asking an employee to use a different name, telling candidates about our drinking culture, and more

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

1. Can we ask an employee to use a less ethnic-sounding name?

Am I allowed to ask an employee to go by a shortened nickname instead of their ethnic name. We are hiring an employee with a very ethnic name. Can we ask her to shorten it to something more friendly? Think Sally for Salma. This is a sales position and we are concerned about potential client prejudice and we think it’s easier for people to pronounce the shorter name but we also don’t want to insult her. We also don’t want to get sued…

Oh my goodness, no. Absolutely not. Under no circumstances.

That’s her name. It’s not friendly or unfriendly; it’s just what she’s called. It would be incredibly rude, alienating, and xenophobic to ask her to use a different one.

2. How should I tell job applicants about our office’s drinking culture?

The company I work for has a “youthful,” “fun” culture, and that seems to mean that alcohol is sometimes part of the work day. (I don’t mean to say that anyone is pressured to drink, or that we drink often! But alcohol seems to be a regular part of any special occasion at the company, there’s beer available in the fridge for after work, and there were several bottles of wine and liquor as gifts in a recent gift swap.)

I hope I’m going to get to hire someone to join my team next year and I think this aspect of the company culture is something I should tell applicants about, but I’m not sure how or when to bring it up. On the one hand, this could be a difficult work environment for anyone who’s in recovery from alcoholism, so I want to give enough information to let anyone in recovery self-select out if that’s what they need to do; on the other hand, I would really rather not hire someone who thinks drinking at work is a great perk, so I don’t want to put too much emphasis on it. Do you have any suggestions for what to tell applicants about this and at what point in the hiring process I should bring it up? I don’t want to ask anyone their history with alcohol, just give them the information they need to make a good decision–whether that’s to self-select out or plan to request some form of accommodations.

We’re also a dog-friendly office and I have similar concerns there, but I can probably use a similar approach to warn applicants about that.

(My main complaint about the occasional drinking and about having dogs in the office is that I think it must needlessly weed out some good candidates. But neither the dogs nor the drinking are anything I have the standing to change, so I usually just enjoy the cute dogs and try not to worry about it.)

What you described doesn’t sound especially unusual to me! If it’s really mostly champagne on special occasions and some wine in the gift exchange, I don’t know that you need to specifically flag it, and I’d worry about making it sound like more of a thing than it is.

But if it is indeed a big part of the culture, then at whatever point in the interview you’re talking about the work environment, you could say it this way: “Like most companies, there are some aspects of our culture that some people enjoy but won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, so I like to tell people about them up-front. One is that we’re dog-friendly, meaning (fill in with specifics about what that means at your company). Another is that we’ve got beer in the fridge that some people will drink after work, you’ll often see alcohol on special occasions, and (insert another example of the culture here).” If accurate, I’d also add, “To be clear, I’ve never seen anyone be irresponsible about it and that wouldn’t fly here, but I know it’s not for everyone so I want to be up-front about it.”

3. I’ve been invited to fly in for an interview without knowing what the job is

I’ve been job hunting for a few months now with not much to show for it. One difficulty is that I’m trying to relocate to a new state and there’s a huge pool of local qualified candidates. So I was very excited when I was contacted for a phone screen with the recruiter.

The first call was mainly to determine if I was basically qualified and which position I was more interested in (I had applied to two postings but expressed that I was more enthusiastic about one than the other).

Next, I had a call with the department head. This was apparently to determine what role I would be best suited for, which confused me since I applied to a specific job. When I asked about it, she made it seem like I wasn’t qualified for what I applied for but that they had something that would be a good fit. We talked more about the company in general and she said she’d refer me to the hiring manager she had in mind for another phone interview.

The next week I got an email asking when I can come for an on-site interview. When I explained that the plan was for another phone screen to learn more about the job they were considering me for, I was told they didn’t have a job description yet but they wanted to schedule me to come up there anyway for a panel interview.

It feels weird to do a panel interview for a position I know almost nothing about. I don’t even have a job title to go off of. Is it normal to screen candidates this way? Can I push back on this at all? Since I’d have to take time off work and fly there, I’d rather not waste my time if it turns out it’s not something I’d be interested in anyway.

Do they realize you’d be flying in? If so, it’s pretty weird that they haven’t told you more about the job they have in mind, but you can definitely ask. Say something like this: “Since I’ll need to fly in from (city), can you tell me a bit more about the job you have in mind? I’m very interested in the work you do but before making flight arrangements would want to learn a bit more about what job you’d be considering me for.”

4. Can I wear headphones as a brand-new employee?

Next week I’m starting in a new position that I am so, so excited for.

I’ve been listening to music via bulky headphones to help me focus. I don’t mean just to drown out distracting noises — it drowns out my own head’s chatter, too. I always keep one ear uncovered and I’m quick to pull them off when someone needs to talk to me. But I still feel like it’s gonna look bad if I’m wearing them as a brand-new employee. Thoughts?

I wouldn’t wear them on your first day at least. It might be fine to wear them later that first week, but wait to get a better feel for the culture first. (And if no one else is wearing headphones, I’d hold off a bit longer than that too.)

There’s no real logical reason for this. It’s just about optics — but those matter, especially when you’re new and people don’t know you yet.

5. Why do we list the geographic locations of jobs on a resume?

When listing past jobs on resumes/LinkedIn, why is it convention to include the geographic location of each job? I understand an employer wanting to know where you are currently (to determine if you’re local or not), but how does location matter for all the past positions? Someone may commute from another state or work remotely, and in this day and age the location for any company can be found with a quick Google search.

You list the city and state of each employer because helps verify that they actually exist. That doesn’t matter so much when the company is widely known or when all your past employers are local to the area you’re applying in, but otherwise it maters. If you just write that you worked at “Ernie’s Diner,” there might be 35 Ernie’s Diners online and the person reading your resume will have no idea which one you worked for or whether you made it up entirely. Locations are context and signal “this is real and verifiable.”

{ 866 comments… read them below }

  1. Leela*

    OP #1 Oh noooooo. Just a word of advice; you are WIDELY opening yourself up to a lawsuit if this person thinks they’re being discriminated against due to ethnicity and they can show a lawyer that they were forced to change their name at work for you in addition to anything else (and if this is a business where people in decision-making positions are questioning asking her to use a nickname for their own convenience, I have doubts that proper workplace norms are in place when it comes to minority workers) that they could prove.

    That’s without getting in to the fact that it’s pro oppression of minorities no matter what your reasoning behind it is. You can’t ask minorities to be as white as possible for your convenience and only “be ethnic” on their own time and adopt what you think is normal but is actually white/majority otherwise

    1. Thornus*

      Assuming this is an American company with 15 or more employees, it’s also completely impermissible to justify any sort of discrimination like that based on customer preference. Customer preference is very much not a bona fide occupational qualification.

      1. Kendra*

        Also, you’re basically assuming your customers are racists. What about people who specifically want to shop from a diverse company, or who belong to this employee’s ethnic group and might feel more comfortable with a company that lets her be herself?

            1. Allypopx*

              Unfortunately, it’s quite a prevalent problem. I know a lot of my friends with “ethnic” names (read: non-anglo) have been asked to do this by employers. Most don’t even have the sense to ask if it’s legal.

              1. Quill*

                I guess I’ve just been in pretty diverse or just common sense inclusive workplaces since leaving college, because while I’ve seen a lot of wild stabs in the dark at pronouncing people’s names, I sort of figured this happened rarely enough that we wouldn’t have it once yearly in every american election cycle.

              2. Beaded Librarian*

                I am white and have a name that could read as ethic and probably does to many people according to google searches I’ve done but have never been asked to go by a nickname. I’m pretty sure it’s only because I am visably white as I’ve had it mangled or people discretely asking if I ever use a nickname without insisting on it.

                1. Meepmeep*

                  Yup. I have a very Russian first and last name, and the last name is especially hard for Americans to get their head around. It’s basically as “ethnic” as it gets. I’ve never had any sort of request like that. People somehow manage to get my name more or less right, or at least give it a good solid try.

                2. Blarg*

                  I have an “ethnic” name that people don’t know the roots of. I once had a boss tell me that when she called me out of the waiting room for my interview she was “surprised to see a white girl.” I didn’t know what to do with that information, especially because while I have all the white privilege in the world, my family is not all “white.”

                  Of course this was at a work place where a Latina colleague was told, “it’s a shame to look like you do and not speak Spanish” by a manager.

                  All at a progressive reproductive rights non-profit every American has heard of…

              3. Anax*

                Yep. Relatedly – though clearly not the same! – a lot of folks refuse to use trans folks’ preferred names, and will try to find out and use their birth name instead. Even if it’s no longer their legal name, and hasn’t been used in years.

                (No need to ask how I know THAT one. It’s gotten to the point where I hide my ID cards in mixed company – not because my birth name bothers me, but because people will try to weaponize it.)

                People feel weirdly entitled to other people’s names!

                1. Anax*

                  Oh… and also: some folks treat preferred names like they’re up for debate. Like, “Your name is what? Oh, that doesn’t suit you. How about X?”

                  Like… y’all. I may have picked it, but it’s my real name. Not a costume I’m wearing for fun.

                2. Ego Chamber*

                  Using any name for a person other than the one they said is theirs is a display of power and control, and deadnaming people is especially rude. I’m sorry you have to deal with that.

                3. AnonEMoose*

                  I’m so sorry you have to deal with this. I totally agree with you on the weird entitlement some people have when it comes to others’ names.

                  If you’ve seen my posts below, you know that my first name has a lot of associated nicknames, and I loathe every single one of them. When I was younger, it wasn’t uncommon for me to run into people who insisted that the full version of my name was “so formal” and that I must use one of the nicknames and just wasn’t telling them. Or they’d try to say the “oh, I’ll just call you X” or something similar.

                  Some would get incredibly offended when I politely insisted that no, I really go by Full First Name, and that’s what you should call me. I’d get called unfriendly, or they’d get condescending about it and insist that really, I was making a big deal out of nothing.

                  It really does feel like a power/control thing. I always do my best to use the names people say they want to be called. I may stumble occasionally with pronunciation, or with trans people who have just recently transitioned, but I do my best to get it right.

        1. Edwina*

          Yes, exactly! I’m a screenwriter, and my agent had an assistant named Jihad. Talk about a controversial name. What I thought, exactly was: how great that my agent is so inclusive and non discriminatory. He went UP in my estimation.

          And yes, as Kendra says–why is OP assuming all their customers are white, and all their customers are bigots? Why is LW assuming a name that isn’t a traditional white American name is somehow a negative? Even if her customers are an unusual bunch of uniquely smallminded residents of Bigotville All-White Gated Community, USA, this is her chance to fix that.

          LW, I hope you examine your own views of the rest of the world–there are a whole lot of folks out there who are just like you and me, and happen to belong to different ethnicities, races, and religions.

          1. DarnTheMan*

            One of my best friends has a cousin named Isis; when pressed about it by some people at her work (which nooo), she told them “I had it first” and apparently that was enough to cut off any further questions.

              1. DarnTheMan*

                Funnily enough that’s who she’s named for but I don’t fault her for not wanting to get into a lengthy explanation of how a terrorist group co-opted the name of an Ehyptian goddess.

          2. Forrest*

            Years ago, there was an utterly wonderful segment on the radio about a new outsourced tutoring system where tutors in India were being connected with UK students. The programme mentioned that a lot of the Indian tutors adopted English names to make it easier. Then they played a clip, “Here is a tutor, who goes by the name of “Michael”, working with Ahmed, a student in North London.”

            1. Kendra*

              Okay, this seriously made me laugh out loud. That’s such a fantastic example of how ridiculous this is!

            2. TardyTardis*

              Some of those nice gentlemen call me at home claiming to be from Microsoft, I recognize them!

          3. So Not The Boss Of Me*

            The Best Buy in my town hired a tech- savvy, hijab-wearing woman, among other diverse folks. She was friendly and professional. One day I was talking to a manager about something else and I mentioned being happy to see the diverse work force, and especially that this woman was accepted and accommodated (the uniform was added to a little for her modesty).
            The manager looked around as though mildly confused and said, “she does a good job. We have great employees.”
            There was just a touch of why would that even be a thing to praise me for, I just hire good people, while still acknowledging that he knows it is a thing, sigh.
            It was the perfect response because yeah, why is it STILL A THING?

        2. Roscoe*

          Its very possible OP knows exactly who their customers are, and that some of them very well may be racists. In this day and age in the US, lets not act like its so shocking.

          I’m a black man, but my name is pretty ethnically neutral (Which is a weird thing to type out) A couple of jobs ago, I was working at a company that specialized in non profits. This was right around the time Trump was going through the election. Some of the orgs that I’d talk to were VERY conservative. I absolutely took my picture off of my email because of it. I couldn’t just decide I didn’t want to work with those groups, but since I was on comission, I absolutely wasn’t going to handicap myself either. Now, I agree it would be very different if my company MADE me do this, but lets not act like there may not be a logical reason.

          While I think its a bad idea to ask this, I’m also going to give OP the benefit of the doubt that she is doing it to help this new employee be in the best place to succeed.

          1. Shadowbelle*

            “Its very possible OP knows exactly who their customers are, and that some of them very well may be racists.”
            But the OP very specifically says “potential prejudice”, not “we’ve encountered signs of prejudice from our customers in the past”.

            1. BluntBunny*

              To be honest I wouldn’t ever have my photo in an email signature not because I am a black women in STEM but because I haven’t ever seen it. We only see people’s picture on internal emails from because they have added it in skype and outlook but that is unlikely to be seen externally I never have seen a photo come up for someone dialling in from an external organisation. But maybe that is a cultural thing I work in the UK. I have an unique name that isn’t common to any race or country/culture, however the suffix is very common so it’s is easy to spell and say despite people initially calling me by a more familiar female name to them I absolutely correct them. If the employee wanted to go by a different preferred name they would have already indicated that when they introduced themselves or would be in email signature Eg Proper name (preferred name). Also most emails are automatically set up as first name last name@company.com so they will have to type out the real name anyway.

          2. Jadelyn*

            “Its very possible OP knows exactly who their customers are, and that some of them very well may be racists. In this day and age in the US, lets not act like its so shocking.”

            It’s not that it’s shocking, it’s that that is something you fight against, not something you preemptively enable by trying to make your nonwhite employee “sound” more white. If the employee decides, as you did, to make that strategic decision in order to be more successful with her clients, that’s up to her – but trying to push her to do it is absolutely unacceptable.

            1. Wendy Darling*

              Also it’s shocking in that “I’m not surprised I’m just disgusted” way that many things are “shocking” lately.

            2. Fikly*

              It’s something you fight against if you are privliged enough to be in a position to be able to do so without harming yourself.

              1. AnnaBananna*

                Amen. I truly look forward to the day when we won’t get any racist or homophobic letters like this. I just….it’s 2020, you know?

            3. DarnTheMan*

              Also if the customers really are that bad, if the position at all involves facetime with potential clients, the clients will likely have an issue with her regardless of if she calls herself Salma or Sally.

          3. Avasarala*

            I don’t blame any vulnerable person doing what they deem is best for their own safety… but I certainly wouldn’t encourage a company to suggest this to their employee. Not when the company is in a position to support them instead of bow to the racist clients.

      2. Avasarala*

        OP, taking your letter as charitably as possible, her name is not the issue. By asking her to change her “ethnic” name (aside: all names are ethnic), you’re communicating to her that her ethnicity is the problem, not the racism she faces. By trying to avoid her experiencing prejudice from clients, you ensure she experiences it from her company.

        Instead, you need to support her if she faces prejudice from clients. Any harassment will not be tolerated. Microaggressions and subtle remarks will be coldly shut down by all your employees. Her manager will back her up. Support your employee for who she is instead of forcing her to pretend to be white.

        If your client base can learn to pronounce and spell “Tchaikovsky” and “Xi Jinping” and “Lupita Nyong’o” and “Charlize Theron”, they can learn your employee’s name.

        1. Interrodroid3000*

          +1

          My name has 3 syllables, all to which are common in the English language, and yet I have been told time and again that my name is “too hard to pronounce” just because it is not a common name in the US or the UK. I’m sure that each person who has said that to me thinks of themselves as not-racist, but they are still sending the message that my name (and, by extension, I as a person) am not deserving of the extra 3 minutes it would take to learn my name properly.

          I will add that I work as a tour guide, so I introduce myself to up to 100 people ever day, both native English speakers and people for whom English is a second or third language, and the vast majority of people make an effort to pronounce my name properly.

          1. yala*

            I’m reminded of the video from ProzDVoices about trying to get people to pronounce his name (SungWon) correctly. Literally two words native English-speakers use all the time, but somehow in the context of a name….poof.

          2. Ophelia*

            Exactly. I’m a white lady with an “ethnic” name (it’s of Welsh origin), and let’s be real – my name is probably objectively harder to pronounce than whatever LW’s employee’s name is, but I’ve never once had someone suggest I change or shorten it. (I personally choose to use a nickname a lot of the time, but that’s at my OWN direction, not my employer’s).

            1. D'Arcy*

              My last name genuinely *is* hard for English-only speakers to pronounce *correctly* because it uses phonemes not present in English, but I’m not going to *change my name* over that.

            2. Parenthetically*

              Yep, Little Brackets #1 has a very unusual and “ethnic” (think: Scandinavian/Northern European) name that I similarly guarantee is WAY harder to pronounce than Sanjaya or Uzoamaka or whatever. I think two people in his life have asked about nicknames.

            3. Ubiquitous Moose*

              *raises hand* another white lady here with a Welsh (and therefore “difficult”) name. And I have Irish friends with Irish names. Can definitely say that while my name isn’t that difficult, it’s still probably more difficult than the name OP1 is talking about and the Irish names 100% are.
              I have never had anyone tell me to change my name*, but I have had people assume my sex and ethnicity because it’s not a “normal” name. Sex assumptions I don’t mind because they’re usually not done maliciously and have no real impact. Ethnicity/race assumptions 9/10 times have xenophobic and racist undertones and are a hint that I don’t want to associate with someone more than necessary.

              *only had people suggest I change my name when I’ve lamented (in a small college class where the topic was relevant) that I’m sure my resume’s been passed over because of my name and the suggestions were to use my first initial or my middle name…neither of which are “me”

            4. IV*

              This right here. I’m of European ancestry and look as Anglo as can be. I also have a three syllable name with four vowels that’s easy to mispronounce and even harder to spell. Guess what, no one has ever — in my 48 years of life or 30 years of career — asked me to change it to be easier.

              This isn’t about easy, this is about race plain and simple.

            5. WomanFromItaly*

              My favorite women’s name is Arianrhod. When I tell people this the universal response is “What the —?! How on earth do you say/spell it?” For boys one of my favorite names is Rhydian. Welsh names are awesome.

              1. Emily K*

                l’ve always especially liked the name Siobhan (for the non-Gaels, this is the Chavon/Shavon to Joaquin’s Wakeen).

          3. Dust Bunny*

            I get this all the time. My name is an existing name (that is, my parents didn’t create it) and of Classical origin, but obscure and could easily be interpreted as “ethnic” (for the record I’m a white American with a slight but very-American regional accent). Think “Persephone”. I use the spelling that is closest to the phonetic pronunciation but it’s still not necessarily intuitive. Our office uses firstname.lastname@employer.org emails but I asked that mine be flastname@employer.org because so many clients had trouble spelling it.

