, bear in mind that even if he responds in a way that sounds reasonably professional, you may still be in trouble if he can’t deliver.

      1. Ruffingit*

        Such a great point! You already know this guy isn’t willing to do his job so asking him to guide a transition aimed at replacing him isn’t likely to happen. What you have here is a guy who’s been getting paid for three years for basically doing almost no work at all. He’s going to want to ride that train as long as he can. I could see him sabotaging the new software or just not doing things he needs to be doing to make it work well. So many possibilities here all of which point to just getting rid of him already.

        1. Laura*

          This too, but even if he’s well-intentioned but in over his head (and just too proud to admit it), then what’s to say he won’t be equally in over his head (and unwilling to admit it) helping with transition to new software?

          1. A Non*

            This is a real possibility. This is why I’d be inclined to fire him and get someone else to take over rather than attempting to have him assist with a critical transition process. If he handles the transition poorly (from a technical perspective), you will be paying for it for as long as you use that software.

    4. Ann Furthermore*

      I’m surprised that a formal project plan was not put together. With any kind of software development you’ve got testing sessions with users planned. Conference room pilots (CRP) are in the early phases where it’s understood that things won’t be perfect and there will likely be some additional requirements identified. System integration testing (SIT) should include the first testing of your interfaces, then you move into User Acceptance Testing (UAT), and so on. Depending on the scope and complexity of the project, you could have multiple iterations of some or all of these stages.

      1. James M*

        By-the-seat-of-your-pants in-house software development is more common than you think. I’m in that situation myself. When my boss has an idea for software he wants, he rubs an ancient oil lamp, then sends me an email containing his wish. I get zero input on design, planning, implementation, or testing. After deliverable #1, he’ll usually shoot back an email with extra features to be added. 95% of our in-house software functionality is the result of feature creep.

        Needless to say, the whole situation is steaming morass of WTF. But it did inspire me to finish my degree in CS (finished last month) and now I’m looking for a real job in software development.

          1. FiveNine*

            I liked the image of the boss rubbing an ancient oil lamp and then sending an email containing his wish.

    5. Zuckerman's Famous Pig*

      Unfortunately, there are some managers that just DO NOT fire people, and the company I work for has someone like that in charge. I’ve only seen two people fired here ever, and in both cases, it was taken out of the manager’s hands and corporate did the firing. I’ve seen and heard of all sorts of egregious behavior in my time here and anything they were able to keep “in house” never resulted in termination.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I am LOVING your screen name. :)

        Yeah, I’ve seen that too–I worked under a GM once who was just impossible at standing up to the office bully. He took over for the original boss (who also put up with it, annoyingly, though he was much tougher). Later, after I left, I heard that corporate had let both the GM and the bully go. I rejoiced over the bully, but I did feel kind of bad for the GM–he’d been there a long time and was a decent middle manager, just a not-so-hot general one.

  2. Stephanie*

    #3: Stay firm! That’s your name. I’m sure it’s annoying to hear it mispronounced and you’re probably exasperated. Just be sure to be polite in your correction.

    Also, what’s the third way? I’ve heard OP’s pronunciation and An-dre-uh.

      1. Lanya*

        OP, to emphasize the correct prononciation, you could consider adding an accent on the DREY while you are at work: Andréa.

        I’m sorry you are getting so much pushback on your name!

      2. Andrea*

        I’m an Ann-dree-uh, and I get the other pronunciations all the time. It does bug me if it is someone I’ve worked with for a while, and have corrected before. It’s like people get stuck on the first pronunciation that they ever heard, and cannot change from that.

    1. Julie*

      It might help to tell people that you were named after your grandfather, Andreas. That would help me remember the correct pronunciation. I usually have to ask people to spell their names if they’re at all out of the ordinary because it helps me pronounce it right, and it helps me remember the name.

      1. Jessa*

        I have a friend that’s Antonia – and she has to do the Her-my-oh-knee bit like in Harry Potter. It’s Anne-TOE-nee-ah, not Anne-tone-yah. She usually gives up and goes to “Call me Tana, please,” and tries very hard not to lean on the “please” like she’s being sarcastic. All you can do is really correct the people you see a lot of and ignore the ones you won’t. Otherwise it drives you berk.

        1. fposte*

          The only difference I hear there is how short the “I” vowel is, though–that seems like a pretty minor thing that would be indistinguishable in rapid conversation anyway. If somebody starts Willa Cathering her with Antonía, that’s something I’d correct, but this sounds like the right noises in the right order.

          1. Jessa*

            It’s actually LIKE Willa Cather. Maybe I didn’t type it out well. The accent is also in a different place. On the “toe” and it’s four syllables not three.

            1. Audrey*

              My friend Antonia also has four syllables, but the emphasis is on the third syllable – An-toe-NEE-a. Nobody seems to have much trouble with this, but anyone who has only seen it written invariably gets it wrong.

        2. Andrea*

          Thank you, everyone, for your comments and ideas. It is also nice to know that others have this same problem with their own names. I appreciate all of your perspectives!

          1. Lara*

            My quick rant: Argh at people who think it’s ok to accuse you of being pretentious for correcting them when they inaccurately pronounce your name!

            I feel your pain Andrea, having spent most of my life being called Laura (and once having someone tell me that Laura and Lara are the same name – not really buddy).
            And my school friend Katya (KAR-tee-ya) being repeatedly called “catchya” by our bogan teacher, even after being corrected multiple times (because it sounded pretentious).

            Could you start correcting people with something like “it’s actually pronounced Andrea, as I’m named after my grandfather, but I also go by Ondi” (this could stop the Andy nickname, and make it easier for them to remember?)

      2. GrumpyBoss*

        I’m not sure telling people that you’re named after your grandfather is necessary. I mean, if you want to, go ahead. But if you correct them, most normal adults will comply. I have a name that is usually shortened to something else. I despise the shortened version but most people usually assume that’s my name. Very rarely do I have to correct someone more than once. But if you don’t do it right away, upon first meeting, it is difficult to do later on.

        And if they are calling you “pretentious”, I’d throw being polite out the window. If they mispronounce your name, reply with a very curt, “On-drea-ah”. If they say it’s pretentious, I’d respond with, “I’m sorry that a name given to me when I was literally seconds old is too bourgeois for your tastes.” I don’t feel like grown adults who decide to pick on you for the pronunciation of your name are the type of individuals that would be fun to deal with on a daily basis.

        1. Anji*

          I’m an ANN-dree-uh type, and I just wanted to empathize! Even when I don’t say anything, people always ask me if they’re pronouncing my name right (between calling me Amanda and Adrienne!) I live in Japan now, so I go by Anji.

          My advice would be just gently correct the person, and if they make any disparaging comments, cheerily say something like “I’ll let my parents know, thanks.” Making fun of people’s names should end after second grade!

          1. Adrienne*

            Also, you can just not respond. When people repeatedly call me an entirely wrong name (Andrea or Audrey) I just don’t respond. Mispronunciation is one thing, but an entirely different name? No, that’s just lazy.

              1. voluptuousfire*

                Your name is pronounced like Andrea Zuckerman from 90210. When you introduce yourself say “Andrea, like the character from Beverly Hills, 90210” and that would probably help cement it with people you just meet.

                1. Anonymous*

                  I have a variant spelling that is considered pretentious for my first name but which is pronounced normally, and I tell anyone who dares to say anything to take up their complaint with my mother. My last name is pronounced normally but spelled weirdly, and I make sure to correct everyone and then joke about how hard it is to get the pronunciation from the spelling. It’s my name; I’m not giving it up because someone else is too lazy to pronounce it correctly.

                2. Liane*

                  I am not so sure. I told people of my (maiden) surname, “It’s spelled like the smiling cat in Alice in Wonderland,” & 9 times out of 10 got blank looks. It wasn’t that they didn’t recall how it was spelled in the book–they didn’t recall the smiling cat, period!!! Go figure…

                3. Lara*

                  Yes! Early 2000s saying “it’s Lara, like the Tomb Raider” made a huge difference for me :)

      3. It's me!*

        My daughter has a name that has several pronunciations so I feel the pain #3. She was named after her great-grandmother so it bothers me when people pronounce it incorrectly, but I have learned that nobody ever says it wrong on purpose. It’s always because that’s how they thought it was said. I simply say something like “Her name is said this way ____” and there’s always this moment where they say “oh” and we move on. :)
        I know that this is going to be a battle for her. She’s 9 now and her name is consistently mispronounced even though it’s a common name. It bugs her!

        1. EvaR*

          Well, my suggestion for the OP was going to be “If it bothers you, go by “Ondi” since that was your nickname.

          To be honest, I hate that the english language does this. It drives me crazy and I want to pronounce people’s names correctly, but when there are 2-3 different ways to pronounce a name, I feel like they shouldn’t all be spelled the same way- In that case, it feels like every pronunciation is correct and if you’re going to insist on one specific one, you should change the spelling to keep from confusing people. Then again, I’m an Ay-vuh, not an Eve-uh, so I understand why it bugs you.

      4. Vicki*

        I’d go with this too.

        I know a woman named Alene. It’s pronounce “Al-ene’ not Ah-lene, not Aye-lene, not Aa-leen. She’s named for her father, Alan.

        (Her husband’s name is Berry. Not Barry. They both must have had a “fun” time in school.)

    2. Mike B.*


      If your coworkers can’t get it right, and are making it a joke at your expense, you work in a den of fools. Things will most likely improve at your next job, wherever it may be.

      1. StarHopper*

        I just wonder what people like that are going to do when the next generation enters the workforce. As a teacher, I come across some fairly daunting names! There is no way to sour a student relationship faster than to get a name wrong more than once or twice. I can’t imagine being so rude to a colleague as to make fun of their name.

        1. Ruffingit*

          I don’t get that either. When someone has an unusual name or the pronunciation is difficult, I will write it down in my notebook and make it phonetic so I can remember and pronounce it correctly. I agree that a relationship can easily be soured by screwing this up often and also, it’s just not that hard to NOT make fun of someone’s name. If anything, I find names fascinating and will sometimes ask how a person was named. Interesting stories can come from that question. Everything from “It’s cultural and means bright moon beam” or “It’s after my grandfather who was killed fighting insurgents.” Seriously, fascinating stuff can come from being interested in someone’s name rather than making fun of it. Also, I’m not 7 years old so making fun of someone’s name holds no appeal to me.

          1. Artemesia*

            I know someone who works at a small college where every graduate gets their own diploma and their name announced (unlike giant Universities where they give you a roll of paper and a note that says ‘if you actually graduated, they will mail you the certificate’) The people who do this, sit down the week before with the list and make sure they can properly pronounce every name including unusual foreign names and names mothers made up. He tells me it is very rare that anyone’s name is ever botched because they all know how important it is to the graduate and the family sitting there.

              1. fifer*

                We phone every student to check, then write their names phonetically in the list for the Dean to read at the ceremony

                1. Mallory*

                  We have every student fill out a card (we’re a pretty small school, so they just stop by the academic advising department in person during a one-week period two weeks out from the event). They fill out their names and the phonetic pronunciation thereof. Then the director of student services spends the week before the event reviewing name pronunciations with the dean.

                2. Ellie H.*

                  We do this too. I have a semi-difficult name and as such I understand how incredibly important it is to have your name spelled and pronounced correctly. I’m pretty good at pronouncing names and/or remembering pronunciations and I really cringe to hear others do it wrong. Even after I sit down with the reader to go over everything there are inevitably a couple mistakes but people try to do their best.

            1. Jessa*

              Amazing. This is how it should be done. Seriously if you need to put a sticky note on someone’s certificate going, Wakeen for instance, then do so.

            2. Del*

              My university did the check, and pronounced my name wrong anyway. Major facepalm moment.

        2. Traveler*

          It’s always fun getting 7 year old sassy voice “that is NOT how you say my/his/her name!” like you’re a complete idiot. It always made me laugh (and helped me remember).

      2. Jessa*

        Yeh, I understand getting it wrong, but being nasty about it when you’re corrected. That’s not on. It’s a person’s name. However they say it, even if it’s weird or strange to you, you say their name the way they want it. It’s like the cornerstone of a person’s identity. You don’t make fun of it.

    3. Steve G*

      Just make the re-pronounce your name and mis-say theirs if they don’t get it. There is no reason to feel bad having a rich or pretensious sounding name. As a child of the 80s I miss such names, now every kid is names Madison and Kaley. Ugh, gag me with a spoon. Kaley still = kale to me. And naming your kid Brooklyn? I live in Brooklyn, it’s trashy unless you spend $3000/month + on rent. So I’ll take a Tiffany, Heather, Samantha, or Andrea any day over a “Brooklyn!”

        1. Jen RO*

          Steve, I don’t know if you know the STFU Parents blog, but I am sure you would enjoy their posts about ridiculous names.

          1. Steve G*

            Ha! The blog is more for the crazy names I hear in Brooklyn that “normal” American names..very funny

        2. Steve G*

          who’s making fun of someone? As we’ve discussed before, the constant “being offended at everything” goes way over-board on this otherwise very good blog, and somehow intepreting my benign comment as making fun of people is an example.

          I said I don’t like certain names, and now would like to add that I don’t like them because too many parents are naming their kids the same names (Brooklyn, Madison, Kaley, Riley, Mackenzie). If you have kids or neices or nephews in school you will see that sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo many names that were popular just 20 or so years ago don’t exist anymore, and their are multiple kids with the same name in the same class. I think this is a problem because giving a name should be a chance to bestow some individuality….and besides that why would you want your kid to have the same name as everyone else, for logistical puprposes?

          That side-note aside, I was not making fun of anyone….let’s be clear…some names were associated with snobbery all on their own, like Alexis (Carrington) or Heather (the movie Heathers?!). I personally am not the one that makes those names sound snobby to people.