            However, my employer has never suggested I use a nickname, and on at least one occasion I heard our executive director correct a client who flubbed my name and then tried to be dismissive of it.

          4. CommanderBanana*

            Same. I have a not-all-that-unusual (not popular, but not really obscure) name but with a slightly different pronunciation than standard, but it’s still phonetic, and some people just CANNOT seem to get it. What baffles me is when I pronounce it for them and they repeat back a much more complication version – think me saying AH-na and them going Alejandra?

            Baffling.

            1. LurkingAlong*

              I honestly don’t understand why people do this! It happens to me ALL the time. My name is Sara, literally one of the easiest names to pronounce. But when some people see me (I’m brown) or see my last name (“ethnic”) they decide to change the pronunciation of Sara. Human behavior is truly baffling sometimes.

              1. Notkatrina*

                I know two ways to pronounce Sara, so I’m not sure it is literally the easiest name to pronounce

                I get fed up because I have a Scottish name which very few people in England seem to be able to pronounce. While there has never been a suggestion I change it, it has de facto been changed to two pronunciations most of my colleagues and clients assume apply and I rarely hear my correct name.

          5. Richard Hershberger*

            My user name is my real name. People have trouble all the time with my last name. There is nothing even remotely difficult about it, except that it is three syllables and a lot of people are terrible at reading.

          6. LunaLena*

            This reminds me of a news story I came across during the 2016 election, in which someone in Texas (I think she was a school administrator of some kind?) said that all Asian people should adopt English names, since they’re much easier to remember and pronounce. Apparently one’s identity is less important than a small inconvenience that could be easily overcome with a bit of effort.

            1. LabTechNoMore*

              Agreed! (Or, disagreed, since it was tongue-in-cheek? Heh) It reminds me of how people in college would comment derisively on international students who went by English nicknames, claiming they found the Anglophile name/non-white juxtaposition jarring.

              Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Echoing what people upthread said, that it’s not the names they have a problem with.

        2. Edwina*

          Yes, exactly! I’m a screenwriter, and my agent had an assistant named Jihad. Talk about a controversial name. What I thought, exactly was: how great that my agent is so inclusive and non discriminatory. He went UP in my estimation.

          And yes, as Kendra says–why is the LW assuming all their customers are white, and all their customers are bigots? Why is LW assuming a name that isn’t a traditional white American name is somehow a negative? Even if her customers are an unusual bunch of uniquely smallminded residents of Bigotville All-White Gated Community, USA, this is her chance to fix that.

          LW, I hope you examine your own views of the rest of the world–there are a whole lot of folks out there who are just like you and me, and happen to belong to different ethnicities, races, and religions.

        3. Edwina*

          Not to mention “algebra,” “algorithm,” “feng shui,” “tai chi,” “khaki,” “tamale,” “chipotle,” and “hors d’oeuvres”

          1. Doc in a Box*

            Love these! I’d add “espresso,” except that people seem to have a genuine problem pronouncing that one!

            (Also, if these clients think Salma — as in Salma Hayek? — is hard to pronounce, I’m guessing they don’t practice tai chi or feng shui or any other “weird Asian things.”)

            1. FrenchCusser*

              And in what way is Sally short for Salma? Same number of letters, same number of syllables.

              1. Quill*

                I’ve seen people (wrongly) claim that Bethany is short for Elizabeth because they can both be shortened to Beth… so I’m not actually surprised.

                (I also have a first name that people constantly assume is short for something. It’s not. It’s distantly releated to the name they think it’s short for.)

                1. Richard Hershberger*

                  The kernel of truth that has been horribly mangled is that it is the same “beth” in both. This makes perfect sense in ancient Hebrew.

                2. Kate*

                  Anonnnnn, there is a DJ on a radio station in DC named Elizabethany. As far as I can tell, it’s her real name.

                3. Emily K*

                  Nicknames are often totally out of left field with regard to the full name, though – which is not to say that excuses forcing a nickname on someone, but there’s no great explanation for why Peggy is short for Margaret, or why the 4 letter name John results in the 4 letter nickname Jack. (Also, some men’s names can apparently be abbreviated in writing in ways that aren’t done in speech, a la “Jos. A. Banks” clothing stores.)

                4. Richard Hershberger*

                  @Spencer Hastings: Now I will have to check. Sadly, the book for that is not with me at the moment.

                5. Richard Hershberger*

                  @Emily K: Various nickname patterns could get combined. One was to shorten the full name. Another was to make a rhyming nickname. A third was, directly contrary to the first, to tack a suffix onto the name.

                  Putting these together, Margaret sometimes got shorted to Meg, which rhymes with Peg, which got the -y suffix added, resulting in Peggy.

                  As for getting Jack from John, the likely route is via the now-obsolete diminutive suffix -kin. Young John might be familiarly known as Jankin. This introduced the /k/ sound, which lasted after many of the other sounds had dropped away.

                6. Emily K*

                  Richard, I never knew English used to have a diminutive (well, other than y/ie if you want to count those)! Thanks for sharing.

            2. Observer*

              Eh. The OP is not even pretending that the name is hard to pronounce. It’s just “ethnic” and different and that’s HARD for people who only have one brain cell.

              OP, that’s snarky, but seriously if your examples are even CLOSE to the actual names, your claim of it being easier is total nonsense. It’s a clear sign that it’s not just you client base that is bigoted, but YOU are. Because while some names are genuinely difficult for people to pronounce, “Salma” doesn’t come close to qualifying. In fact, in terms of pronoucability (if that’s a word), it’ using phoneme patterns that are so standard in English that it could just as easily be an English name as not.

              So either you know it’s not harder but you simply have a problem with the fact that the name is “ethnic” or that fact so obscures your sense that it’s “harder” because you find anything “ethnic” to be “hard”.

            1. Tina*

              I didn’t grow up in a country where chipotle peppers were remotely common or easy to come by, so never having heard it said, I cheerfully went around America for over a month making the fast-food chain rhyme with Aristotle before anyone corrected me.

        4. Cool beans*

          My surname is ‘ethnic’ and my first name is white af. You’d be surprised how many people act like they don’t know how to pronounce my ‘non-ethnic’ first name when they see it in combination with my surname.

          1. lemon*

            Both my first name and surname are incredibly common in the US, and not at all difficult to pronounce or spell. But, sometimes when people meet me in person, they will sound out my name phonetically and ask if they’re saying it correctly, assuming that it must be “exotic” because I’m a visible person of color. Or they start using a more ethnic version of my name in written correspondence. Think “Nicolette” or “Nikol” for “Nicole” or “Margarite” for “Margaret.”

            1. Cool beans*

              Haha, once in class a sub was taking roll, got to my name, and said out loud: ‘I’m not even going to try.’

              I’d still never ever change it and i’d resent any boss who asked me to do so.

          2. LurkingAlong*

            OMG, it’s the same with me. I just commented on that above. It is mind boggling! Sometimes I don’t even tell them my last name but because I’m brown they decide to mispronounce my first name.

        5. Librarian of SHIELD*

          As Hasan Minhaj says, “If they can pronounce Timothée Chalamet, they can pronounce “Hasan Minhaj.”

          1. DarnTheMan*

            Or as Uzo Aduba’s mother said ““If they can learn to say Tchaikovsky and Michelangelo and Dostoyevsky, they can learn to say Uzoamaka.”

          2. Avasarala*

            I can pronounce Hasan Minhaj but not Timothee Chalament! But if someone said it aloud I’d learn. Wow, not that hard after all, OP!

        6. Jadelyn*

          Thank you for calling out the “all names are ethnic” bit – my eyes about rolled out of my head when I read that. It’s right up there with “urban” as a euphemism for black.

          Honestly, and I hate to say this because I appreciate that at least OP came and asked first, but it feels like OP may themselves have a lot of unexamined prejudice they need to work through, if they think it’s reasonable to refer to someone’s name as “ethnic” and that “change your “ethnic” name to sound more white” is a reasonable thing to say to anyone, ever, for any reason.

          1. whingedrinking*

            It’s like when people say “Oh, they have an accent”. Everyone has an accent! Wherever you’re from, whatever you think of as the “normal” way to speak is your accent and it’s just as strange to someone from another country as theirs is to you.

          2. Avasarala*

            Yes, oh my goodness. I live in an area that would be considered “ethnic” in America and the local language has adopted the term… to refer to other countries… basically white America’s racist categorizations have been adopted by “ethnics” themselves to refer to those what, “more” ethnic?? It’s gross and this word needs to be stamped out except in academic contexts.

        7. emmelemm*

          Bears repeating: all names are ethnic.

          My partner’s name is Jeff. If you look at that, it’s really such an odd combination of letters to put together, isn’t it? It’s quite weird. But no one bats an eye about someone named Jeff.

          1. Tina*

            I would – I come from English spelling, where we don’t delete letters randomly and pare words down.
            Should be Geoff.
            (I’m joking, if that’s not clear.)

      1. Derjungerludendorff*

        I’m almost tempted to say ask them, just so the employee knows what kind of people her (soon-to-be) employers are.

        But if management is seriously considering changing people’s identities to sound whiter, then she’ll probably find out soon enough.

      2. Alex*

        The only thing that you MIGHT ask is (if she has a very long name) if she has a preferred nickname that she might want to use (for example, one of my colleagues legal name is Rammohan, but he is just “Ram” in all our systems, his email, etc., and another has a “double-first name” of Jan-Konrad, and asked to be called “Janko” where possible – so he is “Janko” in everything on our IT systems, his business card, etc. ) – this might solve the problem without any issues, and if she doesn’t, well as others have said, it is her name. Use it.

        1. WS*

          I have a very long but 100% Anglo name (extremely long if you include my middle names!) Nobody has ever asked me to shorten it in their systems except when I was in Japan. It makes me think that this is considered an okay ask for people who don’t have a name that fits the local majority ethnicity and not even considered for people who do fit.

          1. Julia*

            Before I married a Japanese man, I worked for a conservative Japanese office where everyone was last-name based. When hired, I got asked if I prefer to go by my very long Polish last name or my short and could be Japanese first name. It was not really presented as a choice, so for my entire time there, I had to call everyone by their last names and Mr. or Ms. and got called by my first name in return.
            (To make this worse, while my maiden name WAS hard to pronounce, Japanese syllables ARE the pronounciation, so as long as I wrote it in the closest katakana approximation, “but we can’t pronounce it!!” was a BS excuse.)

            1. Julia*

              After I took my husband’s name (sorry, forgot to mention the reason why I wrote about him) I took his name and people still refused to use my very easy Japanese last name because it was “weird” and “didn’t match my face”.

              1. Parenthetically*

                “refused to use my very easy Japanese last name”

                I would be gobsmacked but somehow I’m also completely not surprised.

              2. Artemesia*

                A caucasian friend of mine is married to a man of Chinese descent and took his name; she has the same problem.

                1. whingedrinking*

                  A friend of mine has the inverse problem where her mother is Japanese-Canadian and her father is white, and they gave her an English first name to go with her father’s Scottish surname. When we were in high school she was constantly explaining to substitute teachers that yes, Jane MacDonald really is her real name, whether or not she matched their mental image of it.
                  * Not that, but pretty close.

                2. Julia*

                  @whingedrinking: That’s even worse. At least I had a choice to take my husband’s name and somewhat of a choice to move here with him, but your friend was BORN into a country and name and people act like she doesn’t belong? When will this BS ever end?

          2. NotAnotherManager!*

            I have a very long 100% Anglo name, and people shorten it all the time, including in our IT systems before we had a “preferred name” option and HR insisted that everyone’s legal first name be used. There is absolutely nothing difficult about my name, other than its length, and people tell me (not ask me) they’re going to call me [nickname] fairly regularly.

            1. Helena*

              My husband has the opposite issue – his name is Scandinavian, and happens to be similar to a childish short version of a standard British name (think Timo for Timothy). He introduces himself as Timo and immediately gets his name lengthened to Timothy, which is not his name. At best they will call him Tim, which he doesn’t use (or like). It takes a huge amount of effort to get people to use Timo, they seem to have decided it is too babyish for him.

              1. doreen*

                And it’s even worse when ( as has happened to my husband) someone just decides a grown man’s actual name can’t be Timmy and they use “Timothy” for paychecks , insurance enrollments etc.

                1. NotAnotherManager!*

                  One of the most catch-22-level absurd conversations involved a former employer’s payroll department and my checks.

                  Their system didn’t accommodate my name, and I told them I didn’t care if they shortened it at long as they had my SSN on file for the W-2/taxes and the checks cleared. I was told that wasn’t good enough, and my “full, legal first name” had to be on the checks. I told them my full, legal first name was what they were telling me could not be on the checks because of the system limitation. They told me it had to match my Social Security card, which, again, has my full, legal, “non-compliant” first name. That didn’t work for them. I told them to put whatever they felt was best on the checks, and I’d let them know if I had problems.

                  By the end of the call, I truly wondered if the payroll manager was insinuating I needed to change my name to something their computer could handle.

                2. Door Guy*

                  I have a cousin who had an issue similar. When she was born, there was a family name that they wanted to use and honor, but as it was the grandmother’s name and an aunt’s name, they named their daughter a nickname version (Think Katrina to Trini, but much less common, still very easy to pronounce though), so her legal first name is “Trini”. They also had one of the more common last names (Like Jones). Issues all through school with people asking what her actual name was not her nickname, issues with some of her employers, etc.

                  Then she got married to a 2nd generation immigrant from SE Asia, who while his legal name was very western (ie: Thomas or James) he still had his family name, which is 13 letters long. Now, instead of people trying to adjust her name to a more “proper” version, they butcher it trying to make it “ethnic”.

          3. LunaLena*

            To be fair, that might have to do with the linguistic differences as well as cultural dissonance. I don’t know much about Japanese, but I do know that it’s similar to Korean in that you can’t really have a double consonant (like the “cl” in “clear”) or end on a consonant (like the “t” in “bent”). This means that extra vowels get inserted into their native pronunciations to compensate. A relatively simple name like Richard, for example, would be pronounced “Ree-cha-reu-deu” in Korean. Even “Rick” would gain an extra syllable as “ree-keu.” This is extremely odd to Koreans, since almost all Korean names have only two syllables – one syllable names exist but are relatively uncommon; anything more than two would mean you’re probably a foreigner. The only time I remember seeing a four syllable name in Korea was an extremely rare case of a family name that was two syllables instead of one. Japanese is a little different in that they do have more variation in polysyllabic names, but you have to remember that words like “kuro” or “kami” are actually written as one symbol, so the names are a lot shorter in Japanese than in English.

            I can easily see this being a problem on old-fashioned forms and documents if you need to fill your name into blocks, one block for each syllable. Writing in blocks rather than lines was fairly common when I lived in Korea in the 1990s, but maybe they’ve updated to lines by now for the sake of simplicity.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              That really doesn’t seem to have any application to the problem that Julia described, though.

            2. Avasarala*

              It’s definitely tricky to transliterate foreign words, but both Japan and Korea are used to loan words from English. Their media is filled with real, in/accurate, and imitation words from Western languages. Yes it would be immediately obvious that “Ree-cha-reu-deu” or “Ri-chā-do” is not Korean or Japanese, but it’s not unpronounceable or brain-melting for locals who are used to Starbucks, McDonalds, and Super Smash Brothers. People living in urban centers are much more familiar with English words now than in the 90s, but unfortunately some people still struggle with “foreign names” but strangely not with “caramel macchiato”…

              1. LunaLena*

                I understand your point, but “caramel macchiato” is not a great example because it’s actually very easy to pronounce in Korean compared to, say, “Theodore.” :)

                Korean and Japanese does borrow a lot from other languages, but they also use shortened forms or hybrids in a lot of cases. The English word “television” is often shortened to “tele-bi,” for example, and the Korean word for “computer illiterate” is “com-maeng,” a hybrid of “computer” and “maeng,” a syllable that generally indicates something silly or ignorant. I wonder if the awkwardness around names on both sides of the Pacific simply comes from the fact that we’re all aware to some degree that it’s part of someone’s identity, and therefore shouldn’t be casually shortened or hybridized like that, so it gives it just that one extra irritating layer of difficulty. Bastardizing a faceless corporation’s name like Starbucks or McDonald’s (seu-tah-buck-seu and maek-do-nar-deu in Korean) for easier pronunciation isn’t the same as mangling the name of the person who’s looking right at you.

                I wouldn’t say it’s brain-melting for the locals to use western names (it’s not like American movies haven’t been prevalent there for decades, after all), but when you’re used to a simple structure of three syllables for someone’s full name, having to adjust to a name that could have multiple polysyllabic words, sounds that don’t exist in your native language so your tongue doesn’t know how to say them, a combination of sounds you’re not used to seeing together (I mean this in a language sense: if I said “I’m a hankook-in,” you probably wouldn’t remember the third word very well, but if I said “I’m a Korean,” you’d remember it easily. That’s because “Korean” is a pattern your brain recognizes, but “hankook-in,” which is the Korean word for Koreans, is not), and trying to be respectful of the other person* on top of all that, can all combine to make it feel like simply saying someone’s name is full of pitfalls. I’m not trying to excuse Asians here, by the way – I think Asians are perfectly capable of learning to say someone’s name properly and should do so – I’m just saying it’s not as easy as saying “you should be familiar with this by now, so it shouldn’t be a problem for you”

                *assuming here that the person in question is someone you actually know and interact with, as opposed to, say, the name of a American movie star who you’ll likely never meet and therefore it’s not a big deal if you don’t say their name right

        2. Green great dragon*

          I’m wondering about this. I ask new hires with a shortenable name what they go by (we have a Jo who is definitely Jo and a Joanne who is equally definitely Joanne) but that’s only ok if it’s clear you’ll accept the answer. Can LW ask in a neutral manner?

          To be clear that is about length not changing ethnicity of the name.

          1. EPLawyer*

            Don’t even ask if they have a nickname. If they have a nickname, they will use it. They will let you know.

            I have a VERY english name, I introduce myself by the full thing. Inevitable I get “do you go by x, or y.” To which I reply “I prefer the whole thing” I then get shocked looks.

            OP, a white name is not “friendlier.” It’s NOT THE PERSON’S NAME. So it is actually not friendly. What does it say about your company that you think your clients are possibly racist and possibly comfortable being overtly racist to your employees? Are these the kind of customers you want? If they are, then perhaps do this person a favor and let her know she should get a job elsewhere.

            1. Nyltiak*

              I think there are ways to ask if someone uses a nickname, and all people will tell you. I had a coworker who went by her middle name, but didn’t want to make things awkward by telling us that she preferred her middle name, so for a full year we called her by her first name. Until her husband dropped by because she’d forgotten her phone at home and needed it later and asked our secretary to give it to her, and after our secretary figured out who he meant, got her to admit she preferred her middle name. Which we all switched to immediately. I’ve also had students wait a half a semester before telling me, even though I always preface with “please tell me if I’m mispronouncing your name or you prefer a different name” when I go over roll the first day. Our university now has a way for students to indicate their preferred names (and pronouns!), which prints with the class list, but some students don’t know or don’t bother with it.

              So yes, if you ask in a neutral “please let us know if you prefer a nickname for business cards, employee directory info, etc”, I think it’s fine to ask.

              1. Observer*

                Of course, the key to that is that you ask EVERYONE and that you ACCEPT THE ANSWER from EVERYONE.

                No asking only people with some “kind” of name, or “shocked looks” when people say “No, this is what I go by.”

                1. annony*

                  Yep. We have a space in the new hire paperwork that asks what name you prefer to go by if different than your legal name. It is a form everyone fills out, not only people with long or foreign names so it really isn’t an issue.

                2. Matilda Jefferies*

                  Exactly, and this should be standard. Just ask everybody, and use the name they prefer. On my team, I have the following:

                  Joseph – goes by Joe – email address is “Joe”
                  Michael – goes by Mike – email address is “Michael (Mike)”
                  Matthew – goes by Matt – email address is “Matthew,” and apparently IT “can’t change it???”

                  And my name is Jennifer Matilda, but I’ve always gone by Matilda, and my email address is “Matilda.” It’s not that complicated – or at least, it shouldn’t be!

                3. CB*

                  Yes! Building on that, recognizing that people might have different preferred names depending on the context. Written out on business cards, email signatures, external documents that have my name on them, event invitations where I’m the RSVP contact, etc, I prefer my full first name (Christopher). In conversation and socially, I go by Chris, and in routine email conversations with my team we all use initials, so I’m CB.

                  Did it take my team and department a few weeks to get it right? Yes. Do I have to correct documents sometimes before they go to print? Yes. But, it’s important that our names remain one of the few things in the workplace that we actually have control over.

              2. Old Cynic*

                My husband affectionately calls me “Beau”. (Not even close to me given name.) One of my colleagues heard him and thought it was my preferred nickname and it spread like wildfire within a day. Took a while to get everyone back on track.

              3. Artemesia*

                The time to do that is at hire — do you have a preferred name can be for everyone. As a kid I used a nickname based on my name. I drew a bright line on that when I left grad school and really don’t like using the nickname. So when I am asked preferred name and people are saying ‘Bob’ or ‘Jan’ or ‘Chip’ I just say ‘I use fullfirstname’. And that is it. There should of course not be a particular push on the person with the ethnic name — it ought to be on the form for onboarding or whatever.

                1. whingedrinking*

                  I was at a play once where a male character referred to a female character by a nickname that she clearly didn’t go by, and her response was a withering, “I do so love it when men decide to name me”. I nearly stood up and cheered.

                2. DarnTheMan*

                  @whingedrinking I used to do something similar in high school; I have a very traditional English first name and prefer to only go by one of the (many, many) nickname variants but for a while had people insist on calling me several other nicknames. Usually whenever they did, I’d conveniently not hear them and then when they asked me why I didn’t respond, I’d feign ignorance and go “Oh were you calling me? That’s not my name so I thought you were talking to someone else.”

              4. Akcipitrokulo*

                I use the shortened version of my name. It’s dead easy – when I meet someone, I introduce myself by my preferred, short version.

                One manager insisted on calling me by my full name…

                Either way, it’s disrespectful. Just introduce yourself to new colleague with “Hi, I’m Mike, good to meet you!” and they will almost always reply with “Hi, I’m (preferred name).”

                Then you just use it. Not hard!

            2. Quickbeam*

              I have a long hyphenated name which I use 100% of the time. I have resisted all efforts by employers to shorten it or “pick one”. Its really important to stand up for your desired name; for me it is an integrity issue.

              1. Elitist Semicolon*

                I had an undergraduate internship in an office in a foreign government and, when I introduced myself on the first day, the administrator said, “That’s too long,” then informed me of what they’d be calling me. I informed them right back that I did not answer to that name (think “Don” for “Donnatella”) and that they would be calling me by my actual name. It pretty much set the tone for the rest of the internship.

                1. SusanIvanova*

                  I’ve got a double first name. If you cut it off at the first space my name-recognition subroutine won’t even ping. So many substitute teachers marked me absent because of that.

            3. AnonEMoose*

              I feel your pain. I also have a very traditional first name, that has a lot…A LOT of shortened versions/potential nicknames attached. And I do not want to be called ANY of them (I loathe some less than others, but they all set my teeth on edge to some degree).

              It doesn’t happen so much now that I’m no longer 20-something, but it used to happen that I’d introduce myself as “Full First Name,” and the person would come back with “Hi, Nickname” or “I’ll just call you Nickname.” And because I absolutely don’t want to be called anything but Full First Name, that would put me in the position of having to say, “Actually, I prefer/go by Full First Name.”

              Some people would get SO WEIRD about it. They’d complain that it was “so formal,” or they were “just trying to be friendly” and like I was somehow SO UNREASONABLE for wanting to be called my actual name.

              I didn’t mind when people would ask what I wanted to be called and would actually accept the answer. I think it would be good to make a routine practice of asking all new hires if they have a preferred name and making sure to use it. But, OP 1, DO NOT attempt to make your new employee change her name or use a nickname. Learn to pronounce and use her actual name. Your customers will adjust.

                1. AnonEMoose*

                  The thing that used to blow my mind was the way that people thought it was ok to just…rename me…and then get offended when I objected. And they’d say I was unfriendly or whatever, which actually did have negative consequences for me in the workplace at times.

                  All because…I wanted to be called by my own name, and not something that set my teeth on edge every time someone did it. But some people really seemed to think it was unreasonable of me to not just live with whatever they wanted to call me. Because they just wanted to give me a nickname, because according to them it was so much friendlier that way. Never mind that their insistence on calling me whatever made me feel anything but friendly!

                2. whingedrinking*

                  A colleague once introduced himself to me as Alexander, and a few minutes later I said, “So, Alex, did you grow up here? Sorry, Alexander.” I could see in his expression him going from “urgh, not *another* person calling me Alex” to “oh, okay, it was just a mistake and I don’t have to fight with her on it”.

              1. Gumby*

                My first name has a very obvious shortened form and I frankly don’t care if people choose to use that, but almost no one does. I introduce myself with the full version and sign emails that way, etc. and… people just seem to pick up on it. I’m convinced that there is something about my personality that invites the more formal name or something.

                Also, I have a young family member whose given name is, literally, Betty. Not sure if anyone has tried to lengthen her name yet (she’s still in elementary school).

            4. Mama Bear*

              Agreed. When we do intake we ask them what they want on their badge/email. That is the way we find out if Amanda is a Mandy or Michael is definitely only a Michael, or any other name preference. I do not use a common nickname of my first name and dislike it when people assume.

              OP, if someone with a complicated (to you) name sticks to it, then learn and use their name as-is. It’s basic respect.

          2. Ophelia*

            We just have a space on our HR forms that asks for legal name, and then asks employees to note what they prefer to be called, if different from the above. This then is what shows up on name plates and phone extensions (and it works for everything from general nicknames to people who go by middle names to trans folks who have not legally changed their name, and I’m sure cases I haven’t thought of).

            1. Observer*

              Yup. A standard question for everyone to use as they choose, regardless of what the legal name is, is good. That helps people who WANT to go by something other than their legal name but doesn’t push people for who their legal name IS their name.

            2. Mimi Me*

              That wouldn’t work for me. I go by a shortened version of my name (think Jen / Jennifer) when speaking to someone but prefer my full, legal name when conducting business in writing. I had a name plate at last job that was my full name (at my request) and the person it bothered the most was my boss who kept insisting that verbal and written had to match. She spent the three years I worked there constantly trying to either go by my full name in conversation or force me to use my nickname in written communication.
              FTR: I work in a field where my emails could (and have been) used as legal documentation so keeping my full name written out makes the most sense when signing things at work.

            3. Aerin*

              Our ticketing system auto-populates with people’s names pulled from HR’s files, and we’re supposed to confirm the name with the user first thing. Luckily we can make edits, so if I say, “Is this Gerald?” and he says, “Oh, I go by Jude,” I can go in and update their profile to say “Gerald (Jude)” so the next agent can get it right. (If there’s a mismatch, like their profile in our system has one name but their email has a different one, I’ll default to the email address because that’s the one they would have access to change themselves.)

              Believe me, a hearing person with a complicated name does not need to be told that people have trouble pronouncing it. They know. If *they* have decided they don’t want to deal with it getting mangled, or if they have other reasons for using an anglicized name (since there are a lot of perspectives on the issue in immigrant communities), they will tell you their preferred name without prompting. If their full given name is their preferred name, suggesting they use something you find “more friendly,” is just insulting, full stop.

          3. Observer*

            Well, if the examples the OP gave are similar to the reality, there is no way to ask “neutrally” because there is no real way to “shorten” the name. I mean you could go to “Sal” but that’s a but much, although at least there you could pretend that length is the issue. But, going fro Slam to Sally, which is NOT shorter is not neutral and trying to pretend it is, will make the situation even worse than being up front about it.

          4. iglwif*

            Where I used to work, the HR form for new employees had spots for all the parts of your legal name and also a spot for “preferred name”, which people used for nicknames, short versions of names, whatever. I assume this was done because lots of people use a version of their name on their application materials that isn’t the name they actually go by in daily life (including a middle name, including birth and married surnames, whatever), and because sometimes the name attached to your social insurance number and bank account isn’t the name people call you.

            Since this is something every single new hire fills out, irrespective of name length or ethnicity, it seems like a good way to ask the question without anyone feeling singled out?

          5. Jadelyn*

            Only if you’re asking everyone. If you’re only asking this one employee, they’re going to know it’s not really about having a nickname.

            Our system has a “preferred name” field, which hires fill in themselves along with their legal name fields. We let people pick that for themselves. Most people don’t use it. Some do. But it’s value-neutral as it’s just an option and it’s available for everyone regardless of the length or complexity (or anything else) of their legal name.

        3. Asenath*

          I think it’s always possible to ask what name someone goes by – so many people use nicknames (or avoid common nicknames) or middle names. It’s not possible to ask someone to go by another name entirely. Well, I suppose i might be if you work in one of those places where everyone is assigned a fake name to use when dealing with customer.!

        4. Sam.*

          I generally think confirming what name a person goes by/prefers to be called is polite BUT that should be universal to all hires and a genuinely neutral question, not framed in a way that suggests they should be providing a nickname. OP needs to recognize that asking (or even subtly suggesting) that anyone go by something other than their preferred name is just not ok, even when you don’t have racist motivations, as they clearly do.

          1. Cookie Captain*

            Among the many pre-hire forms, when you accept an offer my office asks you to give your preferred name to set up your email address, signature and business cards. I think it’s nice–people can choose to use shortened names, include middle names or initials, etc.

          2. Rusty Shackelford*

            Yes – you should ask EVERYONE if they have a preferred name/nickname. For all you know, John prefers to go by Jack. Michelle may prefer Mick. Asking everyone what name they want to use is very, very different from asking a few people “you must have a different name we can call you, right?”

        5. Quill*

          I have had several colleagues go by middle name, as well as people who have, for business or study reasons, picked an “English name” that they go by (often people whose first language uses a different script, so no worrying about transliteration, I guess?)

          I’m also the veteran of many, many roll calls during school where substitute teachers (and thankfully no actual teachers) threw a fit about my name or other students. Including one where the sub accused me and the class’ only black girl (I’m white) of playing a prank because she was named ‘rachel’ and I had a ‘made up name’ so we were clearly actually answering to each other’s names to mess up his roll call. Fortunately our principal knew us both by sight and told the sub he was out of his racist gourd.

          1. skunklet*

            I had a former coworker who went by her middle name at work – so instead of Mary Susan, she went by Susan. Her sister was named Mary Diana and the sister went by Diana (their parents were from a European, non Catholic country, ftr). Sometimes, people do have to tell you that they want to be called Susan instead of Mary, b/c for the majority of us in the US, how would we know otherwise?

            1. Artemesia*

              All of my sisters in law are named Mary — the oldest goes by Mary, the others by their middle names. It was very common in large Catholic families back in the day.

              1. Fikly*

                Anyone else reminded of that scene where all the family members are introduced in My Big Fat Greek Wedding and three quarters of them are named Nick?

                1. DarnTheMan*

                  This is my family; half of them are Italian and across three generations there’s four variants of Joe/Joseph within the family.

                2. LaSalleUGirl*

                  This is my best friend’s family. Most of the boys/men are named John, but their middle names are chosen from a list of old family last names (think : John Sinclair, John Beauchamp, John Lewis). Within the family, they are referred to as John MiddleName, or just by MiddleName (since those tend to get used only once every other generation or so). My nephew, who was adopted into the family, chose to change his name and join that tradition but opted for Connor as his middle name, so now he gets (lovingly) teased about the Terminator a lot.

        6. RUKiddingMe*

          “..,this might solve the problem…”

          There is no “problem” regardless of what/how long her name is.

        7. Blackcat*

          Yeah, I’ve known a half dozen Ahbi-s, generally short for something 3+ syllables long, and all self-introduced as Abhi rather than their full name.

          It could be the employee already has a preferred nick name, but you really, really can’t ask people to use their Starbucks name at work.

          1. Jadelyn*

            Their “Starbucks name”, I love it! Because yeah, I just use “Kay” at Starbucks since it’s easier than trying to explain/spell my full name. I’d be pretty irritated if someone outside that context decided they wanted to call me that just because it’s simpler though.

          2. Aerin*

            I remember seeing my choir director in high school with a Starbucks cup, and I asked him, “Who the hell is Andrew?” His response was, “I don’t think the little white baristas can handle Germán.” That was my first exposure to the idea, though as someone whose name is usually pronounced correctly but spelled wrong, I sympathized.

    2. HannahS*

      Yeah. My goodness. As someone with an ethnic name (which isn’t Hannah, that’s just an internet thing), I wonder what exactly you find unfriendly about people who aren’t like you? Because that’s what it is, really. You’re worried that this woman’s name–on its own–will make people uncomfortable talking to her. That’s a huge problem, and it’s not one that is solved by “We’ll just call you Sally!”

      My name has sounds in it that don’t exist in every language and it’s often mispronounced. My policy is that whatever my name sounds like in your accent is fine. But deciding that you can call me something else instead is disgusting. Like Uzo Aduba’s mom said, if you learned to say “Tchaikovsky” you can damn well say Uzomake, Chaim, and Xiao.

      1. MsM*

        Heck, if you can figure out “Sean” and “Shawn” have the same pronunciation most of the time, you can manage whatever Salma’s real name is.

      2. JessaB*

        Thank you for the Uzo comment, I love that speech of hers. It should be absolutely required watching for people in HR and all. It’s in a nutshell the whole issue about ethnic names only seem to be a problem in the US and UK when they’re not white ethnic names.

      3. Dragoning*

        My name is fairly ethnic (e.g. in foreign language classes, it never had a “Translation” like Marie/Maria/Mary/etc.), but it’s “white” ethnic so no one calls it that.

        1. aebhel*

          y e p, same.

          I have a long and unusual name that’s not pronounced the way most American English speakers would sound it out (think, Siobhan–not my name, but a similar thing) and nobody calls it ‘ethnic’ or expects me to change it, beyond the occasional attempt at a nickname.

        2. whingedrinking*

          I had the occasional really annoying teacher who would insist on “no nicknames”, even for people who said it was their legal name and the “full” form was *not their name*. My name actually is a regional diminutive for a common European one (think like Sasha for Alexandra), but fortunately not a lot of people know that, so I never had to deal with someone calling me by something completely else.

      4. Jadelyn*

        Out of curiosity, re accents. I’m white and American, but I studied linguistics in college so my library of possible phonemes is larger than most people’s. I know how to produce all kinds of sounds that don’t naturally occur in English. So when I see or hear someone’s name and it has sounds unusual/not native to English, I pronounce it the way I hear it from the person rather than the anglicized approximation. Is that too “extra” or over the top, since it’s not the anglicized pronunciation you’d expect from a monolingual English speaker?

        1. Triple Threat Diversity Hire*

          Anecdata since I’m only one person, but I appreciate the efforts that people make to say my name back to me in the way that I’ve said it for them. In my personal life, I use all of my accents and emphases. In the workplace, I typically go by an anglicized pronunciation of my name (Think “Lucy” instead of “Lucí”) and introduce myself as such. If I’ve done that, please just say it the way I introduced myself! Some people will “re-ethnicize” my name with a really exotifying feel and it’s uncomfortable.

      5. Richard Hershberger*

        True confession: I, being raised in a classical music family, learned to say “Tchaikovsky” at an early age. Spelling it, on the other hand… I generally look it up to confirm I got it right.

        That being said, were I confronted by a similar Russian name, conveniently spelled out in the Latin alphabet, I would end up with at least a passable pronunciation.

        1. HannahS*

          Well yeah, that’s the point. Americans learn how to pronounce Tchaikovsky and Shakespeare, which are way less obviously phonetic than Oluwatobi. If we expect children to take a stab at Bach, we can expect them to try Chanah.

          1. Gumby*

            I agree, but with the caveat that there are a fair number of names that I might read but not hear pronounced. It was not until the first HP movie came out that I learned how to pronounce Hermione. In my head when I was reading… it didn’t sound anything like the right pronunciation.

            See also: melancholy, pinochle (I was in my 30s when I figured this out!), Siobhan (41 when I met someone with that name and 42 when I made the connection between the written and spoken versions) and a whole host of other words/names.

          2. Spencer Hastings*

            Well, we don’t pronounce Tchaikovsky “properly”. To a Russian, the vowels are wrong.

    3. WoodswomanWrites*

      #1, everyone has an “ethnic name” because everyone has an ethnicity. Your post implies that the employee is non-white and you want to ask them to have a name that would be more acceptable to white people who are unfamiliar with the name.

      While you have a concern about “potential client prejudice,” you would in fact be implementing discrimination yourself. Lots of people have names that are unfamiliar to others, and it would be deeply disrespectful to ask someone to change their name just because some people have harmful stereotypes about people who are different than themselves. Don’t do this.

      1. Meißner Porcelain Teapot*

        This. I mean, aside from the fact that I currently have flames on the side of my face and my first reaction to this letter was to actually yell out loud “oh my god, hell to the no to the what the duck!”–every name is “ethnic” and names can be hard to pronounce no matter what culture they come from. If I had a nickle for every time I mispronounced the last name “Dufresne” just from reading it before I first heard it pronounced, I could buy myself a nice fancy coffee.

        There is just so much (thinly veiled) racism in that letter it makes me sick. And I’m a white as can be gal with a generic white person name.

        1. Archaeopteryx*

          Yeah if you wouldn’t force and Elizabeth to go by Liz (which you obviously should not either) then this isn’t about length of name, it’s just about bias. Learning how to figure out the pronunciation of a word you haven’t seen before is still a part of life as an adult, and your customers will do just fine, especially if your employee introduces herself to them out loud.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        #1, everyone has an “ethnic name” because everyone has an ethnicity.

        Ohhh, that’s a good point. I never thought of it that way, but it does indicate a way of thinking that I used to run into a lot as a new immigrant in the US in the 90s-00s – that there are two groups of people in the US: normal Americans with Anglo names and heritage; and all those other weird foreigners/weird non-white people (who may very well be Nth generation American).

        Sadly, this was almost the mainstream way of thinking when I first came here. But that was 20+ years ago. We can do better now.

        1. Triple Threat Diversity Hire*

          We *can* do better, but a lot of folks still choose not to… I hope that OP takes the advice of the commenters here.

        2. Bryce*

          It’s also interesting how those can shift. My family’s Ashkenazic and my grandpa was not white when he came here, never really got out of it in his own head. My mom wasn’t white growing up but is white now, and I’ve always been white though sometimes it’s been more of an eggshell.

      3. Blackcat*

        So much this.
        Do you want to call my name non-ethnic? My first name/last name combination comes STRAIGHT out of England, think Elizabeth Williams. It is as English as they come. Ergo, it is a super “ethnic” name. That ethnicity just happens to be English.