            1. Dmented Kitty*

              Speaking of… I am pretty sure Daenerys or Dany is the popular pick for the last couple years, LOL.

          1. Regular going anon for this*

            I don’t follow the logic, though, of not liking the modern names because they are overdone. I am a child of the 80s and went to school with what seemed like a million Tiffanys, Jennifers, Melissas, etc. None of those names are bad, but hold no appeal for people having children now. Same for the Boomers. They were ones of Patricias, Marys, Lindas, etc. They didn’t name their kids those good, solid old fashioned names because why? Naming your children is a unique thing and like Mike says, they come and go out of fashion. We’re just currently on a fashion where people are putting together crazy spellings and lots of letters to fashion their own unique name.

            (I’m a mother of a Brooklyn. We absolutely didn’t name her after the town. I know nothing of NY. I loved the name Brooke, planned to call her the shortened version but wanted to give her a longer, more formal version she could use if she chooses. The -lyn was about the only thing that made sense to us. I didn’t care for the fact that it was becoming popular at the time, but oh well. I am well aware that her whole life her name will conjure images of the town more than anything and she will be associated with other little Brooklyns. That’s fine, I guess. But in ripping apart people’s names (becuase I’ve indulged in that, too. Believe me), you never really know what a parent’s motivations are. I am actually fascinated by being on the receiving end of a comment that I could be offended by. I get it now. It sucks having something you care for being made fun of, even in a lighthearted jest.

      1. De (Germany)*

        I think making fun of any name is not okay, but regardless of this…

        Andrea is considered a pretentious sounding name in the USA? Wow. It’s such a completely average and normal name over here…

        1. MissM*

          ANN-dree-uh is a very common name in the US. On-DRAY-uh is not too common. I personally have not known anyone who pronounces it that way, although I’ve heard of it. To the American ear, it sounds vaguely European, and if you have never heard that pronunciation, it might seem plausible that the person made up that pronunciation in order to make a common name sound more unusual. (Although to be clear, there is nothing wrong with that. Whether her parents gave her that pronunciation or she came up with it on her own, it’s her name and her choice.)

          Imagine someone with the name of Margaret, who pronounces it Marzh-uh-RAY. (I once went to school with a Margaret, who decided to change her name to Marzh-uh-RAY in the 10th grade. Her friends and most of the teachers went along, but no one else did.)

          1. Jamie*

            I agree no one has the right to chime in a ruling on whether a name is pretentious or not. It’s not up for a vote, it’s their name.

            It doesn’t apply here because her pronunciation is a common variation but if your pronunciation is wildly counterintuitive to the spelling the onus is on you to get out in front of that.

            I knew a girl named Jeannette when I was a kid. She got offended every time someone pronounced it Jah-nette which is common. It was actually Pronounced Sha-nette because her parents were Swiss. That’s nice, but in suburban Chicago no one is going to make that J a Sha without a heads up, so stop taking it personally is my opinion.

            The only time I’ve ever been annoyed at someone’s insistence on their name at work (and I’m not proud of this) is when they got upset when people didn’t use the accent mark over the e when referring to them in type. Think Aimée and people would type Aimee. I had to keep showing people how to do that with the keyboards and she kept complaining to me as IT that people claimed they didn’t know how. I sent a document showing them – not my problem anymore.

            I get it, it’s her name, but it was a difficult battle to keep fighting and it didn’t help her in the office.

            Heck, I can’t even get some to stop typing Jaimie or. Jaime and I don’t care – some things just don’t bother me.

            1. Jen RO*

              Uh, Aimee was going wayyy overboard. Even countries who do use accents and diacritics usually ignore them in type… (of course, today is the day when autocorrect decided to add random Romanian letters in my comments below.)

            2. Chinook*

              I can understand wanting your name spelled correctly but I have worked in an office filled with francophones (who actually have a constitutional right to have things in French, complete with accents) and even they understood that not every keyboard has accents easily available and that the code for them is quite complicated (think 3 keystrokes for one letter – we all had cheat sheets on our desk) and knew that the lack of an accent ague or a “c” without the squiggly thing was not personal.

            3. Ellie H.*

              Ha! I make an effort to include accents when I type. I even set up an autocorrect for them because it’s easier to correct to the non-accented letter when it’s a different person than to go find the special character every time.

            4. Vicki*

              I know a woman (the wife of a friend) who is Swiss. Her name is Helene.

              When I first met her (through the friend) I asked how she pronounced her name. They both looked at me like I was addlepated and said “Helen”.

              I had to tell them that, in the US, Helene is more often pronounced Heleen, Helena, Helayna.

          2. Windchime*

            I work with an ahn-DRAY-uh and I have never heard anyone say it’s weird or pretentious. She is the only one I know who pronounces it that way, but it never occurred to me that it was anything other than a different pronunciation.

            My real name (not “Windchime”!) is spelled without the “e” at the end that people usually spell it with. I sometimes get comments about it but honestly, I had nothing to do with it. It’s not my fault that Mom and Dad decided to spell it that way!

            1. Cruella Da Boss*

              I have a relative (now in her 40’s) who is Aundrea (On-DRAY-ah) and to my knowledge, she’s never had a problem too. Though her parents did make her life a little easier with the inclusion on a “U”

      2. vox de causa*

        “Do you also say ‘Froaderick?’

        No… ‘Frederick.’

        I see…

        You must be Igor.[ee-gor]

        No, it’s pronounced ‘eye-gor.’

        But they told me it was ‘ee-gor.’

        Well, they were wrong then, weren’t they?”

        1. Kristin (Germany)*


          There wolf. There castle.

          vox de causa, you are hereby awarded one (1) internet for the proper deployment of a ‘Young Frankenstein’ quote.

          To the topic, people who mess up my name are a special pet peeve of mine. I get that Kristin has several possible variations, but there’s no excuse for changing it to Kirsten or Christine or, for the love of mud, Kathy.

          Next pet peeve: people who start emails with ‘Dear Kristen’ when they are responding to my email which closed with me spelling my name the way my name is spelled. Come on!

          1. Audiophile*

            Oh my twin, I finally found you! Well, sort of, my name is spelled, you know, the other way.

            There’s one person at my job who constantly calls me Christine. (Including in an email.) And just the other day, someone called me Crystal.

            I agree there’s no reason to spell your name wrong when you closed your email with it.

          2. Anx*

            Are you an 80’s baby?

            So many “chris” names from the 80s.

            I have a very 80s-but-also-kind-of-timeless name with variant spellings (just 2). I don’t mind that much when people misspell my name even if I’ve used it in writing, but it does make it very awkward because I worry that not saying anything makes me look doormatty.

            1. Audiophile*

              I AM an 80s baby and when I was in grade/junior high school, there were at least two or three other Kristin(s) in my grade. It’s the only time in my life that I’ve encountered that many.

              I generally don’t butcher people’s names too often, I’ll ask before I even try. I’ve met my fair share of uniquely named people including a girl named Kyle and pronounced the usual way.

          3. vox de causa*

            Yes! I cringe when I see a reply with a name that is spelled differently than the owner of that name spelled it in the original email. How hard is that?

          4. Kcliff*

            Oh my god! You are my twin soul. I am a Kristin as well and that drives me INSANE when people are looking at my name and get it wrong. I understand getting it wrong initially but after you’ve seen it?!

            Don’t get me started on how people call me Kristine, Christian, Crystal,or Kris … arrrgh.

          5. Vicki*

            An acquaintance of my spouse used to call me Virginia, no matter how many times I corrected him. The last straw was the day he asked “May I call you ‘Ginny'”?

      3. Sunshine*

        My kids go to school with the following four people: Adriana (Ay-dree-ah-na), Adriana (Ah-dree-ah-na), Ariana (Air-ee-ah-na), and Ariana (Are-ee-ah-na). Listening to their middle school dramas can cause actual physical pain.

        1. LeighTX*

          Oh, I feel your pain. My daughter has had two Brianas in her class for years (Bree-ah-na and Bree-ann-a) and no matter how hard I try I can never remember which is which.

        2. JMegan*

          Good grief. I can imagine.

          I’m a MEE-gan, and my roommate in university was a MAY-gan. It was the cause of much confusion, especially back in Ye Olden Dayes of landlines, and a shared telephone for the whole house.

          We corrected people as much as we could, but there were always a handful who just didn’t get it. At the end of the day, I think it’s worth deciding how much you’re going to let this bother you, because truly you’re not going to get everybody. I do what another poster suggested, which is to correct important people (friends, coworkers), and ignore it for receptionists and other people that I’m never going to see again.

          1. Saskiatt*

            Haha, off topic but overheard at previous job a few years ago:

            Person A: “is your name pronounced MEEgan or MAYgan?”

            Person B: “Actually, it’s pronounced Natasha”

      4. Anonymous*

        I’ve been on the receiving end of the intentionally mispronounced name. Sorry, but it doesn’t really work! I couldn’t (still can’t) hear the difference between my pronunciation and the correct one. Please try going over the correct pronunciation again.

      1. OriginalEmma*

        +1000. Do you have people calling you Kerry, Carry and Cary? Where I come from originally, Merry, Marry and Mary are three distinct words. Where I live now, they are not. I imagine it’s similar to your situation.

        1. B*

          Can you explain the differences in merry, marry, and Mary? Where I’m from they’re all the same and I’m curious!

          1. doreen*

            These rhymes may or may not help. I use a different vowel in each group of three. If these words all rhyme to you, I’m not sure the difference can be explained in writing

            Marry: Harry, carry.
            Merry: berry, Terry
            Mary: hairy, fairy

            1. Chinook*

              This is absolutely a regional dialect things because, to me, carry, berry and fairy all rhyme (but I also grew up with Helen and Ellen sounding the same). I think it that this is part of why Andrea needs to decide if this is a battle worth fighting – the people she is trying to correct may honestly not hear a difference. (And first language does affect this. My Japanese students honestly thought my family name “Connolly” was the same as Sean Connery’s).

            2. LeighTX*

              Like Chinook, those all sound exactly the same to me–I’m from middle Tennessee originally, for what it’s worth.

              1. MaggietheCat*

                Texas! I just read all of those out loud and thought “yep” all sounding the same to me.

            3. Mallory*

              All of those words rhyme to me, so I think there are going to be some pronunciation differences that I just can not hear.

              Also pen/pin, get/fit (as in “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit) . . .

              1. Al Lo*

                Here, it’s “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.” Get and fit don’t rhyme here.

            4. April*

              All nine of those are the same to me. I am now very curious to hear the differences! Also curious as to what place it is that people pronounce them differently.

              1. Lily in NYC*

                Hi, they are pronounced differently in the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic area. Maybe not everywhere in the region, but definitely in NY and Boston. This might help you “hear” the different sounds: Marry has the same vowel sound as Matt. Merry has the same vowel sound as men. Mary has the same vowel sound as mate.

          2. fposte*

            Right, many areas, like mine, treat them as all allophones of the same phoneme.

            Which means that we’re not mispronouncing it, we’re just pronouncing it in our own dialect, so I would actually not recommend correcting somebody in that case.

            B, roughly speaking, “Mary” is “May-ry,” “marry” is “mah-ry” (like “mat” without the t), and merry is “meh-ry.”

            1. Kelly L.*

              Yeah, my sister is also a a Kerry, and everyone has always pronounced it the same as Carrie. They’re the same here. Her big peeve is always being mistaken for a man in letters; whenever she gets a letter from someone she doesn’t know, it’s always Mr Kerry Lastname.

                1. fposte*

                  Meaning that really bugs or that it happens a lot? I can understand it happening a lot, but I think that’s a philosophical shrug situation–it’s not like people can guess the preferred spelling of a name. I suspect everybody here has used the wrong Katherine/Katharine/Kathryn/Cate/Cait/Kate for somebody at some point.

                2. Kelly L.*

                  Just that it happens, and that those are the annoyances she gets–rather than getting annoyed that people pronounce it the same as Carrie, because she pronounces it the same as Carrie too.

                3. Trillian*

                  @fposte Not everyone. Some of us have sisters called by one of those names. We learn to appreciate these fine distinctions on pain of sibling retaliation.

                4. Al Lo*

                  I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I work with a Kathryn, Katherine, Katheryne, Catherine, Kathrin, Kathy, and Cathy. In writing, it’s easy to tell who’s who (as long as everyone gets it right), but verbally, we always add last names, unless the context is abundantly clear.

              1. Kerry (Like the County In Ireland)*

                Yes, and that’s what I do now–I’m from NJ so my basic accent is the standard Middle Atlantic where Merry/Mary/Marry are completely different words and my name should rhyme with ferry or merry. But I spent 15 years in Ohio, and if I’m not careful I say my name as “Carrie.”

                My dad actually wanted us all to have gender-neutral names and be mistaken for men, so that doesn’t bother me much.

                That doesn’t explain why when I was a teen my friend’s dad called me “Curry” though.

                1. Kelly L.*

                  I’ve met people whose last name was Kerr and pronounced it Curr. I always have to stop and think before I say it, because Care is my first instinct.

            2. Felicia*

              The same words are often pronounced VERY differently across dialects, and in North America particularly there are a lot of dialects. Caught and cot are other ones where if you’re from some places (like where i’m from) you’d pronounce those two words identically, and if you’re from other places, they’re pronounced quite different. Neither way is wrong, and it’s important not to correct differences in dialect . I am from Toronto, and my friend from New Jersey is one of the ones who pronounces caught and cot differently, while I pronounce them the same. Neither of us are right or wrong

              1. Arjay*

                Yes. I’m from the northeast and I can tell the difference between marry, merry, and Mary. But cot/caught and Don/Dawn are identical to me.