      4. Jadelyn*

        “While you have a concern about “potential client prejudice,” you would in fact be implementing discrimination yourself.”

        This. OP is basically saying “Should I preemptively discriminate so my clients don’t have to?”

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      OP, this is a really excellent opportunity for introspection and reflection. It sounds like you know your suggestion is not only socially and ethically wrong, it’s an illegal form of discrimination on the basis of race / ethnicity / national origin. So it may be helpful to take a step back and try to determine why your employer: (1) thinks that a person’s name is somehow “unfriendly”; (2) thinks its customers are too racist to be able to deal with a diverse workforce; such that (3) your first reaction is to opt for an extremely problematic and unlawful “solution” to a problem that doesn’t appear to exist.

      Unless your customers are dyed in the wool racists/xenophobes, OP, all of them can pronounce and deal with the name “Salma.” I understand that was an example, but it’s one of the most pronounceable and easily recognized names. It’s astounding that the first response to the idea of having someone with a non-WASP/Anglo name is to try to remove that person’s diversity and “whitewash” their name so that they match a skewed idea of what is a “normal” or “friendly” name (I still can’t wrap my head around what “friendlier” means in this context). If a person can say Claudia, they can also say Camila. If they can say Oksana, they can say Oprah.

      It may be helpful to read the comments from this post (#1 at the link) to understand why what you’re asking is so deeply harmful.

      1. MK*

        I also question the OP’s judgement about what constitutes an “ethnic/unfriendly” name, if the example she came up with is “Salma”! That could easily have been an unusual, oldfashioned “white” name.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          I had the same reaction. If “Salma” is OP’s idea of an ethnic name that needs whitening up, I can’t even imagine how they’d deal with a name that is actually challenging to pronounce with an American accent or quite long.

        2. Clisby*

          Yeah, how different is it from Elma, Alma, Thelma, Velma? I’ve known white women with those names, and don’t recall anyone thinking they were hard to pronounce.

        3. Parenthetically*

          My exact thoughts. “Salma” is an “exotic” name to OP; I very much do not trust OP’s assessment of this situation.

        4. emmelemm*

          I mean, Marge’s sister on The Simpsons is named Selma, right? And that’s just an old-fashioned “white” name. Salma is no harder than that.

      2. Observer*

        If a person can say Claudia, they can also say Camila. If they can say Oksana, they can say Oprah.

        LOL! Oksana is QUITE “ethnic” by most people. And Camilla is apparently quite acceptable to the British Royal family, which is about as WASP as you can possibly get.

        Which goes to show how silly the whole “ethnic names” thing is. Who gets to decide?

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I’ve known several women named Oksana who lived in the US, and they all had horror stories about people struggling with their ethnic name. One had to prove that her name wasn’t Osama (not making this up, because honestly I never could come up with something like this).

          1. bluephone*

            See, I’d immediately think of Oksana Baiul who was never my favorite skater (omg the dramatics. THE DRAMATICS) but I wouldn’t put that on the person named Oksana. It would just never occur to me that you could mistake “Oksana” for “Osama” or such

    5. The Dig*

      This reminds me of a terrible story that recently came to light in France. A retired engineer has started a lawsuit against his former workplace because they had forced him to go by a different name for 20 years. His name is Mohamed, they “changed his name” to Antoine, because Mohamed was “too ethnic”. His coworkers called him by his real name, but all communications with his employer called him “Antoine”. For work travels, tickets were booked under that fake name, etc. Just horrible all around. I hope he wins his lawsuit.

      If anyone’s interested and understands French: https://www.arte.tv/fr/videos/094566-000-A/mohamed-amghar-une-vie-de-bureau-sous-un-faux-prenom-28-minutes/

      1. Zephy*

        I don’t understand French, so maybe the article covers this, but:

        How would he have been able to travel with documents bearing the wrong name? Do French transit authorities not check that kind of thing, or is “My workplace is trés raciste and insists on calling me Antoine” good enough for them? Is Antoine a middle name, or did the company pull that name out of thin air for this man?

        1. Artemesia*

          FWIW I have never had a train ticket in France that required me to provide ID; most of the time they don’t even check the tickets except on the TGV — they just fine people heavily if on spot checks they find they don’t have a ticket. Of course he would not be able to fly without a correct plane ticket because there they do require ID.

        2. whingedrinking*

          Apparently his paystubs all had his real name on them, so clearly there must have been some limit to this. As Artemisia says, maybe he only traveled by train?

        3. The Dig*

          The video article only mentions one instance of problems with airport authorities happening. But according to another article (http://www.leparisien.fr/societe/il-faudra-changer-de-prenom-pendant-20-ans-au-bureau-mohamed-a-ete-antoine-16-12-2019-8218059.php ; also in French, sorry!) his pay slips were under the name “Mohamed-Antoine”. So maybe travels were booked under this fake composite name, which could explain transit authorities not giving him much grief? It’s not really explained.

          And as for the origin of the name, according to Mr. Amghar, on his first meeting with his boss, he told him “you’ll have to change your name”, and not to choose “Philippe”, as there were already 2 Philippes in the company…So apparently Mr. Amghar chose (?) Antoine, but it’s not his middle name or anything like that.

    6. Mookie*

      S’weird how the most tongue-twisty ethnic-y white names on the planet can and are expected to be readily be memorized and repeated at will by everybody, but suddenly people‘s brains and tongues play dumb when confronted with something unfamiliar and racially coded. If you as an English speaker can figure out and not feel threatened by Zverev, Djokovic, Andreescu, Siobhan, Rafe, Nunes, Buttigieg, Kawczynski, Rapace, you can do this and so can your clients, who don’t need to be “spared” the momentary difficulty involved in encountering a name, asking for help with pronunciation, and in turn making a decent effort at approximating it. It’s called being a grown-up. And one of the last places you should ever encourage bigotry and ignorance is at work and against your own employee who would be at your mercy to accept what is a totally unreasonable and insulting request.

      1. JSPA*

        Uh, you’re assuming a lot if you think “most people” know all of those. There’s a reason Buttigieg had signs and buttons made up with, “say boot-edge-edge” on them. And, “Pete.” And it’s “Amy for America” (presumably that won over her last name in test marketing). Twelve – plus years ago, newspapers gave column inches to a study saying that single syllable presidential names beat out 2- syllable, and that three syllables were essentially impossible (never mind Washington, Jefferson, Madison etc).

        The problem with the question is not the “some of our customers are not great with reading or remembering big and unfamiliar words” aspect, as that may in fact be true…or at least, widely given credence. It’s, “we’ll head off their racism by being racist ourselves, first.” Or that encountering a new name reasonably causes a level of linguistic distress that should be considered an act of offense on the part of the name-owner, and thus “unfriendly.” If everyone else is Mary, Sue, or Ann, customers who can’t figure it out can ask for “the nice lady with the interesting name.” And at least she won’t be, “which Linda, we have three of them, and five people named Jen/Jenn/Jenny/Jennifer, and four Steves, none of whom are Steven.”

        1. Lora*

          As someone who was one of 7 kids with the same name in grade school, this. Usually people want to change my name to something else because they already have five (Lora/Laura/Lori)s and my email address would have to be LoraSmith123(at)megapharma.com

        2. Anon Y. Mouse*

          As someone who consumes exclusively print news, thank you for finally solving the mystery of what to call Indiana Pete in actual conversations.

          1. JessaB*

            Luckily in this internet age it was easy. You google-fu “pronounce x” and you get an audio thing or a link to an interview on youtube where they say the name, I had to do that for Pete Buttigieg. I even had to google how to spell it, but that’s because I care about doing it right.

            I found for years I was thinking and saying an actor’s name wrong because I misunderstood the ethnic origin of it, and had only read it in print, I was so embarrassed but I corrected it the minute I saw her on an interview, and I hope that if I’d ever met her at a science fiction convention she’d have corrected me.

            1. Don P.*

              Random example: Christine Teigen’s name is “correctly” pronounced like “Tiger”, but with an ‘n’ at the end; “somehow” the world started saying “Teegan” and, according to her on Twitter, she just gave up correcting everyone.

          2. Rusty Shackelford*

            I mean, Pete and his husband don’t even agree on how to pronounce it (or at least how to tell others).

            1. Fikly*

              Yes, when I noticed that each of their twitter bios has a different way to pronounce their last name, I laughed so hard.

            1. Spencer Hastings*

              A few months ago, a friend of mine mentioned that she’d heard (what I thought sounded like) “Buddha Judge” on the radio, and at first I thought “is that a podcast?” :D

        3. Dragoning*

          Yeah, I had no idea how to pronounce Mayor Pete’s last name (and didn’t care enough to look it up, or talk about him), and people with Slavic or Celtic names routinely have fights about their name pronunciations.

          (I have no doubts it’s due to the lateness which those cultures were considered “white”)

          1. JSPA*

            Well, it’s also because certain Slavic and Celtic letter combinations represent drastically different sounds than what those same written letters add up to in both Germanic and Romance languages. Figuring out Welsh “LL” (when there’s nothing much special about L vs LL in other languages) isn’t something people may know needs doing, so there’s an “unknown unknowns” aspect. You can speak horribly accented and bizarre but still often decipherable German, Spanish, Swedish, Dutch, French, English, Danish, Portuguese, Norwegian, Italian (etc) by sounding out consonants and vowels as you would in whichever of those languages. Losing the ability to do that / having to entirely re-ascribe sounds to letter combinations is a higher – level challenge to people who use written – representation as a key part of their language memory.

            But in the example originally given, the “unfriendly” name was INCREDIBLY simple to sound out, by those defaults. Boggled when people who speak any one of the above listed languages can’t sound out Priti or Manjur–or LaKesha–to a first approximation. Your language has those letters (or it borrowed them in a few centuries ago) and it uses those letters to represent reasonable approximations of the correct sounds. You can do this!

            And for that matter, if it’s Nguyen, it’s ok to say, “should I say it more like ‘Win,’ ‘When’ or ‘Gwynne’?” But that’s not the same as, “we’ll put your name down as Gwynne, then” or “great, we’ll call you Winner!”.

            1. aebhel*

              Yeah, there is a point at which you can’t just figure out how names ought to be pronounced by sounding them out because the letter combinations mean different things in the original language (this is true of a lot of Irish names as well; ‘Seamus’ and ‘Siobhan’ are not instinctively pronounceable to a monolingual English speaker unless you already know how to pronounce them), but that’s the point at which you either look it up or ask.

              1. Richard Hershberger*

                Then there is the practical problem that even if you pronounce the name “correctly” for the original language, it doesn’t follow that this is how that family that immigrated to America four generations back pronounces it. Indeed, pronounce it “correctly” and you are likely to come off as a pretentious twit. There is no winning this game, if all you have is the spelling. Of course in a face-to-face context you can just ask. Some people respond poorly to that question, but your odds are better.

                1. aebhel*

                  That’s one where I think it depends heavily on the language, though. I know people who will Anglicize ‘Seamus’ and ‘Siobhan’ to ‘Shamus’ and ‘Shivaun’, but I’ve never met anyone who uses the Irish spelling but pronounces them phonetically in English. With a lot of Spanish names that seems more common.

            2. Richard Hershberger*

              Welsh LL is also sort of a special case in that it represents a phoneme not found in English. It isn’t a hard one, as these things go: form your mouth to make an L sound, but make it unvoiced, i.e. with your larynx not vibrating. This isn’t particularly difficult, but it feels and sounds weird to an English-speaker, and in fairness isn’t something you can expect the random person to know.

              Fun fact: Navajo has the same sound. It is spelled as an L with a diagonal slash through the upright stroke. I lived a few years in Flagstaff. I took Navajo at the community college, because why not? I wouldn’t ever have the chance to somewhere else. So the instructor (whose English was excellent, but clearly his second language) went to some length about how to make that sound. I burst out with “oh, it’s just like in Welsh!” This was, upon reflection, not a widely helpful observation.

              1. OyHiOh*

                In an introductory Hebrew class I took years ago, the instructor spent nearly an entire class period explaining the prefix “ha” = “the.” That it’s not exactly a syllable, like a partial syllable, etc etc . . . and I suddenly said “oh, it’s like a grace note!” (which, yes, it is). Upon reflection, this was also not a helpful observation to the general audience.

        4. Observer*

          This is true.

          The issue here is not how difficult a given name is – some of these names ARE genuinely difficult for people to pronounce. So are some “standard” WASP names, in my opinion. On the other hand, some “ethnic” names are stupid simple to pronounce by pretty much any metric you choose.

          But the truth is that the OP makes the issue very clear. They talk about “difficult” but they explicitly say that the “difficulty” is the mere fact that it’s “ethnic”. and THAT is the real problem. Equating “ethnic” with problematic in any form is just stupid, as well as all sorts of wrong.

        5. HappySnoopy*

          Sounds like that “study” was done by lazy print typesetters tired of writing Roosevelt (Frankin & Theodore), Kennedy, and Eisenhower

          1. Sacred Ground*

            And around twelve-plus years ago was when Senator Obama was just starting his campaign for President. I’m sure that had NOTHING to do with their reasoning.

              1. HappySnoopy*

                And … the more important contextual point you are making that ties right back into the original question and point.

        6. Jen S. 2.0*

          Heh. I think I’ve been saying something a little closer to “booty-judge,” but I understand why they chose a different option for the buttons.

        7. Mookie*

          I chose this list of names for a reason, because each have been highlighted in Anglophone media for their difficulty in pronunciation. What I wrote was very clear: not that people are expected to automatically know but to LEARN to pronounce these names without the xenophobic hedging that is applied to people of color.

        8. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

          I remember 15 or 20 years ago a work contact from Chicago telling me about this amazing politician from her state named Barack Obama and I was like “wut?”

      2. I'm A Little Teapot*

        I can’t actually pronounce any of those names you listed with confidence. That doesn’t mean I won’t try, and apologize when I screw it up.

        1. Quickbeam*

          I had a new grand boss with a last name with no vowels. I was going to have to introduce her a lot, she was new so I just asked her to pronounce it. I made a phonetic chart and practiced it so that I could be smooth when introducing her. Her mother had created the name, it wasn’t something I could look up elsewhere.

          1. JSPA*

            The eye often boggles at what the mouth can handle fine. I’m thinking of Grgich (the winery). Turns out that the only way you’re likely to make those 5 consonants and one vowel into a sound, is correct (per the winery). And if it were spelled Grrgitsch (8 consonants hanging on one vowel) it’d still be pretty unambiguous.

        2. Mookie*

          That’s precisely why I said that people are expected to give a good faith effort at trying to pronounce them, rather than ask the owners of these names to “simplify” them or make them more “friendly.” We don’t approach these names as if they are foreign attacks on us that we can’t possibly cope with or adapt to, as the LW treated her employee’s name.

      3. Helena*

        This may just be down to different historical patterns of migration, but I think most people in the UK would have far more trouble with “Zverev, Djokovic, Andreescu, Siobhan, Rafe, Nunes, Buttigieg, Kawczynski, Rapace” than they would with Priti, Sajid, Sadiq, Sayeeda etc (all currently government ministers, London Mayors or Tory peers).

      4. Rainey*

        Letter 1 – do not ask your employee to use a different name! If they want to use a different name or a nickname, they will tell you.

        I worked as a substitute teacher for several years and roll call was always stressful because of unfamiliar names. And I say this as someone who’s actually good at pronouncing unfamiliar words and names. Some people will skip roll call altogether just to avoid this, but it was important for me to put names to faces with students, especially if I was going to be working with them all day or several days in a row. And I often worked at the same couple of schools or with the same teachers during a year, so I saw learning student names as an important part of relationship building.

        I rarely made mistakes (I had a bunch of tricks too, but I won’t bore you with those), but I would always preface roll call by telling students that their names were important and to correct me if I mispronounced anything. When that happened, I would repeat their name back & thank them for correcting me. If any other students laughed during this exchange ( and btw – the kids who laughed at name mispronunciations were ALWAYS white boys named John or Matt or something equally milquetoast), I shut that down immediately.

        My point is that you have to give people the respect of their own name. And they shouldn’t be alone in standing up for their name – they should know that you consider their name important too and that you support them and will stand up for them too, if necessary.

    7. StellaBella*

      Agree with all the comments here and Alison’s advice is spot on. OP: you say ‘we are concerned about potential client prejudice’ – I am a bit concerned that it sounds like you are more worried about keeping potential racist clients happy than about the (potential legal) ramifications of acting in an illegal, racist manner yourselves. Ethically, morally, and in a just, fair society none of this would ever come up, alas. And as noted too in another comment, what about clients who would like to buy from a firm with a diverse (or at least reflecting racial trends in the USA) workforce? Also: because this really has my hackles up – firing racist clients because they are racist (and being sure to point this out to them. if they bring up her name and ethnicity etc) is the right thing to do. These kinds of clients need to be corrected IMO and you need to work harder to bring in a broader base of also diverse clients who will appreciate your firm for its work, employees, and products.

      1. Sacred Ground*

        And the thing is, it doesn’t matter if an act of bigotry is motivated by the racism of others. It’s the act that matters. If OP does this, then OP is the one making the decision and committing the act, not the clients. It makes no functional difference if the OP is not actually a bigot, the choice to commit a bigoted act is theirs. Can they possibly think of themselves as not bigoted if they are choosing to commit bigoted actions? Probably, people are really good at rationalizing. The new hire won’t think so since all she has to go on is the OP’s actions, not their thoughts and motives.

    8. TimeTravelR*

      The first sentence of your post, Leela, was my exact response as I was reading it! It hurts my heart that anyone even thinks this is an idea worth considering.

    9. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      The only places when this may fly are
      a) Spy agency, for obvious reasons
      B) Call center, especially if you deal with angry people that could harrass employees to get what they want.

      1. Ice and Indigo*

        And if it’s a call center with potentially dangerous callers, frankly a nickname is still too identifying and everyone needs a nom de guerre.

        OP, this is a chance for you to catch up to the modern world, and I hope you take it.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I didn’t want to derail this thread, but yes, when I managed a (very small, 3-4 person) call center I told my employees that they didn’t HAVE to, but I encouraged them to pick a pseudonym with the same first letter as their real name and use that. So when a caller asked for Mary, it was easy to remember that they wanted Margaret. But that should have been in place BEFORE the new employee started, and it should be optional (though encouraged).

        1. Lynn*

          D) An actor who cannot register his/her/their birth name because it is already in use. I am not sure about elsewhere, but SAG rules do not allow an actor to register using the exact name of an existing actor. Thus Michael Douglas changed his name and chose Michael Keaton.

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            D applies to all forms of artists. I know several authors who use a different name because there was already someone writing under their legal name. And Katy Perry used to put out music as Katy Hudson, but changed it when she changed genres because Kate Hudson was becoming more well known.

            1. Lynn*

              Agreed. I knew that with actors it could be required (as opposed to just being suggested). I didn’t even think of other types of artists when I was noting my small exception.

              Just another of a very small group of exceptions to a strong general rule that “you don’t ask people to change their names to suit yourself and/or your own (or your client’s) prejudices.”

          2. Akcipitrokulo*

            Stewart Grainger’s name was originally James Stewart iirc…

            My brother had to stick a non-existant middle initial in when he was published for similar reasons.

            1. Helena*

              Hasn’t hurt Steve McQueen! Either of them.

              (Though I wonder how many people thought Bullitt wrote “12 Years a Slave”)

      3. pope suburban*

        One of the sadder things I’ve encountered in my working life was at a college job at a horrible call center. I worked with a guy about my age who had a Middle Eastern name, and in his short time in the working world, he’d learned to use a fake Anglo name to avoid death threats. He was heartbreakingly blase about it. I wouldn’t encourage someone to use a fake name, much less insist on it, but I get why people might choose to. It’s a sad state of affairs.

        1. Artemesia*

          I have done a bit of work in China and there the students and workers who interacted with international clientel all chose Anglo names when doing business in English. They tended to choose names which I have assumed have counterparts in Chinese as there were lots of flower and gem names. The senior professional I worked with did not do that though and it was really difficult to get names right when they don’t sound like names you are familiar with; it is also part of living in the world.

          If I worked in a customer service role with a difficult to pronounce name, I’d probably adopt a name that was easy for the name tag — whether my name was Phoebe, Siobhan or Nyango or Rabindranath or Xioping. but this should be left to the individual and not imposed.

          Around the office? It is not too much to ask for people to learn how to pronounce the co-worker’s name.

          1. Helena*

            People working in international call centres often use names that come from the country they are taking calls from. The idea is presumably to hide the fact the call centre is overseas.

    10. KimmyBear*

      Thanks to Alison for being so unequivocal in her answer. This is just wrong. We recently had a conversation at work about all the different ways misnaming someone is hurtful. On the flip side, some people prefer to use nicknames for whatever reason. I have a long Anglo name that I always use the single syllable nickname for, in part because it was one of the most popular names the year I was born and there were just too many of us.

    11. Hiring Manager*

      If this were a real problem for the company, I’m sure the new hire/applicant would voluntarily offer a sensible alternative. In one case I’ve heard of (I was told this was a true story), an employee from India, working in the U.S., was named was Velikkakathu Sankaran Achuthanandan. At his interview, he said “Call me Joe,” which was the name he had used since moving from India.

      1. Siege*

        I’d argue that the pressure on Velikkakathu Sankaran Achuthanandan to do so is still born of systemic racism, even if the employer didn’t put pressure on him themselves.

        1. George*

          Odds are pretty good Velikkakathu Sankaran Achuthanand is known as VS to his compatriots. People from India don’t have any easier times with 20 letter names than anyone else, and using abbreviations is common.

          1. Blackcat*

            I knew a Velikkakathu once! Well, no double k. But he went by Veli.

            A lot of super long Indian first names have standard shortened nicknames. Just like “Bill” for William. But you shouldn’t start calling someone Bill unless you know for a fact they prefer it.

          2. JSPA*

            I have a relative named after a… great – great aunt? Four full given names, of which Ermintrude is neither the longest nor the oddest. “Unwieldy” isn’t the same as “ethnic” and neither add up to “unfriendly.”

            “Is there a short form of your name you like to be called around the office, and do you use it professionally as well?” is about as strong a hint as you can reasonably make. But then, if the answer is “VS,” you can’t reasonably say, “we don’t use initials, pick another.”

      2. Dragoning*

        This seems sort of unlikely to me–I googled the name and it’s a famous enough person to have their own Wikipedia page. And he didn’t work in America (and Wikipedia refers to him as “V.S.”)

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          What a plot twist! “a veteran Indian politician who was Chief Minister of Kerala from 2006 to 2011”.

          The search for “Joe” on his Wikipedia page returns no matches.

      3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        But, like, nobody goes around calling their coworkers by their full name. “Hi, Linda Marie Morningwood, and how was your weekend?” To be honest, his coworkers would’ve managed to learn to say Velikkakathu (or whatever the short version of that name is) or even Mr. Achuthanandan. It’s not rocket science. That he had to change his name to Joe years ago just speaks to how bad things were back then.

    12. Amethystmoon*

      If the clients are so prejudiced that you would even consider this, why are you keeping them as clients?

    13. !*

      I work in an area of IT where it’s common to work with people from India. I have never, ever asked someone to shorten or simplify their name (and some are quite complex!) but know they do so for their US and UK customers. I was in the middle of a very uncomfortable conversation between one of the IT managers and an (Indian) consultant regarding how to pronounce his name. He was fine with any way someone wanted to pronounce it (think something as simple as tom-ay-to or tom-ah-to) but she was adamant about pronouncing it the *correct* way, which was rather obnoxious to the other extreme.

      1. bluephone*

        sorry for all the figure skating examples but that came up during the 2018 winter olympics, with U.S. figure skater Mirai Nagasu, who is 1st-generation Japanese American. Some of the broadcast commentors (not Lipinski, Weir, and Gannon) were sort of over-correcting when pronouncing her name and it just felt weird and a little fetishistic, to be honest.

        1. Fikly*

          Oooh, when other people tell someone how that person’s own name is pronounced, it’s so gross.

      2. Jennifer Thneed*

        I like to call people what they like to be called. And pronunciation is part of the name, which is why Mary and Marie are two different names. So I try to mimic how they introduce themselves, for pronuciation AND full vs shortened. And when I’ve tried to get the info and they are too danged accommodating (like, I get that you’re okay with any pronunciation but SURELY you have a personal preference??), I’ll just grin and ask them “What does your mother call you?” That usually elicits a preferred version, whether it IS what their mother says, or very much is NOT. :-)

        1. JSPA*

          But…i don’t even WANT people to drop a super American accented form of my name into their language.

          I mean (switching language directions here) “Wakeen” not “joe-uh-quin,” sure… but Americanized “wah-keen” vs hwah-KIN’? If Joaquin doesn’t want to spend time on it, nobody else gets to demand free tutoring from Joaquin. First because, in a job setting, we’re not being paid for us to tutor each other on “making sounds that don’t exist in our mother tongue(s).”

          More essentially, if the name owner is happy, the name learner can do the extra language work with google, YouTube, Rosetta, Duolingo etc on their own time, instead of making an “othering” production about how difficult yet important it is for them to say my name a certain way.

          (I have a name with two prominent, particularly variable consonants. I have Zero problem with, “this is how people from country X say my name, when making reasonable effort.”)

          1. Anon for this*

            This is a problem I run into a lot. I am right on the border of “…white…?” for a lot of people; my very much NOT white name is what generally pushes people over the edge. My name is short, but it also has phonemes that native English speakers just can’t, generally, do, and I generally introduce myself with a standard anglicization -not a nickname; just an accent switch. People who correct me on my name or, having either heard it pronounced correctly or guessed the origin, switch accents tend to irritate me, since my own accent in English is decidedly American. It’s done to be polite, most of the time, but it usually feels like a very pointed way of calling attention to my ethnicity for absolutely no reason.

    14. Soni*

      I also love how “ethnic” is used to basically mean = non-white. As if Sally isn’t just as ethnic a name as Salma. Just a different ethnicity.

      1. Dorothy Lawyer*

        What an excellent point. ALL names are attached to one or more ethicities, no name is “non-ethnic.”

    15. Justme, the OG*

      I spent a lot of time over break reading the AITA columns on Reddit. To this poster I would respond YTA.

    16. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived*

      The OP’s concerns about potential prejudice mask their own real prejudice; OP ask yourself why you are worried your employee’s name will be an issue? I think you should leave your emoloyee alone and examine your own attitudes.

    17. OysterFellow*

      I know people have already said all there is to say about #1, but I just feel the need to add my 2 cents anyway. This is wildly wildly inappropriate. I shouldn’t be shocked that it’s 2020 and people are still questioning if this is okay, but it still made my stomach drop to read this.

    18. MsBorgia*

      Also, can we as a society agree to stop using “ethnic” to mean “nonwhite”? Because, EVERYone’s name, clothing, appearance, etc is “ethnic.” It’s just one notch of acceptability above “exotic” IMO.

  2. Leela*

    Not that I’m implying said lawsuit would automatically go in their favor but you really don’t want to find yourself in the position to find out

    1. tangerineRose*

      You also don’t want to be known as “that company”. The lawsuit could give them a lot of unwanted attention.

  3. WomanFromItaly*

    For letter #1, I would also specifically state “nobody is expected to drink”, because honestly if a place I worked had beer in the fridge I would be wondering if (a) I would be pressured to drink and/or (b) if I chose not to, would that automatically exclude me from the vast majority of company social events

      1. Mel_05*

        Yes, unfortunately that can be an issue with offices that are casual about alcohol.

        My sister has health reasons for not drinking and had a really rough time at one office because people could not grasp the idea of someone not getting fall-down drunk whenever the company paid for alcohol.

        My office sounds similar to the OP’s. People don’t drink everyday, but there’s often beer left over from a party, which have plenty of alcohol, and people might have some in the afternoon. It’s also not frowned on to drink at lunch, although you’re more likely to be teased for drinking when no one else does than the reverse.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yes, this. Even if you do a great job describing the culture of the place, OP, you can still expect follow up questions.

      Using myself as an example, I don’t drink. I don’t care if others drink. I do however care if I am personally pressured to drink. Being pressured to drink would be a deal breaker for me. It would be good to have examples of how some people don’t indulge. You don’t have to name names. And you don’t have to give specific stories. But it would be reassuring to me to hear, “Oh, yeah, we have a couple people who don’t indulge and no one thinks twice about that.”

      The dog question, I go the opposite way but I still am paying close attention to what you say. I love dogs, absolutely. I also know that controls are important. I would be interested in hearing what you rules are for having dogs in the office and I would be interested in hearing about your informal norms also. So if you were prepared to talk briefly on these points it would be something I view as in favor of the company that the company allows this perk and there is guidance/rules in place.

    2. KayDeeAye (Kathleen_A)*

      I’d also just like to point out to OP#2 that there are lots of reasons why people might prefer not to work in an alcohol-friendly culture, and alcoholism is only one of them. I admire her willingness to bring this up with potential employees (because working somewhere with beer in the office fridge really isn’t for everybody), but I think it would be helpful for her to remember that in being open about the office culture, she’s not just helping alcoholics. She’s also helping those who don’t drink for other reasons – religious, health or just, you know, not liking the taste. That might help her reframe this issue in her head. She doesn’t have to think of this as anything even close to considering someone’s “history with alcohol.” It’s just A Thing About This Workplace That People Need to Know.

      1. PlainJane*

        Thanks for this. I don’t drink alcohol and never have. Occasionally I get weird looks, and I’ve been asked at least once if I was a recovering alcoholic. Nothing wrong with being a recovering alcoholic, but it weirds me out to think that people are making assumptions about my medical history because I’m drinking Diet Coke at the company party.

        1. whingedrinking*

          It’s especially weird because there are so many reasons why someone might not drink. Allergies! Religion! Diets! Pregnancy or breastfeeding! Being a designated driver! Just not liking the stuff! One doesn’t automatically have to reach for “former alcoholic” to explain every single instance.

          1. OP #2*

            I tend to think first of alcoholism because I used to know someone I respected very much who was in recovery. It’s good to have this reminder that there are many other reasons why a person might not be comfortable!

      2. Helena*

        Absolutely – I ^do^ drink, but wouldn’t want to work somewhere where drinking was a big part of the culture.

        Post work happy hour drinks and apps? Fine, once a month or so. Bottle of wine in the Christmas raffle? No problem.

        Beer trolley at 4pm, long boozy client lunches, culture of going out drinking until 2am on a weekly basis? No thank you. It’s the norm in my husband and brother’s industries (advertising and subset of IT). Would not suit me at all.

      3. Glitsy Gus*

        Exactly this. I’m sure a lot of folks out there drink on their own time but don’t really want to work in a place where alcohol is the everyday norm (I worked in one of those offices and it got a little old. Folks weren’t getting trashed every afternoon or anything, but it was enough of a thing that by 3pm on Fridays it got really hard to get any kind of information or work out of folks, simply because it was “beer o’clock” and no one was really paying attention anymore.). I think it is a good idea to bring it up and be open to answering the questions the come up as part of that.

    3. CG*

      I would enjoy a work culture that allows some drinking on the job, but completely agree that it is a good idea to caveat that there is no pressure to drink when alerting potential candidates! As a woman/based on my work experiences, just getting told that there’s a fun culture of drinking at work would make me wonder if I would get ridiculous pregnancy speculation from my boss or colleagues if I ever opted out of drinking in the office…

    4. annony*

      I think it might be a good idea to invite all the late stage candidates to the after work beers after the final interview (ensure that there is soda and water also available) so that they can see the culture first hand and decide if that is something they are ok with or not. They would also get to see the dogs and meet their potential coworkers. I think letting them see it will help to alleviate concerns that they will be pressured (or allow them to see that they will feel some pressure) as well as not make it seem like it is all alcohol all the time.

      1. Dasein9*

        And maybe the company could provide some draw for non-drinkers to socialize after work, too. I’m thinking fancy sodas or ice cream in the same place as the beer fridge so that the same networking opportunities are available to drinkers and non-drinkers alike.

  4. KatyO*

    I’m shocked that anyone would even think this is acceptable. I worked in a call center and had some reps choose to use a more “American” name on the phone. This was their choice and more a matter of convenience for them because it saved them the time and aggravation of having to repeat it, or spell it, for customers that called in. In the scenario described in question 1, it makes no sense at all. And you’re right about a potential discrimination case. Wow!

    1. Lady Blerd*

      I also worked at a call centre and some colleagues tried different names until they made a sale and that name became their call name. But nobody made them to do it. OP1 should realize that the employee is well aware of the challenges their name poses and may even have a nickname they use but it’s up to them to make that decision.

      1. Alice*

        I have a five letter ethnic name. Short. Easy to prononce in my culture. Two syllables. “Challenging” for some, but if takes an extra two minutes for a westerner to pronounce it with confidence well.

        The number of times I get asked to change my name to a western name or to a western “nickname” is appalling and offends me every single time, no matter how “friendly” their intentions are. It’s not cool. It’s not cute. It’s rude and disrespectful. Jane and John, I learned to pronounce your names. Now take the time to pronounce everyone else’s.

        Signed, not Alice.

        1. Alex*

          I kinda like the concept of nicknames when my real name is hard to pronounce – IF I’m the one offering it.
          Sometimes I was given a nickname by locals because it is a nickname in their language for mine (think “Sascha” for Alexander in Russian – no I don’t understand that one either), or my FIL has a very difficult to pronounce German name (for Italians) – so they call him something else, which he chose himself (after they suggested it, being playful about it).

          But as a company, when hiring? NONONONONONONO..NO.

          1. Perpal*

            I have a nickname version of my legal name that everyone reads wrong – but it’s a slight difference I don’t usually bother to correct. (FWIW it’s a pretty standard european type name)

          2. Dragoning*

            Russian diminutives are a whole other set of confusion to non-Russians, and I believe most of them go by one instead of their full name (Sasha instead of Alexander, etc). IME, a lot of them get mad when you compare them to nicknames? But I can’t entirely figure out why.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              I’m confused to how this is confusing? I’ve worked with Bobs and Robs who did not want to be called Robert, Bills and Wills who did not want to be William, etc. Isn’t it the same thing?

              1. Dragoning*

                Because Russian names often have like 5 or 6 or more diminutives and more than one of them get used; it’s not a one-and-done thing, it often shows your relationship to a person and they have different connotations.

                And also some of them just don’t line up to names in the way foreigners often expect a name too, a lot of diminutives are actually longer than the original name.

                And they’re almost always used–I believe Russians rarely go by their full names to anyone, ever. It’s not “Oh, I don’t prefer to use my full name, so call me this” it’s actively weird to call them by their first name even if they like it.

              2. boo bot*

                Some Russian diminutives are not obviously related to the names they’re “short” for, so I can see a situation where someone thinks Volodya, the guy they sit next to, is a different person than Vladimir, the guy who emails them! But I think you could get the same confusion with Robert and Bob, or William and Bill if you’re unfamiliar. (Or Margaret and Peggy!)

                1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

                  Right, but it sounds like the difference here is not that it’s harder to remember that Sasha-in-person is Alexander-in-email than it is to remember that Betsy-in-person is Elizabeth-in-email, it’s that it sounds like people with different levels of connection to said Alexander use different names for him (and possibly different ones in different contexts), and so you have to learn a “set” of names rather than a single general-use nickname that replaces the legal name in all but the more formal settings.

        2. Kim*

          That reminds me of a story told by Uzo Aduba (from Orange is the New Black) about complaining to her mother that her name was so difficult to pronounce and her mother’s response: “If they can learn to say Tchaikovsky and Dostoyevsky, then they can learn to say Uzoamaka.”

          I’m white and I feel very annoyed when people presume my name is actually Kimberley; I can’t imagine how utterly enraging it must be to have people tell you your name is difficult.
          Make an effort! Even if you fail, at least you tried.

        3. Shirley Keeldar*

          Alice/not Alice–tons of sympathy, so sorry you’ve had to deal with this. My daughter also has a two-syllable name (four letters in hers) that apparently causes some people’s brain’s to short out. Substitute teachers have been known to look at her name on a list, blanch, and mutter, “Oh, God.” Who does that to a kid? What are these people thinking?

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            As someone with a non-Western last name, I became accustomed to substitute teachers pausing at a certain point in the roll, and then half the class saying my name.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                And it shows that anyone, even a bunch of jr high/high school students, can learn to pronounce a non-Western name!

            1. Quill*

              I’ve seen this student solidarity happen a lot and also been the cause of it (unusual name for the win) and I always wonder where it goes, post school? Because at some point, everybody had *that* sub and the whole class ended up chorusing “Yes her name is really Apple” or “It’s prononounced La-Quiche-a” and yet, we have people like OP #1 writing in.

            2. Trixie, the Great and Pedantic*

              My high school years featured a cohort of about ten kids who’d known each other since at least junior high, some going all the way back to kindergarten. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but in a class of 93 people… it kind of is. Every class, every new teacher, either at the beginning of the year or when a sub arrived, got to our eventual valedictorian, paused, and promptly received a seven-to-ten-person chorus of “IT’S SHIH-VONN!”.

            3. Armchair Expert*

              We had a kid with a very long Greek name (first and last together were 11 syllables) in my high school, and this is exactly what would happen! Sub would read the roll, pause, the entire class would chant his name while he grinned. It’s been 30 years, I don’t remember what the kid looked like, but I can still recite his name off the top of my head.

          2. Observer*

            What are these people thinking?

            Wrong question. The REAL question is “Why are these people not thinking?” Because you can be sure that these people are NOT engaging their brains at all.

          3. miss_chevious*

            As a former teacher, I learned very quickly when dealing with students to go down the rows and have them tell me their names as opposed to trying to read them off a sheet. That way, students are more likely to use their preferred names, and I can hear the pronunciation before I mangle it.

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              That’s what I did. I said alright everyone, I’m awful with names and it works a lot better if I can hear it first, so we’ll start front left and work sideways and hopefully you’re on my printed list. Include your preferred name if you don’t want to use your full first name. And for giggles include what major you’re going for if you have chosen one. I will also accept favorite book character instead of major.

              Icebreaker & pronunciation all in one.

          4. Artemesia*

            As a teacher I learned to when calling the role to say ‘ let me know what you want to be called and correct me if I pronounce it wrong’ so that kids with difficult names could correct me if I got it wrong and this was sort of normalized. And if I had a first name I knew I could not pronounce I would say ‘Mr. Babinsky, how should I pronounce your first name?’ which would elicit the pronunciation or the nickname. When I saw ‘Virgin Mathesen’ on the roll, I assumed it was a lack of spaces issue and so called her Virginia. She came up afterwards and thanked me because apparently usually teachers read it as it was printed and then she got teased. It is not surprising how much good will you begin with when you make this effort.