        2. Felicia*

          The only place I’ve heard marry , Merry and Mary being distinct words is from Montreal anglophones . My parents are Montreal anglophones so they still say them as 3 distinct words but I was born and raised in Toronto , so Merry, Mary and marry are all pronounced the same here. I’m curious to know where else they’re 3 distinct words! It’s totally a regional dialect thing, with neither being more or less correct. It’s like in the Southern US in certain dialects (and probably other places, I don’t know) pin and pen are pronounced exactly the same, where elsewhere they’re pronounced extremely different.. I think it’s not that they can’t hear the difference, it’s just that where they are from there is no difference in the way they’re pronounced, so they don’t realize what other ways people from other regions would pronounce it

          1. doreen*

            I read somewhere that the three different vowels appear in most non-North American dialects (British, Australian etc) as well as the Northeastern US dialects. Montreal is close enough to the Northeastern US for the dialect to extend there.

            There’s a wikipedia article called something like “history of English vowels” that has links to articles about all different vowel mergings.

            1. Felicia*

              When my parents say those vowel sounds it does sound vaguely British to me, even though they’re not at all British . Maybe that’s why!:) Toronto is probably geographically closer to Northeastern US , but in terms of dialect, I believe we’re closest to Mid-Atlantic. The only people I know from Northeastern US are from New Jersey and the Boston area and they all do the marry, merry and Mary pronounced exactly the same, so I was curious what North American places other than Montreal do it different

              1. doreen*

                Definitely NYC and actually I think it’s also common in New Jersey and Boston. But there are always exceptions.

          2. MissDisplaced*

            They sound and I say them as three distinct words.
            Mary and merry do sound close though.

            Mary was very merry when Mark asked her to marry.

            Say 3 times fast!

            1. UK Nerd*

              I’m wondering what on earth the song ‘Mary Mac’ must sound like sung by someone who says all three words the same:

              Mary Mac’s mother’s making Mary Mac marry me
              My mother’s making me marry Mary Mac
              Well I’m going to marry Mary for when Mary’s taking care of me
              We’ll all be feeling merry when I marry Mary Mac

              1. ZoomaZoomZoom*

                I know this is an old thread by the standards of this blog, but I have to chime in because I have the Mary/marry/merry merger and I was singing that song just today. To me they all rhyme with “hairy”.

                I’m quite aware that they’re distinct vowels in the original version, but as I don’t do that in my normal speech, it sounds totally stilted if I try to do it in the song since I don’t have an intuitive grasp of how else it applies.

                I have probably spent too much time thinking about this very topic.

        3. Cath in Canada*

          Those are distinct words where I come from, too, but many people here in Canada can’t distinguish between the three. I once told my former boss I’d been late back from a trip the night before because of the ferries, and she thought I said fairies and had lost my mind. It took a little while to clear up…

        4. Vicki*

          My sister is Keri (pronounced Kerry). She has a story about a friend in school who called her Carrie. She explained it’s Keri, short for Kerin. The story ends:

          “My friend said ‘Ohhhhhh.’ And now she calls me Curry!”

    4. Another Andrea*

      As an On-dree-uh, I don’t have an ideal solution unfortunately but definitely understand how annoying it gets (the “pretentious” comments really grind my gears). I really determine who I’m going to correct repeatedly based on how often I deal w/that particular person. The only job that I’ve had where I was given a nickname (that I clearly stated that I did not want & their reply was that it was easier for them) surprisingly didn’t work out.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        Are you talking about “Andy”?

        My, um friend, who is named Andrea will not tolerate that for half a second.

        ANN-dre-a, in this case, not hard. Three syllables. Nickname not needed. It’s not a complicated name, no matter which of the pronunciations.

        1. QualityControlFreak*

          I, um, know an Andrienne (Ann-dree-EHN) whose parents named her that precisely so they could call her Andy. But she’s been called Andrea, Adrienne, Andriana, Adriana, Andreena – even Angeline.

          She goes by initials now.

        1. fposte*

          Ha, I hoped somebody would post that. (I haven’t checked the link, but this is “Don’t call me Liz,” right?)

          1. Jamie*

            It’s Elizabeth, fposte. Elizabeth, not Liz. And whoever told you to call me Liz is doing you a disservice and is trying to trick you.

            It’s a hot button issue with me.

            Ha – still funny on a repeated reads. And I think we were pretty unanimous is wanting to fire her, so it’s a good example of how 19 emails about an innocent mistake is not a good career move.

            On the name thing I just thought of something that always strikes me as funny: I work with someone named Jaime. In English it’s a homophone of my name, but not in Spanish. I call him hi-me as that’s how he pronounces it and he calls me jay-me. Just makes me want to sing we are the world. :)

            1. Judy*

              The teams we work with are global, and in my company’s case, global includes both Mexico and Brazil.

              Jose = Jo-say in Brazil and Ho-say in Mexico.

              Can cause some confusion at times.

    5. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Andrea’s are crazy particular about how their name is pronounced, not saying how I would know.

      ANN-dre-a, Ahn- DREY-a and AHN-dre-a are three different names.

      It’s pretty easy to get people to pronounce the name correctly if you correct, politely, on the spot the first few times.

      What’s harder is to get them not to call you Adrian and Angela.

      Not saying how I would know.

      1. Sobriquet*

        As an Andrea, I can attest to the high frequency of Adrian and Angela mistakes, along with Amanda, Alicia, and (especially in recent years) Alexia mistakes. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t care much about the pronunciation, so long as the general name is right.

        Also, this is nitpicky, but every time I’m called Alexia I’m reminded of the importance of googling potential names before giving them to children. Alexia is actually a neurological disorder that prevents comprehension of text. Like dyslexia, only worse.

        1. Adrienne*

          I swear I thought this was only my problem. I’ve been called “Andrea” or occasionally “Audrey” all my life. Come on, people. This isn’t that hard.

          1. Adrienne*

            I’m also amazed by how many people can’t spell it right. Like, people I’ve worked with for YEARS will sometimes write me an email starting with “Adrian.” Rawwwrrrrrrrrr.

            1. Diet Coke Addict*

              My OWN BOSS will spell my name incorrectly, despite the fact that it’s in my email, my display name, three different places in my signature, and also that he is my boss and should know how to spell a common freaking name.

              1. Vancouver Reader*

                But from what you’ve told us about your boss, he’s an idiot in so many ways, so misspelling your name isn’t really a surprise.

            2. AVP*

              Argh, I feel you. Autocorrect HATES the way I spell my name so if someone’s sending me an email from their phone there’s always aways the added step of having to fix autocorrect’s mangling, and I think several people have just stopped bothering. Grrrrrrr.

          2. Cruciatus*

            A relative’s name is Margot and so many assume she doesn’t know her own name. “Hi, I’m calling for Margaret…” Who!? Or, if they actually read the name, they pronounce it Mar-got. Does Mar-got sound like a name?! No! Drop the ‘t’, dammit! It’d be one thing if it happened only once or twice ever, but even her doctor’s office will call leaving a reminder message for “Mar-got.”

            1. fposte*

              Yeah, but “Margot” with an audible t does sound like a name, because there’s nothing that couldn’t be a name, and there are Margots who pronounce the t (plus silent ts are pretty unusual in English).

              I mean, I know it’s frustrating, but this really isn’t because people are so stupid, it’s because names and pronunciations are incredibly variable and people run into huge numbers of them in their working lives. I think it’s a mistake to translate how annoying the recipient finds it into how evil the error-maker is.

              1. Cruciatus*

                Well, I don’t think they’re “evil”, but I have never heard it another way, though I have seen it spelled “Margeaux” of course. But when she has told people her name and then they default back to “Mar-got” I do think that deserves some allowance to be annoyed. We don’t burn their houses down.

                1. fposte*

                  I think that’s true if it’s in the same conversation, but if she told the doctor’s office that six months ago, then I think it’s pretty unsurprising that they don’t retain it. I mean, it’s fine to be annoyed because it’s always somebody’s prerogative to be annoyed, but I don’t think this is much of an offense.

                  (I’ve actually never seen Margeaux, just Margaux. And of course Margo.)

            2. Ann Furthermore*

              One of my German colleagues is named Margot, and it is pronounced with the T, so it’s Mar-got (sounds like cot). You never know.

            1. Jenna*

              I am a Julie.
              I have an ex who tried to give me a nickname by pronouncing the “j” as an “h.” It sounded like “hoolie.”
              I resisted, and he kept trying. There is a REASON that he’s an ex.

      2. Artemesia*

        With people I don’t see often the problem is remembering which variation they use. I had a colleague Nina who pronounced it Nye Nah instead of the usual Nee Nah. The problem comes in when I meet a new Nina and forget which is the common pronunciation due to so much interaction with Nye Nah. If someone works with you every day then they darn well need to get the Ahn DREE ah right. But cut people some slack who may have forgotten because they see you seldom.

        It get the ‘pretentious’ tag because it is the French (and other European) pronunciation of the name. Most Americans anglicize names including last names and so pronouncing them old country sets off people who are aggressively non-cosmopolitan. And of course even if it is someone pronouncing their name with their little finger out (think Tony Dorsett whose name changed pronunciation when he got famous) it is still their prerogative and as others have noted it is rude to make fun of names.

        1. fposte*

          Sometimes even if they see you a lot. One of my best friends has a name that’s almost exactly like an old boss’s (think “Bess” and “Bet”). I know my friend’s name perfectly well, and yet sometimes my mouth goes to “Bet” when I’m talking about “Bess.” It’s just a mouth-o.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Mouth-o! I love it. I always want to call it a write-o when I accidentally write something wrong even when I know how to spell it.

      3. Ellie H.*

        Maybe this says something about the milieu I was raised and have lived in but I’ve definitely met more ahn-DRE-as than AND-ree-as. My default pronunciation is ahn-DRE-a.

    6. Eric*

      I have a not-easy-to-pronounce last name, and my direct supervisor has never pronounced it correctly, and she just spelled my first name “Erik” instead of “Eric” in an email. I just choose to find it funny.

      1. GrumpyBoss*

        I once had an employee from a different country who had a last name I just couldn’t say. Even with sounding it out, I felt like my mouth just wouldn’t let me make the right sounds. So I chose to avoid using his last name rather than insult him by saying it wrong. He later told me he found my refusal to use it insulting.

        Sometimes you can’t win.

        1. Jen RO*

          I think it’s cute when my boss (American) tries to say my last name. He admitted to us that he sucks at foreign languages, and I appreciate the effort. (And for someone who supposedly sucks at this, he is pretty good!)

      2. Elizabeth West*

        My name is not that difficult, just long (my screen/pen name is a shortened version of my real name), but people STILL mispronounce it. And my first name is Anne (I don’t use it anymore because I prefer Elizabeth, my middle name), but some still say it as “Ann-ee.” It’s ANN.

        I think part of the problem is that people just don’t listen. I tell them to call me Liz and they say Lisa, Liza, etc. I like those names just fine, but they aren’t mine.

        1. Simonthegrey*

          I have another very popular 80s name (not Christina, but similarly popular). During the 80s, when everyone had my name I switched to a different name that looked like a nickname of mine but is a separate name on its own (think Christa). I still go by this shortened, bastardized, stolen nickname, and people are very surprised to find it isn’t my birth name. However, once they find out, they immediately drop it to some other nickname that I don’t use (Chris, Tina), instead of just…using the same name I’ve been using.

    7. KJR*

      My name (Laura) can also be pronounced two different ways — my parents and other family members say “Law-ra” and everyone else in this area pronounces it “Lora.” I answer to either one, and refer to myself differently depending on who I am talking to (i.e. family or anyone else.) I believe in my case the differences are regional and I’ve learned to live with either pronunciation, primarily because people in the area I live are not able to pronounce it properly….so I basically gave up! :D

      1. LJL*

        I’m in the same boat; I spell it the same way and pronounce it (correctly) the same way. ;-) I’m not sure why some folks go to Lora; I’ve not seen it as regional as I’ve lived in various parts of the country and get the mispronunciation and correct pronunciation at about the same rate wherever I am.

        1. rollcake*

          I was wondering if this particular name would come up! It wasn’t until 7th grade that I heard (in this case) Law-ren instead of Lo-ren, spoken by a teacher, and since then I haven’t met a single other person who says Law-ren instead of Loren. The teacher in this case did have a touch of a southern accent, so I just assumed it was the southern pronunciation of the name.

        2. Lara*

          As an Aussie who also speaks Spanish, when I speak English I read Laura as “Lora” always, but when speaking Spanish will say “Law-ra” (assuming your “law” rhymes with wow)

          But I did learn that some states of the US pronounce my name Lara exactly the same as they pronounce Laura, and so I don’t notice when those friends refer to me as Laura, just as I don’t mind when my Japanese colleagues pronounce my name “rah-rah”) I find those phonemic differences fascinating!

    8. Not So NewReader*

      This thread has been fascinating to me.

      Because of childhood illness, I miss some nuances in pronunciations. I can’t hear them. Would I mispronounce Andrea? Yeah. A lot.
      And it is one of my ongoing embarrassments in life. It helps if I can see a person’s lips move as they pronounce their own name. But then, sometimes not.

      Sadly, I have been working with a woman whose name is Andrea. We do business over the phone. Lip reading is not an option. Do you think I can get this lady’s name right? I am shaking my head. Between the lousy phone connection and my tiny-tiny hearing problem, I am working like three people to try to get her name correct.
      It’s humbling.
      So seeing the names spelled out phonetically here has been hugely helpful.
      I don’t usually mention this problem to people because it is so tiny it is usually a non-issue. I figure the onus is on me to take compensating steps.

      My own name gets botched up routinely. It is 6 letters. People shorten it to 4 letters. I don’t think that will ever change- I have pretty much given up on that one.

    9. KM*

      +1 — Stay firm, OP. They tried to do this to Data, on Star Trek, and he shut them right down. “One is my name; the other is not.”

      1. The Other Katie*

        +1 for the Star Trek reference. That was the first thing that came to my mind as well!

    10. OhNo*

      I don’t know if anyone else has read this piece, but this letter really reminded me of the “The Names They Gave Me” piece by Tasbeeh Herwes posted on The Toast ( Worth a read, if you have the time.

      Anyway, stay strong, OP. If people say they “can’t” pronounce your name, it’s because they aren’t willing to try. It is disrespectful and rude, and you should tell them so. If you want to change your name, that’s fine, but don’t do it just to cater to a bunch of people who are just too lazy to spend two minutes leaning how to pronounce your name.

    11. Erica B*

      I don’t know why your colleagues have a hard time with your name, it’s really not that difficult, or uncommon. It’s your name, and you shouldn’t have to explain it, but if people ask you could simply say it’s a family name.

      There are MANY names with multiple pronunciations, or spellings. My name is constantly misspelled, as it’s the less common spelling, even though it’s still common. I just accept that it happens, and it’s not intentional. I politely correct when/if necessary and go on with my day. Even some of my family members misspell my name, and I just shake my head, but it is what it is.

      It’s weird to me that adults are making an issue out of your name. I don’t know if they are intentionally mispronouncing it, but if they are it says more about them than you. Politely correct them with “Please, call me [with your pronunciation]”. They should respect that.

    12. Rose*

      There is nothing more pretentious than telling someone else how to pronounce their own name.

      In my office, and, I would ASSUME, in most normal offices, pronouncing a coworkers name wrong is considered an embarrassing faux pas, and if you’re not sure of the correct pronunciation, you get it from someone ASAP.

      I would (optimistically) see your current coworkers as just being obnoxious, and assume your new job will be better.

      If you think some of your coworkers are genuinely having a hard time remembering, maybe you could include it in your email signature for a bit while you’re new. But it sounds like this is more of a case of bad manners that hopefully won’t repeat itself.

    13. Jan*

      #3 For Andrea and other people whose names are hard to pronounce: I have found a site called Audioname ( that has been extremely helpful. There is a fee for business accounts, but it’s free for individuals. After opening an account, record your own name in your own voice and upload to their website. You get a link to the recording that can then be part of your outgoing emails or website. There’s no question that your name is being pronounced correctly, because you’re the one who made the recording. Others can hear you pronounce your name before they mess it up. Very handy!

  3. Mike B.*

    #5 – Don’t make the common mistake of thinking that the cover letter is a needless formality! Your resume might contain most of the factual information that hiring managers are looking for, but it can’t convey your intelligence, personality, professionalism, or enthusiasm about the job nearly as well as a well-written letter. Letters are also much better at explicitly laying out a rationale for your candidacy, connecting the dots between the employer’s stated needs and your own skills and experience.

    You should not only not resend your previous letter, you should avoid giving *any* impression that you’re cutting corners in your dealings with prospective employers. That means writing a fresh and thoughtful cover letter for every application.

    1. Felicia*

      There are also probably different things strengthening your candidacy 1 year later, and you’ve probably had different accomplishments worth pointing out! You could use your previous cover letter as a guideline for format and phrasing and stuff, since it was obviously good but I’d think a year later it’d have different content.

    2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      “Your resume might contain most of the factual information that hiring managers are looking for, but it can’t convey your intelligence, personality, professionalism, or enthusiasm about the job nearly as well as a well-written letter.”

      I love this. I can’t think of 4 better things for a cover letter to contain… and those are really hard to express in a resume, so it really crystallizes how one should be crafting a cover letter that has little to no overlap with their resume.

  4. Jessa*

    Am I the only one who had a total freak out about someone opening up an office and going into a secure key box without permission? Seriously if this is possible, you have a pretty big security issue on your hands. Nobody should be in there without specific permission. And to have access to all those keys? Heck no. The key box needs to be better secured. If there’s security why in heck were they letting ANYONE go up there and unlock that office? That’s pretty lousy security.

    1. GrumpyBoss*

      I was a little more agitated about this than AAM was, but probably not as much as the OP. What would have the director’s reaction been if the OP had gone through her desk looking for something? It is inappropriate.

      OP could have avoided it all by saying, “please call security/facilities as they will be able to assist you immediately”. And also, why wasn’t her office locked? As you rightly point out, there is a much bigger security risk here than the director overstepping her bounds to expedite unlocking her door.

      1. Sobriquet*

        The way I understand it, the security team isn’t to blame. Aside from the fact that director never contacted them, it sounds like she wasn’t locked out of the company’s office, just her own part – so, she was already in the building and wouldn’t have had to go through security.

        The LW’s office was locked:

        …she and another director unlocked my office, unlocked my desk…

        If I was the OP I’d also be pretty pissed off and questioning the director’s understanding of privacy and boundaries. Also, this is a little unfair, but I’m frankly surprised that an adult didn’t think to call security.

        1. fposte*

          I was more surprised that the boss had access to dkeys to the OP’s office when she didn’t have access to her own.

          And I’m leaning more toward Maggie and The Other Dawn on the privacy issue, I think; this is a set of office keys kept for the use of the office, and it’s not surprising that other people than the office manager would need them. I also think your expectation of privacy in a space other people own and pay for should be pretty limited.

          1. The Other Dawn*

            I’m guessing the director had the OP’s keys on another key ring for the purpose of situations like this. She probably left her own keys on her desk and that’s how she got locked out.

      2. Maggie*

        As someone who had had this role several times, I was shocked the other way. The office manager’s job is to make sure everybody has what they need in order to do their jobs. Clearly the LW failed in a number of ways: no documented procedures of what to do when locked out, what to do when she’s unavailable and that certain areas are off limits. Ultimately her role is one of customer service and the needs of a Director (who I’m sure is above her on the org chart) would trump the shock of someone ‘going through my things’. Lastly, let’s not forget that it’s the property of the company. And most directors are privy to the confidential info possibly lying around her desk.

        My apologies if I sound snippy, but I would have been deeply embarrassed if everybody realized I had such gaps in communication and very basic procedures.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          I agree. It’s the company’s property, not hers. And everyone should be aware of what to do when someone is locked out of their office or another part of the building: call Security. It’s the office manager’s job to make everyone aware of the procedure.

          I don’t see any reason for the OP to be upset about this. Except if she had driven the 30 miles and no one called to say they took care of the problem.

          And a messy key box is no dig deal. Just rehang the keys. If they’re all tagged numerically you just rehang them in numerical order. Can the box be hung on the wall so this doesn’t happen again?

          1. Angora*

            A large number of managers do not respect the admin asst’s / office manager’s space. They will have a fit if someone goes through their desk but have no respect for the individual’s space that works beneath them.

            It’s just a respect issue. I bet they know they can call housekeeping or the police department; but clearly feel more comfortable going through the admin’s office. It’s a good possibility that this person has locked themselves out quite a bit and spaces out who they all; one day housekeeping; one day the police, another go into the admin’s office.

            When they call; she needs to remind them that the police / housekeeping will let them in and give them the numbers. It can also give someone an excuse.

            Right now I am dealing with a former dept head that has a master key and snoops in everything. He’s so paranoid he has a motion sensor camera (hidden) in his space. I have co-workers that wash out their mugs every morning. Their are weird ones out there; every where; you just have to be aware and when they overstep too much call them on it .. through the proper channels. When someone records everything, etc …. they are afraid of what someone will do in their space … they’ve done something .. now they think someone will do it to them.

        2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          I mostly agree. It’s really silly that they didn’t think to call security, and leaving the key box a mess because you’re in such a hurry to find this key that you’re throwing keys all over the place? That’s ridiculous. But if it were me, I would feel some embarrassment over how badly employees in my office handled this situation, and how they handled it is directly under my purview: I would be blameless only to the extent that I had given clear instructions on what to do in that circumstance.

        3. T*

          But the OP is office manager for HR, which means she may not be responsible for training anybody to do anything, such as not breaking into someone’s desk (which should be common sense not to do). Another issue is that there is a problem with so many people having access to HR in the first place as the files held there should not be so easily accessible.

      3. Kelly L.*

        If I read the OP right, I think the OP didn’t get the message until they’d already called again to say they went into her office. She didn’t get the chance to recommend security because she didn’t hear of the issue until it was too late. They called her home phone and she was out.

      4. Sandi*

        Actually my office was locked, but our suite keys open all office doors. In my book, just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD do something, especially when either campus security or the building custodial staff could have unlocked the door. My desk was locked, so I’d like to know HOW they got into my desk. Once they got into my desk they found the key to the key box, and the rest is history. Both of the people who were involved are directors, and I don’t have the clout to say anything.

        1. Angora*

          One of them probably has a key to your desk. You cannot say anything; it’s something you’ll have to live with. If you have a good relationship with your supervisor; tell him/her about them getting into your desk an d you have some confidentiality concerns. They may not have clearance to see everything in your office. But we all hate the fact someone would get into our private items in our desks. Are you a direct report to one of the directors?

          Years ago at a former job ..we had a problem with the night supervisor on site snooping in our desks … I would for the big boss …he was just nosy. We rigged up stuff to jump out of him … we heard that he was heard screaming that night. We knew what night shift supervisor was going through out desks, etc.

          People think they are so smooth in their snooping; but they leave evidence.

    2. Ruffingit*

      I can see why the director would have access to the keys. The OP is below the director on the org chart (or so it appears) so it makes sense that the director would have access to the keys.

      1. Jamie*

        This. It’s not a subordinate or peer without right to access – and yeah if this were me and getting access to the key is what I would have done before I called the OP or security.

        My office has a security code (there is a key somewhere on my chain but I’ve never used it) but I’ve got keys in my drawer to other offices and if my boss needed one of those I can’t imagine why I’d be upset if they went and got it.

        As for the mess in the key box, if they were labeled it shouldn’t be a big deal to out them back, so that’s an oops sorry moment in my book. If it takes longer than that to put it back it’s an opportunity for improvement to label they keys and put a list in there of what goes where.

  5. Jen RO*

    #3 – I feel your pain, though I think my situation is a bit better in that my name is unpronounceable only for foreigners (it’s very common in my language). Either way, I refuse to change it or shorten it or anything else. It’s my name, it’s 5 letters, and if you work with me frequently you *can* learn to say it. I’m not expecting perfect pronunciation, but at least make an effort! (Don’t get me started on those people who can’t copy 5 letters from my signature…)

    So yeah – I would keep trying to teach people how to say it, and I wouldn’t change the spelling.

    1. LAI*

      Agreed, if your coworkers are decent people, they will at least make an effort to get it right. And don’t hesitate to correct them politely at first – most people will be grateful that you did! I found out today, after 4 weeks in a new job, that I’ve been mispronouncing a coworker’s name this entire time!

      1. GrumpyBoss*

        Ugh I always hate finding out after an extended period of time like 4 weeks. I always feel like such a jerk. I wish people wouldn’t be so shy about correcting this as it happens!

      2. B*

        I once worked with a woman for OVER A YEAR before she told me I was pronouncing her name wrong. She was introduced to me as Denise pronounced de-NEES SO I’d been calling her that but it was actually De-NEEZ. I was mortified… but I listened a lot after that. Not a single person in the office pronounced her name right except me. I think nirmally it didn’t bother her but I just must have caught her on a bad day. But seriously… why didn’t she speak up?!

        Cf a woman in our office who makes such a fuss of how you pronounce her name without really explaining what she wants that at least two of us avoid calling her anything :/

        1. StarHopper*

          I think some people just are resigned to having their names mispronounced. I had a student last year with an uncommon name, and I put the emphasis on the wrong syllable for a whole quarter. Then I heard one of his friends say his name, and I was mortified and super-apologetic. He had never corrected me and didn’t think it was a big deal, but I believe it’s important to get a name right! Good on you for caring!

          1. Jen RO*

            I usually don’t correct people because I feel it would be saying their accent sucks… even though it’s natural for their accent to suck in a language they’ve never heard.

          2. Ruffingit*

            Yeah, this is my thought too. After awhile, you stop correcting people because it’s a full-time job.

          3. Anonymous*

            It’s not always a big deal. My last name is Dutch, with an “oo” that sounds like “o.” My great-grandparents let the English “ooh” pronunciation take over when they moved to the US. It stuck.

        2. Jamie*

          I have no idea how those two pronunciations would sound different.

          There have been times when I’ve heard people say “it’s not pronounced “X” it’s pronounced “X” and I can hear literally no difference between those two things. Obviously the OPs problem isn’t subtle and I don’t know why people would have difficulties with it once corrected. For sure if I’d only seen it written I’d say Ann-dree-ah the first time because everyone I’ve ever know with that name pronounced it like that. But tell me once and I’ve got it going forward – it’s not like it’s a physically difficult name to pronounce.

          1. Iain Clarke (UK, no, SE, erm...)*

            I have no idea how those two pronunciations would sound different.

            Think of the first sound in Circle and Zebra. If they sound different, then you have a answer.

            And to join in… my name is in my email address, in the () bit, and where I sign my emails. And still people correct it for me…

            1. fposte*

              I think it’s human to pay a lot of attention to our own email .sigs and never read anybody else’s :-).

              1. Jen RO*

                I always pay a lot of attention to other people’s names, to the extent that I re-check my spelling 2-3 times to make sure I got the name right. I wish everyone did that…

    2. De (Germany)*

      My name has a “normal for me” pronunciation and an English one. I just don’t bother explaining the correct one to native English speakers, they usually can’t get used to it quickly enough that it’s worth the effort anyway. My contact with native English speakers at work is usually limited to one-offs, maybe otherwise I’d try.

      And if Jen is short for your name I suppose I can guess what the full name is.