            I worked for a college that graduated people by name and gave them their actual diploma (unlike schools that sort of herd large groups across the stage and give them a faux diploma and mail them out later as did my college — the faux diploma said basically ‘if you actually graduated, you will receive the diploma by mail’) We didn’t let anyone walk who was not fully graduated. The Dean who read names started a month in advance going over the rolls and making sure that every name that was challenging was correctly vetted and phonetic guide placed next to the name on his script. Those parents who flew 5000 miles to watch their child graduate didn’t have to hear a mangled version of the family name. It matters to people.

            1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

              Oh good. My dorm had a substitute dean that semester, and he got to one name and read the whole long thing out (family names as given names, think “Macdonald Smithson Edwardsn”), and at least a hundred people chorused “‘It’s Jody.'”

    2. Miss Bee*

      I manage an app support team that communicates with users via in-app messaging – no photos, but the users do see the name of the support member they’re working with (though everyone picks an pseudonym).

      Several of the women on our team have decided to switch to more masculine names, and each one individually has reported that they find users listen to their tech advice better, though the actual content of their messages don’t change.

      This experience is something that we talk about with new members when people ask (it’s common because before picking a name they see what names other people are using), but I try to emphasize that they pick something they’re comfortable replying to.

      And personally as the manager problem users get escalated to, I deliberately keep a feminine name because anyone who WOULD be upset that a woman’s laying down the law deserves to know that’s what’s happening.

      1. T3k*

        Yep, I’m in the exact same situation and I can’t tell you how many times I get pushback from customers for tech issues (doesn’t help the majority of the customers are male) but I ultimately kept my female username for 2 reasons: if a woman does contact us, especially regarding harassment while using our forums, social media, etc. I feel I put them more at ease and will take their report seriously and 2) ditto to laying down the law with a rude male customer.

        1. Artemesia*

          It reminds me of the advice for American tourists to pretend they are Canadian — all that does is reinforce the idea that American tourists are boorish. Most are not. And by being a good representative of your country you build good will.

          I can see why women in tech would masquerade behind a male name because the prejudice is strong. But it simply prevents the prejudice from being worn down through experience.

          1. Fikly*

            That’s not all it does. It also helps keep people safe.

            To say people shouldn’t take steps for their own safety in order to dismantle the systemic prejudice that is endangering their safety in the first place is, well, terrible. There is no “simply” about the situation.

            1. T3k*

              Unfortunately this. Doxing is too common occurrence in the industry so even if we’re female, some will ask to have their display name show something else to protect themselves (we don’t show full last names but the first initial is visible, so many of us change that too)

      2. MatKnifeNinja*

        I feel for women in tech support. I know so many people who flat hang up when “Anne” picks up, and calls back hoping there is a “Mike” on the other end.

        1. Artemesia*

          I oddly have the opposite reaction as I assume a whiz bang male tech person would probably not have a tech support role whereas a highly overqualified woman might well have such a role.

      3. Observer*

        and each one individually has reported that they find users listen to their tech advice better, though the actual content of their messages don’t change.

        Isn’t that disgusting. I’m so glad you have their backs.

      4. Mrs_helm*

        I’ve worked in IT 25 yrs, and support calls have always been part of the role. I am happy to say there have only been a couple of times where someone has tried to go around me to get a male team member. I’m even more happy to report those male team members pushed them right back over to me when I was the SME they needed, and told them so. Sure, there are a few bad apples out there, but there’s no need to change the truth to make them more comfortable.

    3. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

      I also know people who use a more “local” sounding name in call centers or telemarketing. (I don’t live in the US or any other super multi-ethnic nation – foreign names are mostly an immigrant thing here, or occasionally given by parents who want to give their child a cool and international name. Most people have roots in this country for at least centuries and they have names that are either originally from here and have a meaning in our language, or common local versions of international names.) Also there are some immigrants who legally change their name for various reasons, like wanting to fit in in the new country or being fed up with the constant spelling and pronounciation problems. I understand why someone would do that and I don’t judge them, but I think it’s a little bit sad that they feel the need to do it and I hate comments by locals like “this person is a really admirable immigrant because they truly want to adapt to our culture”. A name is a big part of a person’s identity and it’s OK to live in one country and have parts of your identity related to another country.

    4. Laowai Gaijin*

      I live in China, teaching at a university. It’s very common for Chinese people who interact a lot with foreigners to choose a Western name, just because we Westerners suck at pronouncing their names (tones, don’t get me started). And, unfortunately, a lot of Westerners aren’t willing to try. When I’m given a Chinese person’s real name, I try my best, even though I know I probably won’t be quite right. So it gives me very little sympathy for those who complain about “ethnic” names that are actually a whole lot easier on the American tongue!

      1. TL -*

        The cultural norms around names are also quite different in China, though. For example, every Chinese American born in America I know has an American (white) name – some have a Chinese name used by family, too, but at least the ones I’ve talked to about it don’t feel like their Chinese name is their “real” name; it’s just the name Chinese people use.
        I’ve asked a friend about this and they’re like, we live in America, of course we given our kids American names. But I am Chinese, so of course I have a Chinese name to call my child as well.

        Versus the Indian Americans I know, which tend to have Indian names if they’re born in America or born in India. I’ve never asked, but I’m sure if I did, they’d say something like, “we’re Indian, of course we give our kids Indian names.”

        1. ThatGirl*

          The church my dad pastored at when I was a kid had an immigrant Indian family who thought I was just the bee’s knees and their teenage/young adult daughter liked to spend time with me. I’m sad to say I only know the “American” name she went by – Monica – and it took me years to realize she had a “real” name. But that’s purely anecdotal, of course.

          1. TL -*

            To be fair, I mostly know the Indian parents who refer to the kids by their given names – it’s quite possible the kids go by nicknames that I’m not privy to.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Wow, this is interesting. Re giving your kids American names, my home country’s immigrant community seemed to swing that way when I first came here in the 90s. For some reason everyone preferred the same three or four Anglo names. There should be a lot of Briannas in their late 20s in the community right now. It was a weird fad that soon passed as far as I’m aware. I think that in my community, most people try to give their children names that are common in both cultures. I messed up and gave both of mine very ethnic names. They were born in the home country and I thought I was giving them names that could be easily anglified (for lack of a better term), well let’s just say I wouldn’t have been wrong if they had been born in the 19th century, but not today. They really resented me for their ethnic names in their preteens and early teens, then at some point each of them was “wait a minute, my name is cool”. Now that I think of it in light of OP1’s letter, I’d be curious what my children’s reaction would be if an employer asked them to use an Anglo name instead of their own. Somehow I suspect they’d have a lot to say.

        3. LunaLena*

          As an Asian-American with an American first name and a Korean middle name, I kind of wonder if the practice of giving kids an American name has to do with immigrant mentality. Most Asians I know and are my age or older (I’m in my late 30s) grew up being told that we had to keep our heads down, not make waves, and blend in if we wanted to be accepted into American society. Having white-sounding names would tie in to the “blending in” aspect of that. Also Asian culture is typically pretty heavy on conformity, so I can easily see Asian parents thinking that their kids should have the same kind of names as everyone else in the US.

          I often wonder if younger generations, especially the ones who are several generations removed from their family’s motherland, more commonly use ethnic-sounding names. The mentality of 1.5+ gen Asian-Americans seems to be quite different from those of first gen Asian-Americans, but I haven’t really talked about this in depth with anyone from a younger generation so I don’t really know. On the other hand, the “American names in America” thing seems to be pretty internalized, and I can’t really think of many born-in-America Asians who go by an ethnic name other than a couple I knew in high school. It seems more common for modern immigrants to retain their ethnic names instead of changing them, though, which I think is a great change from how it was when I was a kid.

          What name you go by, though, really depends on the individual. My mother and brother call me by my first name, and so does my mother’s side of the family who lives in the US. My father talks to me exclusively in Korean, so he calls me by my Korean name, as does his side of the family, since they all live in Korea and only know me by my Korean name.

          1. TL -*

            Yeah, I don’t know about broader East Asian views; I just know that for Chinese people I’ve talked to, it seems like the idea of names being a little more contextual than absolute is taken as common sense.
            I do think the vast, vast majority of people raised in America are going to be culturally American to a large degree, so their views around names are likely to lean more American than their parents’ views. So hard to tell from that context.

          2. whingedrinking*

            Romesh Ranganathan’s legal first name actually Jonathan, which his parents gave him so he could use it on resumes and job applications and whatnot, to seem more “British” if he was dealing with racists. He said it wasn’t that bad of an idea except they apparently forgot that he still has an intensely Sri Lankan last name. “It sounds about as white as ‘Christopher Patel’.”

          3. Avasarala*

            Yes… immigrant groups (in different time periods) and individual families have very different goals and conceptions about assigning names and fitting in. Most Chinese-American people I know have an “American” name, while many Italian and Irish ethnicity people I know have names from their heritage… which have in fact come to be considered “white.” And in general “Sean O’Connor” and “Giovanni Ricci” have different immigrant stories than “Baozhai Huang.” And their children will have different experiences than their parents and each other.

    5. Atlantian*

      Interesting. I work in a very large, government affiliated call center, and we make everyone choose an alias last name to preserve anonymity. We also make anyone who has a “googleable” first name choose an alias for that as well. It’s nothing to do with ethnicity or foreignness or anything like that. If I, as the person who approves aliases, puts your first name into google by itself and your Facebook or twitter or Insta profile, or something else identifying (a news article that mentions you being the most common) are on the front page, you need to pick something else to go by on the phone. And this happens way more often than you would think it would, regardless of ethnicity. We also don’t let people pick obviously fake or identifiable aliases. Tony’s can’t be Stark, no one is allowed to be a Lannister, you can’t be Ariana Grande, etc. And believe me, people have tried to find something obscure and fail pretty much every time. People also try to pick things that seem innocuous and fail at that as well, usually by inadvertently picking a random serial killer name or someone who was once a state senator.

    6. Happy Pineapple*

      Exactly, the only time it is acceptable to call someone by a nickname at work is if they personally asked you to do so. There is a senior executive at my company whose surname translates to a slur (think c**t) in English. Realizing it would be offensive to clients and coworkers, he chose to use a different family surname on all company communications. Of course it’s still listed as his true legal name on official internal documents, but surprise! Adults can be professional and not snicker or wince when they see it.

  5. Sami*

    Ohhhh OP#1– Please listen to Alison. You’re creating a problem when their really isn’t one. There’s names you’re familiar with and names you’re unfamiliar with and nothing makes them friendly (?!) or not.
    Imagine if someone asked you to change your name -for the reason you describe- it is profoundly awful, likely even racist and xenophobic.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      It’s definitely racist and xenophobic.

      Six days into the new decade and people are already acting a damn fool I see *sigh.*

        1. embertine*

          To be fair, the kind of people who need to make a resolution to be less racist are the ones least likely to do so.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            And the least likely to recognise which of their behaviours are racist.

            “We’re not racist – we’ll hire anyone ethnic! We just want our staff to use *normal* names when they’re at work.”

      1. Kendra*

        Hopefully, they sent this to Alison last week, and it’s a remainder of last decade’s dumpster fire, not a sign of things to come…

      2. Not So NewReader*

        OTH, OP was concerned enough to write Alison and get advice. I am seeing the glass half full here. I have to assume anyone who is interested enough to ask for advice from Alison, is more likely to use her advice.

        Alison, for her part, stepped right up and took the question. She answered OP in a practical yet firm and informative manner. We need more Alisons answering questions and we need more OPs asking questions. This is how we get to a better place, by conversation and by information. Sometimes this involves explaining things that are obvious to us, which can be very challenging. It’s really important to keep the conversation going.

        Personally, I feel that I am more informed because of reading here and reading what others have shared. While no where near perfect, I am definitely a better person because of Alison’s posts and the posts of people here.

        1. Matilda Jefferies*

          I was going to say the same. It sounds like a ridiculous question to people who already know the answer, but obviously not everybody knows the answer. This is how we learn, right? The fact that OP took the time to question their assumptions, and get an expert opinion, is a really positive step.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            You should NOT have to write a letter asking a question like this unless you’ve been living under a rock your entire life. This is absolutely ridiculous.

            1. Matilda Jefferies*

              Maybe. And we don’t know what kind of circumstances the OP had up until now. The only thing we know for sure is that they didn’t know the answer. So given that – would you rather they asked the question, or didn’t ask?

              1. AnonyRus*

                Agreed. This ‘we shouldn’t have to educate you’ attitude is exhausting. Alison is an advice columnist–educating people in this forum is the point of the website.

              2. Fikly*

                Except they were aware enough to know they were in danger of being sued. That right there says a lot.

        2. Fikly*

          Maybe I’m cynical, but I read the letter as “I know this is wrong, I want to do it anyway, I just want to know how not to get sued.”

        3. Jackalope*

          Thank you for this. I wanted to say something similar. I agree with the general idea that the LW’s suggestion is the wrong one to go with, for many reasons, and it does show the racism implicit in this view of the world. That being said, the Lw wrote to an advice columnist asking for advice. She knew there might be something wrong with what she suggested and so she asked someone who she thought would know better. All of the comments calling her gross, disgusting, a fool, and so on aren’t likely to do anything but make her feel awful and defensive (because it’s a normal response to feel defensive when literally dozens of strangers are calling you names). And it is likely to have a chilling effect on other people having questions like this. Yeah, maybe the LW should have known already, but… she didn’t. She asked. It is not helpful to pile so much anger on top of her for asking a question.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I remember in grammar school, the nuns would call us stupid for some of our questions. The simple solution there was to stop asking questions. (My father never knew he paid money for me to go to a place where I did not feel I could ask questions. Fortunately, I was not alone, others were in the same predicament.)

            If a question bothers people or if people are not interested in the question then readers do have the option of not reading the question. I have done this where questions are too technical for my purposes and for other reasons.

            I have worked with people who refuse to ask questions and they are the scariest people. Because they do whatever occurs to them with out reference points or basis. Then it takes ten people to clean up the mess afterward. But sometimes the reason this happens is because the person got hammered on for asking a question.

    2. Renata Ricotta*

      Agree, but even if it wouldn’t bother OP if they went abroad and were asked to change their name to something more “local,” consider that the experience of a white person who has been in the majority their whole lives might be in a position to be a little less sensitized to insults like that.

      im just saying that for the white people i have met who don’t understand why racial slurs should be a big deal if they wouldn’t be upset for being called a “cracker,” and the men who say they wouldn’t care if a stranger told them to smile so they don’t get why women are upset about it. As a member of the majority, the OPs lived experiences are different than a person of color, so if their hypothetical feelings are different, they also aren’t super relevant.

      OP, whether you “get it” or not, don’t do it.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        Seconding this as well. The experience of someone in the ethnic/cultural majority definitely does not reflect the experience of someone who’s been marginalized.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        Right. It’s one thing for someone who is rarely/never asked to bend to say “I wouldn’t mind bending, if asked.” It’s very different for the person who is expected/ordered to bend on a regular basis.

      3. Laowai Gaijin*

        Yes to this. Being called “Kai-se-lin” (Mandarin) or “Kyasarin” (Japanese) instead of “Katherine” in no way compares to being asked to shuck my whole identity because people aren’t comfortable with my ethnicity. It’s one thing to stumble over an unfamiliar name because your mouth isn’t in the habit of pronouncing those sounds; it’s another to say, “Screw it, we’ll call you Daisy.”

        1. Aerin*

          There’s a novel called A Very Large Expanse of Sea about a Muslim girl named Shirin who falls for a white boy. He’s horrified when he finds out he’s been pronouncing her name incorrectly for months, and her response is basically, “Hey, it’s closer than all the teachers who just decide they’re going to call me Sharon.”

      4. Miranda Priestly’s Assistant*

        Yeah – there’s a huge difference between someone who once in a while encounters a random stranger saying “smile” (or whatever the equivalent), and someone who encounters it consistently enough that it alters how they exist, e.g. no longer feeling comfortable enough to go out in public, feeling like they can’t really be themselves at their job, or that they don’t belong, etc.)

  6. namelesscommentator*

    #5 I find location of past jobs useful when considering candidates too. I work adjacent to city govt so it matters to me if someone has experience with say, LAUSD, for education focused roles vs. a small town school district. Or, for work that requires intimate knowledge of the community, being able to quickly tell if they’ve ever actually worked there.

    Obviously it doesn’t replace good interview practices and reference checks but for some roles it can definitely indicate who is worth a second look.

    1. Snuck*

      It can also be useful when gauging a persons experience at times.

      Working as a taxi driver in a small geographically isolated town is very different to a city gig.

      Working in a country library is vastly different to a city one….

      Working in a highway Mc Donalds is going to be very different to working in a McDonalds in the night club district….

      People who have moved around a lot come up also on these resumes… many cities… it can mean you ask a little more deeply what they are looking for and their plans if you are looking for someone long term, or it might help you feel that they will handle casual seasonal work well.. it’s just a glimpse into their life experience a little sometimes.

      1. Goliath Corp.*

        Hmm and I suppose that from an employer’s perspective, if they know you work at X Branch of Big Corporation it would let them know if they have any mutual connections they could approach for a reference. As opposed to the monolith of just Big Corporation.

    2. AnotherLibrarian*

      Yes, all of this. Please give me city and state, it provides valuable context clues to the nuances of the type of work you did.

  7. “No, it was the Missouri Chocolate Teapots R Us”*

    With regard to locations on resumes, does it change anything if the work is remote? I used to have an online freelance writing job of sorts for a company that was physically located in a state I’d never been to. If you read my resume and looked at the dates, you might have wondered “wait, why does it say you were working for a company in Missouri while you were at school in Pennsylvania?” It’s not on my resume anymore anyway, but I always kind of wondered about that.

    1. fhqwhgads*

      Still put the location of the company for the reasons described in the post, but put “(remote)” next to your position so it’s clear you worked as a remote employee for the Company X in Y city, not the one in Z or Q or S cities.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I just put the city and state of the remote freelance job I did and let them figure it out. It ran concurrent with a butt-in-seat job. Like this:

      Professional Experience
      Cashier, Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, Diagon Alley, July 2010 – October 2011

      Freelance Experience
      Editor, Spellbooks Unlimited, Birmingham, September 2010 – October 2011

  8. PollyQ*

    I’m not even going to comment on the phrase “very ethnic name” (because I would have nothing to say but curse words), but I will point out to LW#1 that some of her customers may also be of the same ethnicity as your employee and find your her name especially friendly to them.

    It’s 2020, isn’t it time to stop pandering to racists?

    1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      I always snort when I hear that phrase because, as a ESOL person it makes no sense. Why would say a name is “ethnic”? Like, it’s not my business if my coworkers are called Viktor, Yuuri, Maria, Quimey, Carlos, Mejoo, Maikol or Wakeen, those are their names and why would I question them? Maybe “foreign”, but we’re in 2020, that doesn’t fly anymore.

    2. Tom (no, not that one)*

      I think the issue is – with current american government being what it is – that many racists feel empowered, and find themselves more openly being able to spout their hate.

      They think that the current occupant of the White House is ‘one of them’ (and if he is or is not is another discussion) -but due to that feeling they feel more safe to come out and be hateful.

    3. Archaeopteryx*

      And if the customers do have an issue with your employee’s name, the problem for you to solve is not her having that name. The problem for you to solve is customers treating your staff badly.