      1. Jen RO*

        It’s not exactly short for my name (though it did seem that way to 12-year old me). I don’t want to be googleable, but the German equivalent would be Johanna I think… though in English I would say it’s Jane, not Joanna. It’s basically the female version of John. The pronunciation is close to Joanna, only with an ‘i’ instead of a ‘j’ (or to Johanna without the ‘h’.)

      2. Cruciatus*

        When I was in Germany with an ex-boyfriend’s family years ago, they put a happy birthday announcement in the paper for their friend Irene and they showed it to me because they included me in it. I read the name aloud as “eye-reen” and they thought this was the most fabulous thing ever and they had me go around telling everyone how Americans pronounce Irene. (They weren’t mean about it, they genuinely thought it was neat.) And of course when I heard how it’s pronounced in German I thought THEIR way was neat. I still miss hearing my actual name pronounced the German way…

      3. Stephanie*

        Yeah, that was my understanding as to why Asian immigrants sometimes choose American names: the correct pronounciation us too hard for English speakers as we’re not familiar with all the different tonalities of Chinese/Vietnamese/Thai/etc.

        I had a college roommate named Rathi. She told us it was “Kathy with an R.” Her mom was visiting and was calling her “Ruthi.” I asked later and she’s like “Oh, it’s just easier to tell non-Indians the first pronounciation and not try to explain the Indian pronounciation.”

        1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          I’m so interested in this. It’s like the only situation (in America) anyway, where you get to choose your name. It’s like, “we all understand that it’s really crappy for you that 90% of the people you encounter in America will pronounce your name wrong, so if you want to circumvent all that and pick an American name, you can pick your absolute favorite one and we’ll all go with that. ”

          I think I’ll ask about this on Sunday’s free-for-all thread. :)

      4. Broke Philosopher*

        My name is very common in English, but uncommon (and somewhat unpronounceable) in the country where I spent my semester abroad. But then, I had some trouble pronouncing their version of my name. Tricky all around.

        1. Simonthegrey*

          Yeah, the first letter of my first name does not exist in the language where I did my semester abroad…it was fun having a completely different pronunciation for my name.

      5. Nichole*

        This reminds me of the scene in the movie Sex Drive when the American main character tells off his German pen pal for hitting on him, then is schooled by his little brother that his pen pal is a female named ‘meekah’. In the US, her spelling, Mike, is almost always an abbreviation for Michael, but in Germany it’s a female name similar to American Michelle. To complicate things further, the picture she sent him was with her male cousin, Jan…a name used mostly for women in the US and pronounced rhymes with ‘man’ rather than more like ‘john’ or ‘yon’ it is in Germany. Madness ensues.

    3. Jen RO*

      Oh, and a second rant about something even more annoying: a co-worker has a name that’s long and had a few sounds that don’t really exist in English… so our team in Ireland uses his middle name (which is common in English too). It’s possible that coworker volunteered his middle name as an alternative, but it still strikes me as ‘we can’t be bothered to learn to say your *real* name’.

      1. Jamie*

        Sometimes it’s not a matter of not wanting to, sometimes names can be impossible to pronounce for some people. I did well in french when it came to the written stuff but could not, cannot, will never be able to roll my r’s or make say certain combinations correctly. And family who speak Polish I understand a couple of things and cannot at all pronounce even my own Polish name correctly to a Pole. And I don’t think this is a weird quirk of mine alone, it’s not that uncommon.

        I work with people for whom English is a second language and native Spanish speakers have a very difficult time with my last name – I don’t take it as a shot.

        If my first name was so difficult to pronounce to a forge in tongue I’d give them an alternative because otherwise you’ll be uhhhm or hey you to them.

        1. Stephanie*

          Polish names are something else (native English speaker here). The lack of vowels terrifies me, so I just ask upfront for the pronunciation.

        2. fposte*

          I think Jen touches on that elsewhere–that when you’re working across languages, it’s reasonable to go for an approximation or analogue in the language you’re working, rather than insist on the original language’s pronunciation. If you’re an American Anne working in a francophone company, I don’t think you should insist that they call you “an” rather than “ahn” in French. I feel rather the same about people who are speaking in their non-native languages and retaining the pronunciation of the original–there’s not much point in getting at people for not using an American R even if that’s what’s in your name.

          1. Jen RO*

            Yeah, I wouldn’t mind a bad pronunciation, if just feels like they haven’t even tried. The name is Laurențiu (the ț is like a ts or tz). Too long, too unintuitive, but other English speakers use Laurent (like in French) and that’s close enough. My boyfriend’s co-worker goes by Larry. I am probably overreacting here, because it’s possible the guy himself asked to be called by his middle name, and the Ireland purple do annoy me for other reasons too…

            On the other hand, my boss is always Daniel with (our approximation of) an American accent, and never Daniel with a Romanian accent (sounds like Spanish).

              1. fposte*

                Of course–they’re green!

                I’m surprised the Irish folks haven’t worked through this with the odd Gaelic name–those are really counterintuitive for English speakers.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  I’m really looking forward to trying to pronounce things in Welsh later this year. o_O I think I’ll practice a bit so I don’t end up in the sea when I try to ask where something is!

                  And I know people speak English in Wales; it’s just place names, etc. Besides, it might be fun to try it.

          2. Jen RO*

            Add an aside to the aside, even though the odds of me moving to another country are slim to none, I often idly wonder whether I’d rather go by my real name or by Jen (which I’ve used online 15+ years). In the end, even though I have many friends who call me Jen in ‘real life’, I’d feel like a different person without the name my parents gave me, so I would probably say ‘like Joanna with an I’ a lot.

        3. Felicia*

          I’m learning Mandarin, and while I know how to say the words, and understand, there are just some sounds that are really really hard for my mouth to make, I don’t think I’ve ever made those sounds successfully no matter how hard I try. There are also 2 of the tones that sound virtually indistinguishable to the ear of a native English speaker, but someone who grew up speaking Mandarin can tell they sound very different. I think it’s very hard to learn to make sounds that don’t exist in your native language as an adult. Some people who speak English as a second language have trouble with pronouncing certain English names because they contain sounds that don’t exist in their language, and that wouldn’t bother me

          Now I am also fluent in French, and speak with the same accent of a native speaker, but that’s because I learned when I was 5 and was in French immersion. I think for any language you learn at age 7 or younger, if you learn it consistently for several years, then you can learn to make different sounds.

    4. Ann Furthermore*

      I think my husband and I have set our daughter up for a lifetime of having to correct people about her name. It’s Clara, but many people hear just Claire. I’ve had to correct quite a few pe. I’m not rude about it, but I just say, “It’s ClarA” and pronounce the A very clearly. And then that’s the end of it. But we didn’t think about that when we picked that name.

      1. Brightwanderer*

        That’s interesting to me – I think it comes under the “marry/merry/mary” pronounciation thing, because where I am (southern UK) it would be very hard to mix those two up in spoken speech. Claire is pronounced to rhyme with air or care, whereas Clara has a long first A, so it’s got more the same sound and rhythm as, hmm, harbour or father.

  6. Golden Yeti*

    #1: 1-I just re-watched Office Space tonight, so the irony is kind of hilarious. 2-I just re-watched Office Space tonight, so yes, nip it in the bud, before any lurking Miltons make things even more complicated.

  7. Purr purr purr*

    #03 annoys me immensely because I get the same issue. I work in Quebec and people say my name as though I’m francophone rather than pronouncing it in the English way. I wouldn’t call a Jean-Michel ‘John Michael’ in an anglophone province because it’s not their name and would make an effort to say it correctly so why do people not try and pronounce mine correctly? OP#3, did you ever correct them about how they pronounced it? Also, their comments about you being pretentious with how you pronounce it is just ridiculous. For your new job, I wouldn’t change the name at all but I would make a point of correcting everyone who doesn’t pronounce it correctly!

    1. FiveNine*

      We had a Raphael from oversees and when one coworker asked if she could call him Ralph. (He didn’t entertain this for one moment, saying a quick, clipped No, and shut it down right there.)

    2. fposte*

      I think I’m on the other side on this one. If it’s genuinely just a French pronunciation rather than a different name, and if it’s a francophone speaking, I think that it’s okay for them not to get the th in “Elizabeth,” say.

      1. Chinook*

        But changing Michael to Michel is very different pronouncing Elizabeth as Elizabet. The latter is not being able to produce a specific sound but the former is actually changing the name. It is a subtle grey zone but, when you live in a multilingual world, everyone needs to learn to navigate it.

        1. fposte*

          Not where where your “but” comes from, since that’s what I said :-). A different name is okay only if you have permission, but a native pronunciation isn’t an error that needs correcting.

          I think being a multilingual world also means not fussing too much about how other people pronounce our names. As I said below, I doubt that many non-Chinese people here learn the pitches for Chinese names, but I’m not hearing a lot of guilt over that.

      2. Zuckerman's Famous Pig*

        I agree! It might not be the case when we are talking French vs English, but for instance, when comparing Korean to English there are some sounds in the English language that do not exist in the Korean language and a native Korean speaker is going to have a very hard time getting those right.

  8. Alyssa*

    I have what is a common name or more common name now. Back in the 80s when I was born, not so much, my teacher mother did it on purpose because she didn’t want me to have a name students had had. Even with an actress like Alyssa Milano you would think its impossible to botch my name. But I’ve been: uh-Leesa, uh-lish-uh, uh-leesh-ee-uh, al-i-zuh, etc…and don’t get me started on the misspellings.

  9. Sandi*

    #4 Thank you! Also, the custodians have the keys as well, and they are in our building at that time of day. I am planning on reminding everyone that they can contact both security and the custodial staff if they need access assistance. I was also contemplating purchasing a different type of key box and moving it and its keys to a different area, since this is not the first time this has happened, including the key mess – and with the same director with a need for a different key while I was away.

    1. Ruffingit*

      I’d speak with that director one-on-one and let her know that leaving the key mess is not appropriate. She’s done it twice now so that is enough to talk with her about it in my view.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I think the director is the OP’s boss, if I’m reading the letter correctly. In which case, that wouldn’t really be an appropriate conversation — unless it’s more along the lines of, “Hey, I know you probably don’t realize this, but if you leave the keys in a jumble like that, it takes an hour to re-sort them.”

  10. Proud Socialist*

    #5 – I doubt a company would remember the content of a covering letter from over a year ago.
    If it got you an interview, then it did it’s job well. I’d say keep the main structure of that, with a few adjustments as required to fit in with the job you’re applying for.

    1. en pointe*

      I doubt they’d remember the letter either, but don’t employers have to keep application materials on file for a year? OP says her previous application was a year ago, so I guess it depends on the exact dates (and how particular the company is with dates, I assume most just dispose of stuff in bulk, periodically), but it’s quite possible they may pull her old materials, especially if there were detailed notes or anything from her previous interview. I think she should play it safe and write a new one.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      They probably won’t remember it (unless it was unusually great, in which case they might), but they’ll know they interviewed her, which means they’re likely to look at their notes and possibly her materials from last time, which means they’re likely to see the old letter.

      1. Posted #1*

        What if it’s a similar situation – cover letter got me a phone interview, but I never heard back afterwards – but from just three months ago? I don’t have a LOT new to add from three months.

        It’s for a federal job, which means they often have to jump through very procedural hoops (the interview was 12 questions they read off a sheet). The job has been posted three times, which confuses me; I’m not sure if sending the same CL would be better, or worse?

        1. Ms. Lemonade*

          Whoops, sorry – I didn’t post #1; that auto-filled from previously, when I had been OP #1.

  11. Juli G.*

    I am a name butcher. I am terrible with pronunciation and unfortunately for the population I serve, there is a large number of international employees with names unusual to the US.

    I will always make the effort to pronounce correctly/ask for corrections. To say someone is pretentious to protect your own ego is ridiculous.

    1. doreen*

      I have a terrible memory when it involves similar names. I’ve known a number of “Andrea”s with all three pronunciations , none of whom I’ve worked all that closely with. And thankfully, I can look up people in the email directory by last name, because I can rarely remember who is “Adrian” ,”Adrien” or “Adrienne” . Since I have this problem myself, I don’t get annoyed when my name is spelled “Dorine” , “Dorene” ,”Dorean” etc . I understand when people in my office occasionally call me “Dorian” and even sent me emails meant for her. However, I do not understand why so many people call me ‘Debbie”.

      But my bad memory is my problem – it doesn’t mean someone else is pretentious.

      1. fposte*

        Right, I do think we’re talking about a fairly universal problem–it has slightly different iterations for different people, but in business most people rely on memory for names and get those memories wrong a lot of the time.

  12. Business Owner*

    To explain how we got into this situation a little further…we are a small business that analyzes, and tracks data where the learning curve is steep for a newcomer. For more than a decade we had a dependable employee who worked part-time and handled the things that our software couldn’t. She retired four years ago. Her replacement, Jack, initially did pretty well. His role changed over time to include creating new software, and to continue doing the day to day work. At year 2 he was brought on full time.
    We held bi-weekly meetings to track his progress (we included an outside IT consultant in the meetings to help manage this process). A pattern evolved where Jack made excuses, whined, and switched directions several times on the development process. His focus and strength seemed to be the database development, so we hired (against his wishes) an IT guy, Chris, to develop the front end interface thinking this would give Jack much needed help, and get the project closer to completion. Jack initially was very complimentary of Chris, but after 6 months when what Chris developed (using Wavemaker – Jack’s choice) wouldn’t work with the primary key, Jack unilaterally changed directions again to use something different, and had disparaging things to say about Chris.
    We let Chris go, and came to the realization that Jack would never get anything completed (it was always close), and “I only have such and such to do…”
    For six months during all of this, Jack had health issues, which were unexplained and quite scary, so our only focus during that time was to keep the day to day business running. Jack did keep things running, and we were grateful for that. But we have noticed deterioration in his performance, and when we were pushing for results, major attitude.
    Software for this industry is very expensive ($275,000 +), and for a small business basically breaking even, there was no way. We found a small software vendor, more reasonably priced, and the first module is ready. Some of what Jack does at month end, he will not need to do this month, and hence, we HAVE to tell him.
    We have intentionally placated him, knowing how vulnerable we are. No one could jump in and decipher the “mess” for several reasons. Jack’s ego will be bruised, and we are very unsure of his reaction. We don’t think he would sabotage things, but not 100% sure. So, we have been getting prepared to respond to several different potential scenarios.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Yeah, ugh. I have been down similar roads.

      Honestly, my number one priority here would be to make sure that I could cut off access during the termination and have the business protected. Situations like this can destroy an entire business.

      Before that though, I would be completely sure that the contracted software works as expected. I’ve had more bad experiences with contracted software than I ever want to remember. If you have found reliable software contracting, you are a lucky person.

      (One of the things we did to solve our problems was to hire away reliable programmers from a contracting company who, themselves, was less than reliable, btw. None of this is cheap. Everything is expensive.)

      1. Ruffingit*

        +1 million on making sure the contracted software works. I have some experience in this area as well and it’s amazing how badly that can go.

        Also, this part of your letter is concerning: We do not know what kind of reaction he will have.

        I think you do know and it’s not good. He’s given major attitude, been disparaging to a colleague, been difficult to deal with…you do know that the reaction is likely to be bad. Get your ducks in a row and get rid of him ASAP. When you are going to fire someone and you’re concerned about their reaction, that generally means you’ve been given several clues previously about this guy’s disposition. Prepare for the worst, dump him off, and good luck. I really hope the next person you find for the role of IT is better than this guy.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Eh, I don’t know. I’ve seen people like that behave reasonably during a firing. I think the OP probably has enough info to plan for a couple of different possibilities, but I don’t think those of us on this end can say for sure.

          1. Ruffingit*

            There is no way to know for sure of course, hence my saying the reaction is LIKELY to be bad and preparing for the worst is prudent. All the better if the worst doesn’t happen, but prepping for it is a good idea given what she does know about previous behavior.

            1. fposte*

              I think it’s good to prepare for a bad reaction isn’t the same thing as saying a bad reaction is likely, though.

              1. Ruffingit*

                I stand by thinking it’s likely. But whatever the case, the main issue here is that OP wants to let this guy go with the least amount of problems for the business. So whatever is/isn’t likely, she can prepare for it and I hope it will all go smoothly for her.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      Have there been any meetings to tell Jack directly and explicitly that he’s not meeting expectations and if he doesn’t do X, Y, and Z he will be let go? I don’t know, something tells me he is going to be surprised there’s a problem and he’s being let go.

      1. Ruffingit*

        Agreed because he’s been allowed to get away with shoddy work habits and productivity for a long, long time. He’s probably thinking this is totally OK and he can coast for a long time on the “It’s almost done” excuse. This is especially true because they intentionally placated him. This guy has been allowed to get away with things and has been placated. Going forward, I hope the OP will not make this mistake again with future employees.

    3. Laura*

      Make a complete, offline, backup before you tell him, if you don’t plan to revoke his access in the meeting.

      If you think he’ll play fair – especially with the generous severance approach – then I can see where it makes sense to approach it that way.

      But make sure you have the complete backup, made by someone other than him, and on tapes/disks that are not hooked to the network. (Really, you should be doing that anyway in case the server room catches on fire, so you should be all set on this, right?) You just want to make sure you have a snapshot right before you tell him, so that if you’re wrong about him, you preserve your data.

      1. Jamie*

        This. There are also some very good backups which store in the cloud. Just make sure he doesn’t have access to the backups or the ability to disengage.

        I.e. You don’t have to have access to the backup to change security settings on individual drives and folders which will cause cause the backup to error out.

        For me if you really think someone is capable of malicious sabotage cut them out immediately. If he was hit by a bus youd be I the same boat with his immediate absence. Just pay someone to come in and sort it out and transition for you.

    4. Graciosa*

      I’m glad you’re at least moving to correct the power imbalance here (“We have intentionally placated him, knowing how vulnerable we are”). It is incredibly important to manage so that no one is irreplaceable, and the business can handle the loss of any individual without significant disruption. You’ve experienced this from the perspective about worrying what the employee will do to you (which is bad enough) but people do become unavailable for other reasons – anything from illness to finding another job to running off to find themselves.

      When you’re past this situation in IT, please take the opportunity to evaluate every critical function and every position in your business. Ask what would happen if it or they suddenly disappeared. If the answer is just that you need to either get rid of the live plants or hire another watering service, great. If the answer is gosh, I can’t think of anyone else who knows how to run payroll, you’ve got a problem. Plan how to deal with it before you have to.

      Good luck.

    5. fposte*

      I would also really encourage you to read the related post listed about how to fire an IT director–there’s a lot of great stuff from IT expert Jamie there about how to protect yourselves.

    6. Artemesia*

      This is how the office I worked with got into its mess. The time to have acted was early on when the first signs of not delivering things appeared.

  13. Liane*

    #3. Ever since I was in high school, I have operated on the idea that everyone knows how to pronounce & spell their own name *and you should pay attention when they tell you the first time!*.
    I decided on this when I was trying to spell my surname for a grown-up (it’s the same as a famous literary creature’s) and noticed this fool was just writing my name down the same wrong way *because she wasn’t even listening to me spell it out* GRRR.

    1. A Dispatcher*

      *and you should pay attention when they tell you the first time!*.

      I often can’t remember someone’s name at all after the first meeting half the time, let alone pronunciation! Though sometimes an unusual name or an unusually pronounced name will actually make it easier for me to remember.

      What kills me though is when people do have an odd name and then get very annoyed when I ask them to spell it (necessary for criminal history checks in my job). I don’t mind your unique name and often it’s very pretty, but I don’t have a damn clue how to spell a name your parents made up…

      1. samaD*

        people who get annoyed about being asked to spell names….arg

        I’ve known Tracy/Tracey/Traci/Tracee/Tracie Smith/Smithe/Smyth/Smythe….I ask everyone to spell every name :)

      2. Felicia*

        I ask people who have really common names to spell their names too, and I’ve had those people get mad. Like when I asked an Emily, and she sounded frustrated and asked “don’t you know how to spell it?” Well I know that’s the most common spelling , but the other day I was talking to Emmaleigh who pronounces it the exact same way so you never know.

        1. Mallory*

          One of the girls in my college dorm was named Jo Dee, but pronounced it exactly like “Jody”. She would get really mad when people would pronounce it like it was two separate names (e.g. Billy Bob, Linda Sue, Jo Dee).

  14. Marmoset*

    #3 – I am terrible with names and for me, “I’m named after my grandfather Andreas” would really help me get the pronunciation right. Bonus if it gets rude people off your back, not that you owe them anything (pretentious, really? Do they realize they’re insulting your parents to your face? Not so long ago that was a good way to start a duel to the death…)

    My name is easy to pronounce but hard to spell – think Mary Jane and I get Maryjane, Mary-Jane, Maria Jane, etc. I suppose if I’m ever in a hiring position it will make a good test of attention to detail!

    Much sympathy, how frustrating. <3

    1. Felicia*

      I have the easy to pronounce but hard to spell problem too! I don’t think it’s that hard, and it is the most common way to spell it but I guess the cia that the end of Felicia might screw people up, or they often don’t get that the second letter is an e.

    2. Anonymous*

      I also think the grandfather’s name would help, too. The background could help people remember.

  15. Adrienne*

    #3 – As someone who has spent my life ALSO being called “Andrea,” I feel your pain. But no, don’t change your name. If people comment on it, just said “well, that’s the name I was given and I like it” and move on. It’s not THAT hard for people to get it right.

    Most people will correct themselves quickly. Although if it keeps up, you may need to be more blunt. Like someone who I’ve already clarifed my name for continues to call me “Andrea” I won’t respond for minute and then say something like “Oh! were you talking to me? My name’s not ‘Andrea'” but that may be harder for you when they’re spelled the same way but pronounced differently. In my case it’s an entirely different name. Come on!

  16. Jen RO*

    În light of several comments in this thread: mispronouncing is one thing, but the people who manage to use a *completely different name* are just… Adrienne is not Andrea, how can you confuse them?! To me, that just shows incredible disrespect. Names are important.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Agreed. My name is often used as a derivative of a longer name, but I am actually named the derivative, not the longer name. Example – My name actually is Les, not Leslie.

      So anyway, I had a teacher in middle school who insisted that my name must be Leslie. It is not. Her daughter was named Leslie so she just couldn’t wrap her head around the fact that I was just Les, not Leslie.

      It is so irritating when people do that. As I mentioned in another posting, people should just call others what they request/tell them and be done with it. It’s just not that hard.

      1. Jake*

        My boss’s full name is Johnny. It is on his business cards, email signature, etc. You’d be shocked how often he is called John or Jonathan.

        1. RJ*

          My husband is another Johnny. It’s hard when I introduce him because people assume I’m using the “nickname” form affectionately, and then they over-correct it, trying to be appropriately formal, to “John.”

      2. Felicia*

        My sister’s name is usually a derivative of a long name, but she’s actually named the derivative too. Like Katie, and everyone calls her Katherine even though that’s not her name at all. They don’t ever ask, they just assume. Even if it was just a nickname, why can’t they call her what she introduces herself as?

    2. Stephanie*

      I had a boss call me “Sherry” for a month.

      I get called Jennifer semi-regularly due to my last name (it’s Jennings/Jensen/Jenkins). My sister’s home aide calls me Jennifer despite everyone in my family calling me “Stephanie.” I kept correcting her and then I just gave up. I thought it made had something to do with her learning English late in life, but there is a Spanish version of my name

      1. Vancouver Reader*

        Reminds me of a co-worker of mine. He said when he was young, there was a nun at his church who’d call him every name that started with a B (because that’s what his name starts with) but his name.

    3. L McD*

      Hmm, yeah. I don’t think it’s intentionally disrespectful in most cases, but it starts to feel that way after a while. I have a name that’s frequently shortened into many different nickname variations. I *always* went by Nickname 1, and that’s how I was introduced to everyone. Never by my full name. But she always called me Nickname 2, which she pulled out of nowhere. Although they were derived from the same full name, they honestly couldn’t have been more different. They don’t even share any of the same letters or sound similar in the least. It would be the equivalent of calling someone named Fitzwilliam “Bill” when he goes by “Fitz.” I had to correct her repeatedly because she’d sometimes try to page me on the P.A. or get my attention using the wrong name, and of course I didn’t respond because I just wasn’t tuned in to hear Nickname 2. At a certain point it feels like people just aren’t putting the minimum amount of effort in to remembering who the heck you are.

      (I wore a name tag, too…so there was a really easy cue for those visual types. Didn’t help with her, though. I know she didn’t mean anything by it and she’d always sort of apologize, but laughingly, which may have just been a way to cover up embarrassment. She didn’t seem to have any trouble with anyone else’s name, which I would’ve had a LOT of sympathy for because I have poor memory when it comes to matching names with faces.)

      1. Barney Stinson*

        I do not understand why people just assign nicknames without being told that the person goes by the nickname they’re using.

        My given name has a hundred possible nicknames. I introduce myself only with Given Name. I do not say, “Hi, my name is Given Name, but you can call me Nickname #42.”

        Yet there these well-meaning people are, immediately calling me Nickname #42. Which I hate more than any other nickname they could pick out, though it wouldn’t matter if they called me the least noxious nickname on the list. I WANT TO BE CALLED GIVEN NAME. IF I WANTED TO BE CALLED SOMETHING ELSE, I’D TELL YOU SOMETHING ELSE.

        Sorry, I didn’t mean to be all shouty.

        My problem is: I don’t want to pull a Becton (aka “Don’t call me Liz” of the 19 email fame). But I want them to stop. I can’t let them continue doing it, because if one person starts calling me “Nickname #42” then it will spread and then I’m that forever.

        I’ve tried telling them that my closest friends and family call me Nickname #3, and some of them switch, but it’s still freakishly hard. I sort of understand Liz Becton now.

        1. Vancouver Reader*

          I find some people shorten my name to something I don’t like, so I smile at them sweetly and say “the only person who’s allowed to call me by that name is my sister. Everyone else who called me that is dead.”

        2. iseeshiny*

          I don’t actually think the first Becton email was out of line – just the horrible, aggressive way she kept going after receiving the apology. Just a note saying “It’s Elizabeth, not Liz, thanks,” is not horrible and wouldn’t put you in the same category.

    4. danr*

      Yes…And I have a very easy name. I’ve had more than one person call me ‘David’ while looking at my name ‘Daniel’.

    5. Sis*

      Late to the party, but I totally agree with this. My sister’s name is Idania. We’re Hispanic, and her name is unusual in Spanish, but pronounced exactly how a Spanish speaker would expect (ee-da-nya). When English speakers pronounce it slightly off (short i “ih-dawn-ya”) she doesn’t correct them, because it’s close enough. But if someone decides it’s too hard, and called her Maria instead, that would be outrageous. I would think of them as lazy and rude

  17. Ruffingit*

    WTF is wrong with people making an issue out of someone’s name?? Calling you pretentious as though you’ve chosen to pronounce your name differently? And hell, even if you had chosen to pronounce it differently than the pronunciation intended by your parents, who cares?? If someone wants to be called Queen of England Basheeba with the Highest Power, then I’ll call them that. I just don’t care that much what people call themselves. I find it sad that adults are making an issue out of this. Call the person by the name they tell you and move on.

    1. Chinook*

      Sorry, Queen of England is an official title that comes with some specific rights and responsibilities (just like President of the United States), but I agree that you should feel free to call yourself Geneveve the Almighty and not have someone call you pretentious until you demand they curtsey and kiss your ring.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Am thinking “pretentious” actually means “I can’t figure out how to say your name right and a good defensive strategy for me is to launch an offensive attack.”