      1. Civil discourse*

        I worked as a loan officer at a credit union and as a collector on the loans that “went bad”. As a female living alone with an unusual first name… I wish someone had suggested an alias name before the death threats I received. These had nothing to do with my gender or national origin – a WASP male would have gotten the same threats. Not to mention hate mail and hate email for loans that weren’t granted. I agree that the original poster was out of line for suggesting a name change…but wanted to reinforce prior comments that not every name change is cultural oppression.

    4. boo bot*

      I’ll comment on the phrase “very ethnic name”. It sounds, at best, like you’re using it as a euphemism for something worse, especially when the contrast you make is “ethnic” vs. “friendly.”

      “Sally” is as much an “ethnic” name as Salma, it just feels more “friendly” to you because it’s presumably a name you’re more familiar with. BUT the wonderful thing about human experience is, you can get more of it as long as you live. The names that are currently new to you will become familiar as you work with and get to know people who have them, as will the habit of learning new names.

      1. justcourt*

        Yup. “Ethnic name” is just a slightly sanitized way of saying not white. My last name is very obviously German. It’s very rare, so most people haven’t heard of it before. It’s tricky for people to pronounce and just about impossible to spell. No one has ever tried to rename me, though. Everyone has made an effort to learn its spelling; that’s because it’s the right (white) kind of “ethnic name.”

        Ugh, you don’t get to rename people, especially not to appease racists.

    5. Nanani*

      Was going to comment exactly this.

      “The customers might be put off” is just pushing the xenophobic ball down the road a bit.

      Learn their name.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’m still stumped why people had such trouble with my daughter’s second-grade friend’s 7-syllable Indian last name. It has fewer letters than “Schwartzenegger”, fewer syllables than “Queen Elizabeth the Second”, the middle part of the name is a common English word, and the spelling is completely phonetic.
        But when my daughter & I learned it, that child was so surprised & delighted that it was an instant friendship that lasted until a family moved and the kids ended up in different middle schools.

        1. Aerin*

          Yes, a lot of “complicated names” are completely phonetic, and have pretty standard emphasis and vowels. I guarantee I’m much more likely to get Ramakrishnamurthy right on the first try than I would something like Aoife.

      2. BluntBunny*

        Yes also it is very inconvenient to the employee in question because their whole life they have been called by their name so to be suddenly called something else will take a lot longer to get used to than it will take the customers to learn the correct name. There will be countless times they are calling out Sally and the employee forgets that this is their new assigned name and doesn’t realise they are being spoken to.

  9. Kuddel Daddeldu*

    #4, I have a client who uses an unobtrusive Bluetooth headset on one ear, the type you usually use to make calls, to play music.
    The client told me one day that they have tinnitus and the music helps them to drown that out.
    Maybe that would work for you better than the bulky headphones?

    1. Kendra*

      I have one of these, too, and it’s great for audiobooks as well. The one I got off of Amazon was between $20-30 USD, has a USB charger, and the battery on it should last a full workday (not much more than that, though). It also came with two sizes of rubbery plastic tip to help it fit comfortably (which I was grateful for; I hate most earbuds, because they’re either too large for comfort, or are constantly falling out. The phone types tend to be comfier, probably because they’re also designed not to blast your eardrums out with volume).

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        If only it were that simple. Not every office is headphone-friendly, for all kinds of reasons ranging from “must be able to hear calls” to “manager is paranoid and dislikes them.”

      1. WellRed*

        But the bulky ones are more noticeable, I think that’s part of the reason they are asking.

      2. Smithy*

        I think that’s going to vary from office to office. In my office, full headphones/headset imply you’re making a call – i.e. very busy. For the most part, more discrete headphones are used for music/podcasts when working but otherwise available.

        I’m in a very open office plan and for better or worse there remain a lot of optics issues around “presence”. When there’s a brown bag, being physically in the room is perceived as being more polite and attentive than listening remotely. I had a new hire recently tell me that joining remotely affords her greater opportunity to take notes and focus on the content. While I’d rather have the new hire absorb the information – it’s a balance we’ve had to work on with the knowledge that more senior leadership will notice and comment. Because while knowing the information is great, having a new employee well positioned and perceived by senior leaders is also important.

        Practically speaking the size may not matter in function – but I think AAM’s advice is far more about taking time to assess the overall headphone culture and whether there are any optic sensitivities.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        I don’t agree actually, I think it would definitely come across differently if someone was wearing big bulky headphones versus a pair of earbuds.

      4. BelleMorte*

        The size might be. My husband works at a school and he was asked to swap his noise-cancelling bulky headphones for earbuds. There were apparently complaints that he looked unapproachable with the headphones, but earbuds are quicker to just pop out, hence more approachable.

      5. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I guess I’m lucky that bulky ear covers aren’t seen as a problem here — I sit right under a very loud HVAC system, and contractor-grade headphones are what keep me from having my ears ring by the end of the day!

    2. Snuck*

      I use bone conduction Aftershockz Trekz…. They are fabulous.

      They create a vibration on the front of ear and you can hear the music (phone call/pod cast) really well, but you can also hear much of the ambient noise around you. They are good when you are out and about because you maintain situational awareness (can hear people walking behind you etc) and aren’t super visible (my hair actually covers the small ear piece) and they are very very light. Just a more discrete and work friendly option if you aren’t going for hard core noise cancelling.. these might be worth looking into :) (They are a little exxy, but there’s cheaper options on the market)

  10. Diana*

    For number 3, my imagination went wild. This could be the pilot episode of a Netflix mystery series. Even if it was just down the block, I think you have the right to know about the position.

    As for number 1, that someone would think that was OK enough to even write in to check if it was OK, makes me want to cringe to death.

    1. Veronica Mars*

      Actually I did want to provide a counterpoint to Number 3. Our Fortune 100 company hires through a process that sounds similar to this. We post job listings of real jobs that are available, but all ‘good’ candidates are brought in for a massive interview day and many do not end up with the specific job they originally applied for.

      We basically decide before bringing candidates in that we’d like to hire them, and the interview day is more about finding the right spot. They interview with many different departments – there can be 3-9 different hiring managers per interviewee. At the time of the interview, the managers spend a few minutes pitching specifically what their department does, and then the rest of the interview is about assessing fit.

      I actually found it hugely helpful as a relatively inexperienced hire, with a company where multiple departments have jobs requiring similar skill sets. I got to choose the department with the best cultural fit, which I never could have figured out just from a job posting. But obviously at a certain experience/specialization level it starts to get a little crazy to do this way, and they do swap to a more traditional hiring scheme.

      1. MK*

        Hmm. This might be convienient for your company (although I am very dubious about how well “hire lots of great workers and figure out their job later” works), but not so much for the candidates, unless they want to work for you at any position. What if the “right spot” that you find for them is something they don’t want to do or feel that they can do? What if you can’t fit them in anywhere, no matter how great they are? They will have wasted what sounds like a whole day.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          It’s an even worse idea when prospective employees will be flying in for the interview, like OP3! They likely will need to take more than one whole day off. A lot of people have very limited PTO (I have zero and it’s been the same in most jobs I’ve had!). If you’re flying them out, you’re wasting a lot of money interviewing candidates who don’t even know what their job would be, and if they’re paying for the flight, you’re wasting THEIR money.

        2. Veronica Mars*

          To be clear, this is a company where the jobs are pretty straightforward, there’s just a lot of openings. For example, you know you’re likely getting hired to be a project manager at X salary band (IIRC, I was the only person from my interview group that ended up taking a job that was not very close to the job description I applied for). The question is whether you’d be better a better fit for managing projects related to kangaroo taming or feeding or baby-kangaroo-daycare.

          I’m not saying I agree with it, there’s pros and cons but the burden is definitely on the prospective employee. But when a company is well known, pays well, and people are clamoring to get in the door… they can get away with it.

          PS, about 90% of interviewees are flown in. Its a pretty significant time commitment, with a hotel stay and a networking happy hour the night before.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            hunh – VERY interesting that they’d do this with professional hires. That must be an extremely well-known / desirable company, to get people willing to do that. I’d be interested in it for Google, and I guess others would for Apple / Microsoft / Facebook, maybe Tesla / EA / Rockstar…

        3. Jules the 3rd*

          My employer did the same process, and to clarify:
          – This was only for school hires; professional hires are more conventional
          – There were 20ish different managers / spots, so you had a lot of choices
          – The explicit, stated expectation was you’d work in these positions for a couple of years, use that time to orient yourself to the company, then head off into other areas of interest
          – It was the third round of interviews / tests with a large, well-known company (Fortune 500 tech), so applicants had a good basis for knowing how interested they were in the company
          – The company’s large enough that they held these in at least 10 different sites across the US, very few people would be flying in.

        4. JSPA*

          Even if it places many people efficiently, it’s a bait – and – switch. Why not be up front about the range of jobs, pay points and process? Same outcome, without being underhanded in the hiring process.

          Unless that’s how the company screens for people who are independently wealthy, don’t have outside commitments, and don’t object to being jerked around for no very good reason. (Which is obviously a bit scummy when it’s written out plainly, right? No matter how effective the outcome is.

          And…yeah, short term, discriminating on those bases gets you people who are ‘easy’ to work with. At least, until their lives get more complicated, and it turns out that they don’t have the coping skills, nor peers with relevant experience, that you’d have had, if you hadn’t invisibly screened them out in the original hiring process.

          But even short term, I find it hard to believe that the best candidates are found via “Our process is so great that you should trust us.” Some darn good people will nope on out on principle, and others will be unable to justify sinking time and costs. And you’ll be enriching for dangerous optimists who engage in magical thinking.

      2. CL Cox*

        And if that’s the case, then the company needs to be clear about that, so the candidate can decide if it’s worth their time to fly in for it. I would think there are a number of people who would not want to invest the time and/or money to fly in for what is almost a cattle call interview. To keep saying “there’s this position we think you’d be good for,” without any further information, is ridiculous.

  11. Uniquely Named*

    #1 Are there many people of the same culture as your employee in your city? Perhaps you can see their name as an asset in that it could draw in more customers of that culture who are happy to see a name that *they* can easily pronounce.
    Also, being asked at work “do you have a nickname? your name is rather hard to say” was frustrating. But it made me dig my heels in and now I always go by my full name. It’s an asset in some ways as I always get people asking how to pronounce it and it breaks the ice.

    1. Lime green Pacer*

      My name isn’t ethnic or hard to say, but I’ve insisted that people use all three syllables, thank-you-very-much. Yes, there is a standard two syllable nickname for my first name, but that is not my name and I haven’t used it since I was 12.

      1. Asenath*

        One of my relatives had that problem. He always used the full version of his name (a reasonably common Anglo one), and for some reason many people were convinced he used a nickname, particularly when he was a boy. It’s very annoying.

        1. Clisby*

          Same with my son. His name is Joseph, and his whole life people have been trying to call him Joe or Joey. At a former employer, I had a colleague named James – and James was his preferred name. I once was with a couple of people who were eye-rolling about the fact that “he doesn’t answer to Jim.”

          1. Elitist Semicolon*

            In one of my earlier jobs, someone higher up the food chain spent a good 5 minutes trying to get my attention before I realized he was talking to me, Donnatella, and not a colleague named Don whom I hadn’t met yet and (presumably) was standing just outside my line of sight. There are logisitcal issues to calling someone a name they don’t use in addition to the respect issues.

      2. Third or Nothing!*

        My daughter’s name is 3 syllables and apparently hard to say even though it’s the Anglicized version of a classic German name. I still insist on using her full name since the nickname is one that everyone and their dog is using right now and it’s annoying to have 15 children respond when I’m trying to just get my daughter’s attention on the playground.

        Seriously, if my 2 year old child can say her full name, you can learn to as well.

      3. Zelda*

        “My name isn’t ethnic”

        Yes. It IS ethnic.

        It may stem from a very dominant or widely accepted ethnicity where you are, so you don’t notice it as being “different”– the fish don’t notice the water– but names are by definition cultural. What sounds count as names vs. just ordinary words vs. not words at all varies with language and cultural contact. Please don’t fall into the trap of thinking that what you’re most familiar with personally is “normal.”

  12. Anonymous in the UK*

    For letter 2, I think it’s great you’re considering it all. I’d suspect the dog-friendly office bit is even more important to flag given the potential for allergies and phobias and some of the letters that Alison replies to.

    1. Snuck*

      I was working in one of the largest tech employers in Australia (probably THE largest, definitely was at the time anyway), and we had regular Friday afternoon drinks… nobody got really smashed (too many weekend release dates for that)… but it was good for those who worked late or had pulled in a big week to be able to sit around and chew things over. Some of the quibbly tech issues were unwrinkled over a beer and Katamari….

      Most workplaces in Australia (at least… ALL the ones I’ve ever worked in) have a low alcohol policy… Christmas drinks, or after work drinks once or twice a year isn’t shocking… going out for someone’s birthday for lunch and having a glass of wine is fine so long as you don’t work with (dangerous) animals or children… They rarely give wine as gifts between operational staff, but senior management do a roaring trade in wine and champagne (sorry… “Sparkling Wine” shakes fist at the French) …

      We make a Christmas Hamper for our staff, and it includes a six pack of craft beer, a bottle of Champagne and a bottle of wine usually…. it’s well received generally… even the staff member who does not drink appreciates being able to give it to family on Christmas Day without having to buy some in. Our business is a high risk one if people are drinking and working, and our staff often work alone… so we have a dim view on “lunch time beers” but…. that’s about being sensible on the job… not about policing other people’s alcohol consumption (on their own time).

      My gut instinct was that the OP of this letter has an issue with people drinking (much?) alcohol. Maybe put that aside for a minute, look around at what others are expressing, and let it go. If I were to go work for a “youthful” company I’d expect a few social norms to be different, and be surprised if there WASN’T Friday drinks on occasion.

      1. Sunflower*

        I think you are correct here. I’m in the US and the culture the OP describes sounds similar to a lot of offices I’ve seen and it doesn’t sound wild or out of control. While I appreciate the OP being cautious, I think it’s important she accurately describes the culture as to not weed out people who are worried about walking into a frat house.

        1. Dragoning*

          I think it sounds normal, right up to “beer in the fridge” because that’s where it gets weird for me, personally.

          1. Sunflower*

            How does it get weird? Maybe I’m missing something but I don’t see how having beer in fridge leads to pressure to drink it. For us, it’s very clear in our company handbook that you don’t drink during work hours unless you’re at a company sponsored thing (like a networking or team lunch).

            At my current and last job, we had weekly happy hours. Last job was in BigLaw, the catering team put the alcohol out and took it away when happy hour was over. It was common to see beer and wine in the fridges but I never thought anything of it. We don’t have a catering team at my current job(large consulting firm) so the fridge has beer in it during the week but it’s not ‘stocked’ until Friday happy hour- I’ve never seen anyone drink a beer except on Friday during happy hour. I’d be curious if the way the alcohol is presented changes peoples thoughts about pressure to drink.

            1. Dragoning*

              I’ve…never worked in an office where people had alcohol with them. Maybe for the gift exchange and then home, but people did not leave it in the office for any reason, and certainly not in our fridge. If people drank during work events, it was offsite.

              1. Sunflower*

                I think it’s becoming more common, especially outside of start-ups. I don’t think it’s the norm but I think the assumption that beer available freely = frat culture is outdated. If it makes someone uncomfortable to have beer around them at work then 100%, they shouldn’t work somewhere that has it. But an automatic jump that because we keep beer in the fridge or have dogs that we must be a frat house and force people to drink strikes me as odd.

              2. Natatat*

                Same. It would be very strange in my field (Education – university) to have alcohol stocked in the fridge.

          2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

            I agree with you Dragoning. The rest of the alcohol “culture” described was unremarkable (served at special functions, after work drinks, given as gifts) but the company actually providing beer in the break room fridge IME is unusual. Around here we hide our Baileys in a file cabinet like normal people ;-)

        2. EventPlannerGal*

          ”I think it’s important she accurately describes the culture as to not weed out people who are worried about walking into a frat house.”

          Agreed! If an interviewer was telling me what the OP’s saying in a “I ought to warn you about this…” type of way, I think I would be much more put off than what she’s describing actually warrants. (It actually sounds pretty appealing to me, but if an interviewer sounded like I needed to be warned beforehand? Way less interested.) I think this would be much better folded into a general description of the company culture – “we’re quite a laid-back office and are fine with people bringing in their dogs or having a beer at 5, but of course how much you want to participate is up to you”.

      2. JSPA*

        Before blithely asserting that the known non drinkers are totally happy getting booze as a holiday gift:

        How happy would you be to get a holiday gift where most of the cost is makeup, on the assumption that someone you are related to will be able to use it? Or, say, clothes two sizes too small, same reasoning?

        And how comfortable would you be, speaking up?

        Further…Have you checked the alcoholism stats for your country? Are you assuming that’s all “Other People / not the sort working here?”

        Not to say it’s bad to give alcohol. But for there to only be one standard gift, and have that be alcohol laden, is exactly the sort of thing that makes it hard for people to fix a problem relationship with alcohol.

        1. tangerineRose*

          Yeah, I do NOT like getting alcohol as a gift. I don’t like the taste, and now I have to figure out what to do with it.

        2. Snuck*

          I asked ;) I asked this staff member “would you prefer I put something else in your hamper, or are you happy with the same as the others and having some wine and a few beers?”

          It was pretty simple. This same staff member I dropped PJs and toothbrush to when she was unexpectedly hospitalised a few weeks back… We are rural, she was three hours from home…. We don’t have a lot of staff, and try to keep the ones we have well, happy and fulfilled. Treat them with care, respect their needs not just our own, and if there’s a problem… deal with it as best we can.

    2. No Longer Working*

      I think the dog-friendly office warning should be stated in the ad! Discovering this at the interview stage would waste the time of someone who knows they can’t work in that environment.

      1. Green Goose*

        I agree so much. We have a very dog friendly office, with lots of people who adore dogs and some people have chosen to work at or stay at our company because it accommodates dogs. There are three everyday dogs and about five others that come in periodically. Multiple people have pictures of the regulars on their desks, they dress up for parties, and we even had them featured in an employee calendar last year (just giving examples to show how obsessed my office is with dogs).
        We recently hired a few people and apparently one of them is allergic to dogs and now there are a whole bunch of rules that don’t really make sense, and there is talk about limiting the dogs at the office. I don’t know who the allergic person is but I worry that there will be a lot of resentment sent their way because of this. And I wonder if they were truly told how dog-friendly our office is before they accepted the position.

        1. Blueberry*

          There was a letter where that happened — someone allergic to dogs was hired into a dog friendly office and not told beforehand, and then ostraciszed to hell and back once she got there. I don’t have the time to find it at the moment.

      2. Clisby*

        Absolutely. That’s a far more significant issue. That beer in the fridge doesn’t leap out and bite you.

        1. JSPA*

          The smell of alcohol on premises and easy availability has probably led to more illnesses and deaths than dogs on premises, no? Alcoholism isn’t rare, neither are momentary lapses in willpower, bad judgement is downright common, and even today, a shocking number of traffic deaths involve alcohol. And I say this as someone with dog allergy, and very modest alcohol consumption that has caused me no direct problems.

          1. Clisby*

            I have no idea. Nor is that the relevant comparison, to me. In the example of beer in the fridge, people don’t have to come into contact with it. It’s hard to imagine that being true of a dog-friendly office, unless the rules are extremely strict (for example, the dog owner must have a single office and the dog can never leave it, or something like that.)

      3. smirkette*

        This! I would be really, really annoyed to go through an entire hiring process (or even get to the interview, honestly, since that generally requires me to take time off of work), potentially turning down other offers, only to find out that there are office dogs (or other furry/feathered pets) and have to resign because I have animal allergies that can create serious medical complications.