      1. Windchime*

        To me, calling someone’s name pronunciation “pretentious” is just another way of saying, “I don’t get out much and I certainly don’t read much, so any pronunciation besides those that I have heard locally must be ‘fancy’ or intentionally snobby.”

  18. BadPlanning*

    I have a name that has common short and long variations. Now I just answer to any variations. But in my case, it’s not pronunciation so once they see my name in writing, it’s clear what my name really is. I have had coworkers that I just asked whether I was saying their name right or the right version.

  19. Graciosa*

    I will understand if this counts as too off topic, but has anyone ever had name challenges with family members? I have known two men who were primarily known by their middle names (one also answered to his first pretty routinely and one didn’t) because their parents disagreed on the names. In both cases, the mother appeared to concede (“I wanted Michael, but I guess James Michael will do”) and then only addressed them by the preferred (now second) name as a child.

    I always wondered how the one who got used to answering to both managed, because he also answered to nicknames for both, (leaving him with the equivalent of Jim, James, Mike, or Michael). This type of range didn’t strike me as easy to respond to, but I never asked him how he felt about it as I didn’t want to be rude.

    1. Jen RO*

      I know several people who answer to both their first and middle names, plus nicknames, but I never asked why. Most of the times, I think it’s a matter of family preferring the middle name, but teachers using the first name, so by the time the person gets to school they are used to both.

      As an aside, a former coworker confused everyone because her first name was Christine (used on all her company credentials), but she went by her middle name Gabrielle. She didn’t want to request a change, so lots of people were left wondering who this ‘Gabby’ person was, since no one of that name appeared in Outlook. When I got rehired by the same company a month ago, they created all new accounts for me… using my middle name. It took 2 weeks to sort out, but I stood my ground! All my old accounts already existed (they had been disabled, not deleted, when I quit the company), so this was made 10x more complicated than it should have been… just because someone in HR didn’t read the paperwork carefully.

    2. Chinook*

      Actually, using their middle name alone or with their first name is very much culturally based. The French side of my family would be fully of Maries and Josephs if the didn’t do this. And, as a result, some of them are odd – one aunt went by “Desneiges” (of the snow).

      1. Kelly L.*

        I went to college with a girl who went by her middle name and so did her brother. Like he was John Michael and went by Michael, and she was Laura Denise and went by Denise. They weren’t named after anyone, and they also hadn’t chosen to go by their middle names later in life; their parents had called them by the middle names from the very beginning. I didn’t get it and wondered why they didn’t just name them Michael and Denise in the first place, but she said it was a Southern thing.

        1. Daisy*

          I find that slightly odd, too….but we did it in my family. a relative is called by her middle name and was always going to be called this name. But when naming her, we decided it flowed better as a middle name.

    3. Ife*

      I have two very different names, and I don’t find it confusing at all. My given name is Elizabeth, and in college I acquired the nickname Ife (ee-fay). I tried to retrain everyone to call me Ife, but that didn’t work, so half my friends call me Ife and the other half call me Liz.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      My family does this a lot. Basically because people are named after other people and it gets confusing. Do you mean Uncle Jim or Cousin Jim or BIL Jim? So if cousin Jim goes by his middle name of Sam, it’s a relief to everyone.

      Watching the folks in my family, I guess it’s just their name and they are used to it. I would think that if your family name is Sam then maybe you get a warm feeling from hearing someone call you that as opposed to calling you “James”, which feels pretty formal.

      Because of being inside the family and we only use the family names with each other hearing outsiders use the first name sounds strange/formal.

    5. Judy*

      I know a number of people who chose to go by different names as adults or at least when they went to college. The one that I struggle with is my sister in law who was always Jenny, and is now going by Jennifer. Certainly I don’t see her parents or brother even trying, and the kids call her Aunt Jenny, but I do try when I remember to call her what she is known by now. (I only knew her as Jenny for about 5 years, she’s been known as Jennifer for 15 now.) She doesn’t seem to mind us calling her Jenny, but it seems like it could be more respectful.

      1. Windchime*

        Family names can be tricky. My dad is known in the family by his full name, but everyone else calls him by a shortened version (think Richard vs Rick). I have a cousin named who now goes by Ken to the outside world, but us cousins all still call him Kenny because it’s the name we all grew up with. (He doesn’t mind).

        1. Lia S*

          I have a cousin who I’ve called “Kat” all my life, but she was mostly known as Katherine to her friends….until she started going to my college, where now all of our friends have followed my example.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      YES. I vastly prefer my middle name (Elizabeth) to my first (Anne). It took a very long time to get my family to switch. It’s a good thing they did–my family called me Annie for a long time, and then my brother married a woman with a different name who goes by Annie, so now SHE is Annie [Longlastname]. There would have been two of us otherwise.

      1. Judy*

        My college roommate’s brother married someone with the same name but with a different first letter. The nieces and nephews started calling them Aunt K-Kathy and Aunt C-Cathy.

  20. kas*

    3. Story of my life. I don’t have a common name and the spelling confuses people as well. When names are called out (like attendance), I always know when the person is about to say my name because of the long pause and the “if I get anyone’s name wrong, please correct me” right before they butcher it. I’ve thought about going by my nickname but I like the fact that my name is unique so I’ll have to continue correcting people. I know I’ve mispronounced many names and I actually wish people would correct me. I called a guy I went to school with the wrong name for an entire year until I heard him correct someone else who pronounced it the same way I did. What I don’t get is the people who say “either one is fine” when you ask them which pronunciation is the correct one.

    5. I always wondered that, I usually change it up a bit because I feel like it will seem like I send out the same cover letter everywhere. I’ll completely redo it now if I’m applying to the same place.

    1. Colleen*

      Ha, I’m an “either one is fine” kind of person. My name is Colleen and it can be pronounced a few slightly different ways. My parents and husband call me CALLeen, I tend to say KUHleen, and COHleen is also common. I didn’t realize until a few years ago that I pronounced my own name differently than my own parents do, and that people were hesitant to call me by name because they didn’t want to mispronounce.

      I know it sounds weird, but really–I don’t care one bit how it’s pronounced. I kind of like that different people in my life say my name a little differently; it’s kind of endearing and unique like a nickname would be. To me the difference in how the O is pronounced is pretty minor, and not as substantial as AHNdrea versus ANNdrea.

      1. Colleen*

        That said, I am absolutely serious about pronouncing others’ names correctly and I would never think poorly of them for caring how their names are pronounced!

      2. kas*

        Lol well that makes sense, my sister pronounced her name differently as well until my mom asked her why she was saying it like that. A friend found out she was mispronouncing her last name so she just went by either. I guess the differences aren’t that noticeable to make a fuss about it.

      3. LD*

        This reminds me of when I worked at a small company and there were two women in the business office named Colleen but their names were pronounced differently; one was Cah-leen and the other Co (long “o”)-leen. It took awhile to get the names straight between which was which. As others have mentioned, once you’ve gotten used to one name it was occasionally common to have that pronunciation in mind and mispronounce the name for the other person you were talking to. Not intentional, and I loved the “mouth-0” for making mistakes of pronunciation that are unintended. There were often “mouth-o”s with those two women.

      4. Artemesia*

        Ahn DRAY uh is the way the male name for Andrew is pronounced in much of Europe — so it is unusual for it to be a woman’s name and have that pronunciation. But it isn’t that hard once someone makes it clear how they pronounce their name. Most American Andreas pronounce it ANN Dree uh and some pronounce it AHN Dree uh — it is rare to pronounce it Ahn DRAY uh but how hard is it to get it right when you are corrected?

    2. Not So NewReader*

      When I was supervising I used to say this. “I want to be corrected. Correct me until I get it right.”
      Actually, this helped me to make a higher effort because I really did not want to be corrected numerous times. That just feels so defeating.

  21. Anon1234*

    I too have a name that is often mispronounced. To the point when I left over a decade later – one co-worker wished me well, well wished someone well…..they were still calling me a name close to mine but not mine. I didn’t work with them often so I did not bother correcting them over and over. Once I tell them, then I drop it.

    I know of another co-worker who made a production out of pronouncing their name every time. Guess what their co-workers do now, behind her back in a dramatic fashion….. This co-worker also has other personality traits that ask for it- at least from juvenile co-workers. The rest just struggled every time they had to greet the co-worker with the difficult to produce name.

    Considering the bs going on in most workplaces, I’d let a name mispronunciation go unless they were making my name sound like something obscene or mocking me.

  22. Ann Furthermore*

    The whole name thing just baffles me, and it seems like Americans are more clueless than other people about this (and I say this as an American).

    I took a software training class with a bunch of attendees from the local branch of a government agency. When they found out where I work, they asked if I knew one of their developers, who had worked at my company for awhile, and I did. He was Indian. I also told them that this guy had a very similar name to 2 other developers on the project (such as Murray and Maury, but Indian names), so I always had to double check that I had the right person in an email, and so on. Just making conversation. Anyway, one of the people said, “Oh yeah, we have that problem too. We just call them all Mike.” And they all laughed like that was the funniest thing ever. They saw my eyebrows raise, and did not speak to me at all for the rest of the class. I was appalled.

    Another time I did some contract work at a DoD facility and there was a guy there, also Indian, whose name was spelled Danish. When we met he introduced him self as dah-NISH, so that’s what I called him. The person we were working for on the client side, however, pronounced his name like the breakfast pastry. Made me cringe.

    My company has offices all over the world. I’ve been to several of them, and I’ve worked with people from many different countries, backgrounds, and cultures. And it seems that more often than not, it’s an American that kind of willfully ignores how people’s names should be pronounced. And I find it odd, since there’s also been a trend (at least in the US) in the last 10-20 years for parents to give their kids unique, unusual, one-of-a-kind names, and then get bent out of shape when people pronounce or spell them incorrectly.

    1. Anon1234*

      Indians, among others, often take an American name just for ease in communication. They chose an American name. I don’t think nick names or alternate names are always disrespectful often it’s just utilitarian.

      1. fposte*

        Right; we have a lot of foreign students who go by an English name. I think I wouldn’t be indignant on their behalf unless I knew the nicknaming happened against their will.

        1. Ruffingit*

          Me too. It’s rude and awful to do this to people who have foreign names. Make an effort to learn to pronounce it, don’t just Americanize their name for your own convenience.

          1. fposte*

            Actually, my point was kind of the other way :-). I think a lot of people are fine with foreign-language equivalents for their names.

            Are there really non-Chinese people here who’ve learned the correct pitch for a Chinese co-worker’s name, for instance? I’d be pretty surprised.

            1. fposte*

              Though to be clear, where the org just decided to call all the Indian employees Mike, I’d be pretty appalled too.

              1. Anon1234*

                Of course, it has to be their choice. But I have noticed a lot choose an Americanized name vs. listening to me destroy their name. :)

              2. Ann Furthermore*

                To me it was pretty close to the awful generalization of, “they all look alike to me.” The 3 people I worked with had names spelled and pronounced exactly the same, except for one consonant in the middle. So I always had to check to make sure I chose the right name from the address drop-down in Outlook.

                And these were names that were not hard to pronounce. 2 syllables. That’s why the joke about calling everyone Mike really rubbed me the wrong way.

                Maybe you notice people from your own country or culture behaving this way more than you would otherwise. My parents had some Dutch friends years ago and once the husband was talking about how the Dutch are the only people who curse at their children. My mom said she’d never heard a Dutch person do that, and he pointed out that she didn’t speak Dutch. Heh.

              3. Ruffingit*

                Yeah, that’s what I was responding to. Sorry I read your post wrong. The idea of just giving an American equivalent name to someone because you can’t be bothered to try and learn their name is appalling. As for correct Chinese pitch for names, I’d make the effort to learn if one of my co-worker’s was Chinese and the name required a certain pronunciation. I’m not saying I’d take classes, I’m saying I’d ask the co-worker for some help in the correct pronunciation of their name as opposed to saying “Eh, whatever, I’ll just call you Chris, OK?”

                1. fposte*

                  I’m pretty much on board with that. The “we just call them all Bridget/Mike/whatever” stuff is pretty horrific, that’s for sure; I do think it’s only courteous to make a good faith effort at people’s names.

                  I just also think that it’s worth keeping a good humor about people who can’t make it work when they do try, and that no matter how common or obvious my name feels to me, it’s really not so for a good number of people on the planet.

                2. Ruffingit*

                  Oh definitely, I’m all for keeping a good sense of humor about names and have done so myself since people have always spelled my name wrong. And in some cases called me something completely different since they think my name sounds similar. I don’t get up in arms about it, it is what it is. I just have a thing about trying to learn names. If you make a good faith effort, that’s enough for me.

      2. Artemesia*

        Chinese students do this as a matter of course; when we spent time in China the students we interacted with all had ‘English names’ — lots of uncommon English names as I think they get them from literature. Lots of Rubies, Pearls etc.

        When I lived in a foreign country in Europe for a year my name was always pronounced the local way. The first letter of my name is pronounced differently in German and they pronounced it their way. I just rolled with it.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          I’ve worked with people from China who have picked an American name, and I’ve also worked with some who have kept their original name. That’s always a challenge, but like fposte and Ruffingit said, all you can do is make a good faith effort. There is a Chinese guy in our Germany office whose name is pronounced “Shy-win,” at least in the US. I usually only ever talk to him via email, and his name starts with X and has quite a few vowels, so I’ve never heard him say it. I finally had to ask someone else how to pronounce it.

          1. Dmented Kitty*

            As an Asian, I’m [partially] glad my parents gave me a Western name (Katherine) instead of going for my actual Chinese pronunciation (Tzia Ling). Although the name Katherine also opens up a whole can of worms (e.g. people calling me Kathleen, Kathryn, or assuming my nickname is ‘Kathy’ when it’s not).

            Now my last name’s one of the most common surnames on earth, and more cans of worms open up. Imagine how many work emails that were wrongfully sent to me (and I have to always tell these people “FYI – you may have the wrong Katherine, I work in [department].”).

      3. Sharm*

        Hmm. As an Indian person, I’d disagree with this. In general, we will purposefully butcher our pronunciations to make it easier for Americans, but it’s not ingrained to completely take on a different name for ease of pronunciation, as a lot of East Asian peoples do.

        Obviously, the call centers in India are different, since the head companies are trying to make it look like they’re based in the US, but if you’re in the US working, the number of people outright taking on an American/Western name is rare. Shortening, changing the pronunciation, sure. But I haven’t really seen that as much.

      4. Dmented Kitty*

        From what I observed, people from India aren’t really that nitpicky about their names. We have a lot of Indian employees with virtually unpronouncable names (for a foreign tongue) and our HR for the most part simplifies them into either initials or just shortens them (I’m guessing with their consent). They seem to be a lot less particular with however you shorten or pronounce the name (assuming they don’t end up sounding offensive in your/another language). And a lot of them adapt Western names when they migrate just for the ease of pronunciation.

        At least I haven’t really met anyone from India who absolutely wants their name pronounced this one way.

  23. Gary*

    If you have to fire someone whom you feel might sabotage your computers, what you do is call him in for a one hour meeting where he doesn’t access to your computers. During that meeting, you have someone else revoke his access privileges.

    Lesson learned: Never allow your business to be held hostage by any one person.

    1. Jamie*

      Yep. This is one of those areas where some people think IT is the department of mysteries when it’s ridiculously simple for someone to walk you through the process to change the passwords, prehared keys, and raise the drawbridge to the VPN. Any consultant can walk you through that on the phone in short order.

  24. Jamie*

    Out of curiosity what kind of help did you want for the IT in the transition. Because if I’m understanding this correctly you have him running reports and queries for you, which means he’s working from a database and either pulling your data in SQL or access (or something similar.)

    For him to have data you all need to be interning it somewhere. Whether those are spreadsheets he uploads into the database or some kind of homemade system in Access or the like.

    What you need for a smooth transition is a data dictionary which tells the implementation team which table holds what. And the formulas for any BI or other temp tables or specialized views – and that you can see. You really just need the DD to know what info is mapped where. When I enter this invoice into this thing which table(s) does it hit or get uploaded to.

    I’m not sure what else he can do for you. You have the reports he’s been running for you so the implementation team can recreate those in crystal or whatever the new software uses for BI.

    I’m just curious as to what else would be involved in the handoff because if he’s only in once a month I’m assuming he doesn’t have anything to do with the user level and training which is where some institutional knowledge comes in very handy.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Clearly, I am no expert. But I was wondering what they expected him to do, too.
      Maybe he needs to move information over? But wouldn’t people from the new system have to be there to assist on their end of the deal?

      I wondered what the people from the program’s company had to say about all this. Do they feel that OPs company really has to keep this guy in place in order for a successful transfer?

      There has to be a way to minimize risks here.

      I was also thinking that this guy’s boss could have a one-on-one with him and explain that the company is modernizing and working on a disaster plan. Part of that plan is to have more than one person have access to the computer systems. And then explain from there.

      I do agree with others that said plan for the worst and hope for the best.

      1. Jamie*

        My source is being involved in two implementations of an ERP from homemade systems/other ERP (and this sounds ERPish to me, from the data referenced and cost even if not a full version I think the similarities might make this relevant) but the help would come from someone understanding the current db mapping so the importing went in correctly.

        E.g. purchase orders. Purchasing enters a PO and it hits the following tables: open orders, some BI tables, material receipt table, the GL, etc. once they receive the PO when the material arrives that data hits inventory tables, AP accruals, the GL, open AP, AP aging, PO receipts, etc. some fields hit several tables, some hit ken, and some are similar.

        I could have a receipt date written to one table, but the report is pulling off a view of an amalgamation of tables.

        So the help from the IT which would save a lot of time and expense if they are billed hourly for implementation is having someone work with you on exactly where everything is mapped in the current database so you import it into the correct tables.

        And also to explain the reporting from a technical perspective. Different departments will use the same reports for different reasons and lok at different aspects. The person who speced it and wrote it will be able to more clearly explain what it does and who uses it for what.

        End users are not always great at clearly explaining what they need the report to do because they don’t always understand the level of detail needed.

        All of these things can be done without the IT, it will just take more time because you need to have someone roll up their sleeves and dig through the data to map it, check it, and all that before beginning the move. But if I don’t trust someone not to sabotage I don’t trust them to be fully forthcoming with information.

        There is also the danger of his application or reporting methods being about mess. I work with a legacy app that technically works, but was clearly written to ensure job security because it’s a convoluted spiderweb of bizarre operations. If it breaks I’d never fix it – I would have no idea how – I’d start from scratch and make a new one. If people do something half assed they don’t want to be there to explain it the same way a contractor who cuts corners and did a sloppy job wouldn’t want to be on site for the home inspection.

        I am curious as to the depth of the data he was pulling, because I could teach someone to run queries and basic reporting in a week or so – so if he was being paid full time to do this, that seems like it would have cost more than going after the software initially. Although I don’t have the details and clearly they thought he as building something for the front end that never happened.

        Just speculating, but this has the feel to me that he was over his skis and was just riding it out. Because if you are capable of doing it you tend to knock it out in 3 years – just to get it out of the way. Not to mention, and this may sound awful, but when you do stuff no one else understands and you roll it out to everyone and it works…it’s a pretty cool feeling because people think you’re way more awesome than you are just because it’s so forgein to them it’s looks like complicated magic to some – and even the laziest among us tend to get off our butts to chase that feeling now and then.

        This is one reason that’s ethics in IT are as critical as they are in HR, or finance, or safety because a lot of us work in environments where there is no one on staff to know if we’re lying – because they have no way to vet it.

        The downside of that is not having a second set of eyes when were stuck or backup, which is why we tend to be so helpful to each other on IT forums – because we know what’s it’s like to be stuck and alone.

        But your point about disaster recovery is key, although if he’s territorial and unethical he’ll see through that. But IT has many components, but above all else is security and recovery. Like home insurance, you hope you never have to use it but you need to be covered to come back after a catastrophic loss. I know exactly what it will take for me to get my system back online if everything was destroyed – and it will be a lot of money for hardware, a lot of red bull, and very little sleep but I can restore us to where we were when we went down – if you have that in place and at least one other person has the virtual keys to the kingdom you will never be held hostage by one IT.

        And this isn’t a condemnation of the OP at all – this is a very common scenario and she’s tackling it now and I’m sure will build in redundancy with the new system – but I’m just typing it out as I think it’s important for everyone to be aware of since it is so very common to be over this barrel.

        At my place the reason we have this is because I put this in place. I made sure that my boss knows where my password db is and I document as much as possible in a folder for reference in case I get nailed by that bus. But no one told me to do this and if I went to the dark side and stopped no one would notice until it’s too late – I’m telling you, people treat their IT like some kind of sacred respository of knowledge and it’s not safe.

  25. MR*

    I have a friend who’s name is Andrea and pronounced exactly like the OPs. She has never had a problem with that. It’s probably just the people that you are around who are morons and can’t accept how your name is.

    Of course, you just need to be up front and correct them on the issue as soon as it arrises. I have a last name that everyone screws up and after nearly 31 years, I just roll my eyes when it happens. I correct them once or twice and move on. Sure, it’s not the same as a first name, but still.

    If you have to treat the person as though they are a three-year-old, and correct them every time they mess up, then do so. Good luck!

  26. Sarah*


    I’d suggest to consider using the name Andre. It sounds close to the OP’s version of Andrea without the confusion.

  27. Red Librarian*

    #3 — At OldJob I had a coworker, Gena (pronounced Jenna) and outside clients would often call her “Geena.” I remember having a conversation where she honestly considered changing the spelling of her name for work purposes but ultimately decided to just stick with it. I don’t know how often she corrected people or just let them mispronounce her name.

  28. Sharm*

    I am Indian-American, and my name is relatively rare, even for Indians. On top of that, my parents changed the spelling, thinking they were making it more phonetic, but in actuality, they just changed the mispronunciations.

    I was nervous when I first started working; on top of being new, I didn’t want to be weird about my name. To my amazement, my HR department had relayed the correct pronunciation to the entire staff — before I started. This was an organization of about 120 people. With the exception of a handful of people (who got it once I actually came in and met them), everyone had my pronunciation on Day One. It was amazing.

    This is one of the many reasons this place has such a soft spot in my heart. It really spoke to their culture. I’m still so impressed at how they handled it.

    1. Sharm*

      Just realized I missed saying the point I wanted to make — just that there ARE organizations who will take this seriously and respect you and not make you feel weird about it. Lucky for me, every place I’ve worked has been fairly good about this, but my first employer was a true standout.

  29. HR “Gumption”*

    I’m re-posting this excellent submission by OhNO. Everyone should read the story she linked too.

    OhNo June 14, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    I don’t know if anyone else has read this piece, but this letter really reminded me of the “The Names They Gave Me” piece by Tasbeeh Herwes posted on The Toast ( Worth a read, if you have the time.

  30. Anon 1*

    #3 My parents gave me a name that is a combination of two first names, however, they decided to make these two names my first and middle name. For example: assume I go by Jo Bob (I don’t) but my first name is Jo and my middle name is Bob (rather than Jo Bob as all one first name). As a result I commonly get called just by my first name (i.e. Jo) which is very irritating. For work, and even when I was in school, I just told everyone that my first name was Jo Bob with no middle name. It made my life a million times easier. No longer did I spend a ridiculous amount of time correcting people, nor did I look confused when people simply said Jo and I had to remind myself that they were talking to me. As someone who “gave in” I’m glad I did because I no longer have to engage in the same annoying conversation with everyone I meet professionally.

    Also, to all you parents who think its clever to change the spelling of your child’s commonly spelled name (i.e. Nicci rather than Nicki, or Taelor rather than Taylor), its not. Its annoying to your child and will require them to engage in a life long irritation of correcting people. Don’t do this on purpose please. As someone whose name is always screwed up, I can tell you that its d*mn annoying.

    1. Dmented Kitty*

      THIS. I get that parents want their kid’s names to be unique… but do it with prudence. There are just some names that just would make them spend most of their lives telling people how to spell their name correctly.

  31. anon*

    Oh cmon, not another “my name is so important” question. I don’t care what anyone at work calls me, as long as HR gets it right on the paycheck!

    Frankly, as long as it’s not discriminatory or insulting, there’s no reason why your employer can’t call you whatever nickname they want.

    1. anon*

      BTW I have a short foreign first name that is impossible for English speakers to pronounce correctly even if they wanted to. I never even bother telling them how to pronounce it correctly even if they ask, because it’s such a waste of time and doesn’t further any business interest.

    2. iseeshiny*

      Um, I find someone getting my name wrong after repeated reminders to be pretty insulting. It’s common courtesy to at least try.

      1. Felicia*

        I think the fact that people are saying she’s pretentious just for the way her name is pronounced is pretty rude. It’s not really rude to simply mispronounce ,a name, especially if you tried or just forgot how it’s pronounced, but commenting on what you think of the pronunciation or calling people a name other than what they want to be called just because you feel like it’s convenient for you is pretty rude.

  32. Cassie*

    #1: we may be facing a similar situation – a sole IT person who handles programming for our dept (and some hardware stuff too) who has had some performance issues, although I think a lot of it has to do with unclear requests from us. Because we’re switching to the campus-wide system, having a dedicated fulltime IT person probably won’t be necessary – I think it’ll be a good time to phase out this staffer (layoff) but I can’t help but ponder how he’s going to react. We do have some faculty who have some experience in IT stuff so they could always step in and help out during the transition.

    #3: we have a new-ish staffer whose name has a letter “a” pronounced like the “a” in “father” (think Ah-na, vs Ann-a). Almost everyone calls her Ann-a, except for one coworker who pronounces it Ah-na. I overheard her introducing herself on the phone and realized that her name *IS* Ah-na (instead of that one coworker just pronouncing it differently), I make sure to say her name correctly every time. I think she has corrected people but it doesn’t seem like anyone cares.

  33. T*

    #1 I would also be concerned about your current IT person having files (electronic or paper) at home as he works there most of the time. I don’t know what the legal considerations would be, but I think that would be worth looking into. If he has your data/info on his computer or on your computer at his house, how do you get it back from him? This would be a separate consideration from locking him out of your network.

    1. bob*

      Oh hell yea this! In addition to what Jamie said above.

      A lot BI data these days includes a pretty shocking amount of personal information so if this guy threw a hissy fit and dumped your data on the dark side of the interwebs you might still be screwed even though you have control of your network and data at the office.

  34. ADE*


    I once interviewed a candidate who put a phonetic spelling with pronunciation of her (non-English) name on her resume. In other words, she had “Andrea (pronounced On-DRAY-a) Smith” on her resume.

    I know it isn’t common to do such a thing, and sometimes in AAM land not common = not good, but I might consider this option if I were you. It also spares me the embarrassment of getting your name wrong!

    Depending on your office culture and what your manager says, maybe you could also add a phonetic spelling line to your e-mail signature? Maybe?

  35. Cath in Canada*

    I know I’m late to this thread, but can I just say how refreshing it is to have this entire conversation about names without anyone moaning about how Starbucks always spells their name incorrectly on their cup? Every time I see someone posting this particular moan on social media (there were four in one day on my Facebook feed last week), I want to point out that the purpose of the exercise is to get the right drink to the right person, rather than to win a spelling bee!

    (sorry, it’s a pet peeve of mine. A tiny one, but a peeve nonetheless!)

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