    3. CM*

      I agree, and I think you can flag both of these in a low-key way — it’s not a problem, but you want them to know upfront because some people have strong preferences about both dogs and alcohol.

    1. Doc in a Box*

      +1000

      The letter writer needs to be less worried about “potential client prejudice” and waaaay more worried about “actual employer prejudice.”

    2. Marissa*

      I’m really glad that OP1 wrote in. I hope that means OP1 has enough self awareness to realize this is an issue. I hope that it’s the case that OP1 needed a gut check and will be able to take the wake up call from Alison and commenters that this is wildly unacceptable, unwelcoming, and racist to ask of someone. It is far, far better for them to ask here than to approach the employee with this.

  13. Feathersflight*

    #2 I would be SO uncomfortable working somewhere that had beer in the fridge “for after work.” You are absolutely right to give potential employees a heads up about that kind of thing. No matter how good a person would be at the job, if the culture is a bad fit, everyone will be unhappy.

    1. Drago Cucina*

      Yes, there are many reasons other than recovery that would impact culture fit. When we were interviewing for a new fundraising manager we mentioned to all candidates that there would be events where alcohol is available. We wouldn’t expect her to drink, she would be responsible for the alcohol license, working with vendors, etc. We had one person who removed herself from consideration for religious reasons.

    2. Violet Fox*

      For #2, it might be worth revisiting some of the parts of the “fun” office-culture as the company grows, because the alcohol especially will select out a lot of good people who for whatever reason do not want to be around, or feel like they have to partake in a workplace drinking culture. It’s also harder to do undo things like that after they have been very well entrenched than beforehand.

      It’s a lot harder to make people feel included after they feel excluded, rather then being inclusive in the first place (this goes for letter #1 too), and it’s a lot harder to get people to feel safe after they felt unsafe rather then create safety in the first place.

      1. Indigo Wolf*

        OP2 specifically says they don’t have standing to change it, which is why they asked the question.

      2. Feline*

        Some of the aspects of “fun” office culture may signal something you don’t intend. When you say beers in the fridge for after work, I hear “bro culture.” I know that’s generalizing, but it’s something to consider in crafting that kind of anything goes culture. I’ve been the lone female employee taken along to the strip club with coworkers in that kind of culture, so I’m possibly extra-wary.

        1. OP #2*

          Yeah, typically beers in the fridge would say “bro culture” to me too–but we actually don’t seem to have that (thank goodness)!

        2. Avasarala*

          Yes, I would be wary for this reason. I don’t actually have any issues with alcohol or beer in the fridge or anything… but my mind immediately went to “brewskies” and turned me off.

    3. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      Yup. If alcohol is normalised to the point is promoted as part of the office culture, what takes its place? A strip club?

      1. Lora*

        Have worked places (plural) where this is in fact the case…though they didn’t *replace* the alcohol with the strip clubs, it was just sort of an extension of the whole culture.

        And yeah, definitely mention it up front that this is how they roll. I’ve known a lot of women who find themselves on the mommy track inadvertently, excluded from major projects or treated as less-than, because they aren’t going out boozing at the strip club with the guys. And as crappy as that is, I’m told the techbro companies on the West Coast are actually worse…

    4. Goldfinch*

      I’d have a LOT of questions about this place, because it sounds like chaos. Alcohol on site, plus dogs running around? Both situations require serious rules in place, since they easily lead to “this is why we can’t have nice things” situations. My snap assumption would be that this place is a fratty nightmare.

      1. Sunflower*

        The OP states that they aren’t pressured to drink and that they don’t drink often- just that alcohol is part of special occasions which I’ve seen at every global, professional services firm I’ve worked at. This place sounds nothing like a fratt nightmare and I worry if OP doesn’t accurately portray her workplace, she WILL end up weeding out the good people who don’t want to work in such environment.

        I guess I’ve been lucky enough to work places where the company considered us adults and treated us like such- there were no serious rules in place and we haven’t had any issues with weekly happy hours.

        1. Goldfinch*

          I know what the OP states. I’m saying that as an interviewee, I’d doubt her viewpoint on the situation.

    5. blackcatlady*

      As some readers may remember I am a long term recovering alcoholic. I can live with people drinking around me in moderation. But don’t get a lot of enjoyment when they get to the giggly/goofy too-much-booze stage. And I really HATE group lunches that involve pitchers of beer and then they say oh to make it easy let’s just split the check evenly. BTW – shouldn’t you be worried about your employees having that after work beer(s) on company premises then drive home?

    6. The Original K.*

      I worked somewhere where binge drinking was common (they canceled the holiday party before I started working there because lots of people got too drunk and acted a fool) and I WAS pressured to drink. I’m not in recovery but I’m not a binge drinker and I barely drink at work functions, and I got really tired of being pressured every time there was a company happy hour or dinner. I would have appreciated a heads-up about that part of the culture before I started working there.

    7. Daisy*

      Kind of surprised by all the strong reactions here – I’ve worked in many offices where beer was available and only lightly enjoyed. It’s definitely a good thing to know as a prospective employee, but just having beer in the fridge doesn’t indicate a “drinking culture” by any means. It’s there like the coffee and snacks are there.

      1. Annie*

        Agreed – both of my adult / professional work places (both law firms) have had stocked beer fridges, but with the general understanding that folks aren’t drinking unless there’s a declared happy hour (or you close a deal at 8:00 PM or whatever). Even declared happy hours tend to end with everyone heading home after a drink or two, not devolving into drunkenness. Both have been intermittently dog-friendly, too, and neither have been chaotic! I fully understand folks who don’t want dogs or alcohol on their workplace premises at all, but the reactions that these places must be frat-house nightmares seem a little over the top.

        1. Drago Cucina*

          You’re right. There’s a great deal of space between no alcohol and beer funnel frat party. While in Belgium I worked with a priest whose Friday tradition was everyone gathering for a glass of port. One, two glasses at most were enjoyed. Then it was on the bus to go home.

      2. Tau*

        Also surprised, to the point where I was wondering if this is a cultural difference (I’m in Germany). I don’t really drink beyond a glass or two of wine on special occasions, but I’m very used to beer in the fridge and people pulling out a bottle around 5pm on a Friday. Obviously pressuring people to drink would be bad, but it hasn’t happened to me and OP says it’s not the case in their workplace either.

      3. emmelemm*

        Yeah, I’m pretty surprised too; I’ve worked in multiple offices where that was just a thing (shrug). I drink very lightly and never really felt any pressure to do so.

    8. Bananatiel*

      Yeah, I was okay with everything but the beer in the fridge. The problem with alcohol as a benefit, like so many workplace benefits, is that it’s great until it’s not. It’s so key that there are rules around it to prevent it from ruining a culture entirely.

      My last job had all the trappings of a toxic workplace including drinking as a necessary component of advancement. I think a lot of people that worked didn’t even realize it since it was part of a larger “bro” culture in many ways (golfing was another big thing). But alcohol was by no means necessary in that working environment and it was clear that leadership had ultimately willingly embraced it for decades.

      When I finally left and started my new job, I opened the fridge to put my lunch away on the first day and there were two bottles of wine, and a stray bottle of beer. Scared me coming from my old workplace– I was on high alert wondering if it would be as bad as the old job. It’s possible someone mentioned it to HR at some point because it has since become a rule that alcohol can’t be in the common areas.

      The thing is– the culture around alcohol actually wasn’t bad at all. The reason the wine was there? It was for clients. My new job actually has plausible reasons for alcohol to be in the office and they have still chosen to minimize it for the sake of inclusivity! It’s the kind of thing I wish more workplaces would consider when I read about how normalized it is in some industries.

  14. Elizabeth West*

    #1– Do not do this. Also, you might ask yourself: if a customer is offended by your employee’s ethnic name, why would you want that person as a customer?

    1. Mariz*

      Eh. This is a good sentiment in theory, but my company definitely wants all the money, even racist customer money. I interviewed for another position within my company that was basically a “our clients want an American on the phone to deal with their issues, so we are un-offshoring this position” deal. I am a person of color, the hiring manager is a person of color. We kind of sad-chuckled about it because we both know the clients he is talking about.
      My partner (who is white) told me the other day that I should never accept racism. I told him I don’t have a choice. It doesn’t make me a weak person to not fight every time. I am a tired person though.

      1. Hornswoggler*

        I just want to express my sadness that you and your colleague are in this position. There is so much work to be done on this. I hope you know that there are people out there still trying to do it.

      2. Moop*

        It is white privilege to have the choice of “not accepting racism.” If I had to fight every instance of racism I encounter as a POC, my life would contain endless anger and conflict it would not be worth living.

        1. JSPA*

          Eh, privilege is something you benefit from. It’s white privilege to feel like people generally have the option. It’s more like white duty to do the speaking up, insofar as you actually have the privilege. (Which…is not unlimited. Frequent speaker – uppers also get boxed, relabeled, and put on the shelf.)

      3. Akcipitrokulo*

        I once worked for a company which provided software that our clients had to have some version of to be able to trade legally, and had to be updated each month. It could be us, one of our competitors or do an in-house version, but there were regulatory implications. So moving from one system to another was a big deal for customers.

        One called up and, after getting annoyed with tech support, got onto manager of that department. Customer complained that tech support was “just off the banana boat.”

        Manager told him his contract was now cancelled. And followed through.

        So yeah – racist customer suddenly had a very short window of opportunity to find another software supplier or they would have to shut up shop!

        That place had its issues – and director of IT was sexist… but that manager was awesome.

        1. MK*

          Good for him, but that sounds like a really specific situation. Most companies don’t have the luxury to turn away clients.

          1. Akcipitrokulo*

            I know. I tend to think that companies would do just fine if word got out that they would stand up to racism – and it is not OK that some are too scared to try.

      4. Colette*

        I used to work in executive customer service, and our #1 complaint was “I’m an American, I want to talk to an American.” (I am Canadian; my manager was British. But neither of us have Indian accents, so they were OK talking with us.)

        1. JSPA*

          People can be against outsourcing and offshoring on the basis of economic philosophy.

          Human-to-human I love taking to tech support in India. But I wish those jobs had not left from the call center in my own metropolis. And I’m hardly alone in being steamed about what sure looked like very intentional governmental actions / active economic incentives that greased the skids, over the past 30 years.

          The “want an American” caller may be less educated than you are, far less tech savvy and very provincial, yet actually be clearer on the underlying political realities of the situation than you are.

          Retaining some level of “Swadeshi” matters, for any country or group who intends to retain a modicum of self – determination. And understanding local constraints and issues can lead to better service. One time, a US call center west of me was able to tell me that the storm roaring through was a humdinger, and that if I scheduled an install for the next day, I’d likely have to reschedule. She was right.

          1. Mariz*

            I understand well the politics of offshoring, and I worry about my own job moving overseas. I also know the difference between our customers who prefer speaking to an American for ease of business (completely valid) and the ones who have a lot of prejudice and hate and let us know about it (not valid). When I was speaking to my partner about racism I wasn’t speaking about offshoring in particular.
            I’m very light skinned and I don’t have an accent. My parents are not and do have accents. I “look white” like my partner does but when he says things like “you should never accept” racism, I am reminded of how different our experiences were growing up and how different our “truths” are. I am heartened by him wanting better and by the encouraging comments here. I think I have learned to not expect much and to save my heartache and my energy, like others have commented. It’s difficult to describe, but a lot of you know what I am talking about, I see.

          2. Indian-American*

            In my experience, Americans love the free market until they realize it takes jobs away from them. If the call center went offshore it’s because the company found more people to do the work for less. Same with white people railing about immigrants “taking our jobs.” I don’t see many white Americans lining up to clean toilets at the Holiday Inn.

            Your point about local, boots-on-ground knowledge is fine, but please don’t co-opt words like swadeshi — an organized boycott aimed at overthrowing colonial hegemony and achieving economic independence — to describe US companies opening call centers in India. Just … don’t.

            1. JSPA*

              I’m using it with full philosophical and historical knowledge, regarding the vey large working class population who have exactly no financial or social common cause with people they fairly reasonably see as parasitic outsiders who at best treat them as culturally – interesting near – humans and at worst treat them as a burden or annoyance, and in any case, bring huge economic power to the process of preventing them from organizing and reclaiming power through the ballot box. I apply it in both explicitly (post) colonial economies / countries and in places like the US and other nominally first world countries where the economy has been eaten away from the inside out. Gandhi himself did not restrict the use of the self – sufficiency philosophy to India; he spoke of it in broad philosophical terms, and drew examples from a range of international sources.

              In the US, Call centers were not the first employers to go, but rather, laggers in a long loss. Throughout, the US tax code provided write offs for the cost of an entire second overseas household, including servants, for managers required by their companies to work overseas for outsourcing. That’s not simple market forces at work, by any stretch of the imagination, now is it?

              This is, OF COURSE emphatically not the fault of India (nor any other country but the US).

              Also, my ex in laws (and lovely but not marriage compatible ex) are from Kerala. A few decades of connection doesn’t make me an insider, but at the same time, it wasn’t a barely – considered borrowing of some term encountered in passing.

              If more of the US political class appreciated the parallels, they’d likely not have been anywhere near as blindsided by recent political developments (that transcend left – right categorisation).

              I also note that “swadeshi” as described currently on the net and in publications has taken on a much less universal definition and philosophical basis than how it’s described in contemporaneous texts, as well as texts from the 60s, 70s and 80s, and as taught in Indian schools during those decades. Why this might be is… almost certainly beyond the scope of this blog.

              1. Gazebo Slayer*

                “Preventing them from organizing and reclaiming power through the ballot box”?
                Seriously? The xenophobic “I want an American” types are already grossly overrepresented at the ballot box, considering how our political system gives disproportionate power to rural areas with mostly white, older populations. For one thing, racist voter suppression and gerrymandering are rampant. For another, we have two Senators per state regardless of population. For yet another, a single representative for California represents a LOT more people than one from Wyoming. And don’t even get me started on the Electoral College.

                And the events of the last few years (and, really, of all of American history) have made it clear that white rural Americans absolutely cannot be trusted with this disproportionate political power.

                I am no fan of the global economic race to the bottom, but instituting better protections for workers worldwide is a much better solution than elevating the supposed wisdom of xenophobes who cheer for locking children in cages and elected a kleptocracy.

      5. Observer*

        There is a huge difference between telling a POC (or other victim of prejudice) that they should never accept racism – as you say the victim often just doesn’t have that much choice – and telling the PERPETRATOR or ENABLER that THEY need to not accept it.

        Sure, most companies “want all the money”. But, you can’t throw basic ethics out the window to get it. You can’t steal, lie or cheat to get all the money. And, reasonable, decent people also know that you can’t treat your people like garbage to gain money either. Enabling bigotry of this sort falls under “treating people like garbage”.

  15. Disco Janet*

    OP 1 sounds suspiciously like the bad guy/headmaster in Santha Ramu Rau’s “By Any Other Name.” And even the 10th graders I read that story with recognize her actions as racist and insulting.

  16. Quake Johnson*

    Something more………….FRIENDLY!?!?!?

    Please OP1, explain this choice of adjective.

    1. Jen S. 2.0*

      Yeah, yikes and ouch. “Ethnic” = unfriendly? Especially because here “ethnic” seems to mean “not super common in American English” at best, and “not white-sounding” at worst. I mean, sure, maybe she’s from France or Russia and her name is Sandrine or Ksenia, but … somehow I doubt it.

      LW1, Assuming this thought was just an innocent blunder and you can see your error, you now need to be leading your office in making sure that everyone uses her name with a smile and correctly pronounced. If you don’t bat an eyelash at Galafianakis and Tchaikovsky, you can darn well say Salma. Or Ksenia or Sandrine.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I would take it one step farther and say OP seems to be using “very ethnic” to mean “not WASP.” For example, Salma is a common name in the United States (including in American English), but OP described it as “very ethnic” when compared to Sally.

        I’m trying very hard to be compassionate but am struggling.

      2. Mathilde*

        I am French. My full name has never been described as “ethnic”, and it is basically impossible to pronounce by English-speaking people.

        It is definitely a racist prejudice. No way the employee is just a white foreigner.

        1. FrenchAnonymous*

          Then again, I am French with a French name and surname, and though they have never, ever been described as “ethnic”, I have been asked more than once if I had a nickname or middle name I could go by, because my first name is apparently impossible to pronounce.
          The name ? Laure. Litterally Lauren with no N. All of you who can say Lauren can say Laure. Please do not ask me to change my name!
          (My last name is actually impossible to pronounce and I totally get it, but it doesn’t seem to bother people, for whatever reason.)

          1. MK*

            Racism and blatant xenophobia apart, there is such a thing as having a mild general hostility towards foreigners of any race. Sometimes locals are resentful about making even the most minor accomodations for foreigners, or believe that they should be conforming to the dominant culture in any way they can since they are “guests” there. I have seen this in all sorts of unexpected versions, like people who are welcoming to POC immigrants and refugees but less tolerant of the customs of Nothern European retirees (I think because the first were forced by circumstance to come here while the later chose this). And on the other hand you have foreingers who can be weirdly hostile to the country they are staying at, mostly because they perceive the culture as inferior, but sometimes out of what seems like sheer pigheadedness: I remember a comment somewhere about an American woman living in Switzerland who refused to learn even the most basic german phrases that would allow her to get gas for her car, because the gas station employees “should be able to speak English”!

            Sadly, people can be awful in many creative ways. Racism is just one the most dominant ones.

    2. Batgirl*

      Yeah that’s the wow word isn’t it? I didn’t know there were unfriendly ethnicities. Also, when I was working customer service phone lines (with a very short western name) they called you whatever they wanted or whatever they misheard.

      1. Thankful for AAM*

        I’m pretty sure the “unfriendly” ethnicity is some variation of white Americans.

    3. Mathilde*

      I mean, even if the employee was named Adolf (definitely unfriendly), you could not ask him to go by Al or Albert.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        TBH I could see an argument for asking them if they’d consider it. Like I think a lot of Myras suddenly started using their middle names in the 60s.

        1. UKDancer*

          I think you’d be very unlikely to find an employee called Adolf. In Germany it’s not technically forbidden although it’s very rare (apparently only 13 instances registered between 2006 and 2013) and not encouraged. When I was growing up I had a lot of German family friends and one of the old men in their village had that name and everyone called him Adi. I only found out that wasn’t his name when he died and we saw the funeral information. So I’d probably expect someone called Adolf to be old (70-80). I don’t know about its popularity outside Germany so maybe it’s more widely used there.

          I would agree, nobody uses Myra since the 60s which is a shame because it’s quite a pretty name really.

            1. M Bananas*

              From searching it seems this might be referencing the conviction of Myra Hindley for the 1966 Moors Murders? If so I wonder if the name Ian suffered a similar fate.

              1. Daisy Avalin*

                Ian didn’t seem to drop off as much, but then Myra was/is a fairly unused name over here (UK) so would have had a much bigger reaction/connection to Myra Hindley at the time. Ian is so common that I doubt many people would have thought of Ian Brady unless the full name or location was very close!

            2. UKDancer*

              It’s because of Myra Hindley (the Moors Murderer). She was I think the first well known UK female serial murderer and the case had a pretty significant impact on the national psyche.

              It was the combination of her being a young, fairly pretty woman with the brutality of the offence that was so shocking and had such an effect. So nobody would call a child Myra for many years and now the name is so old fashioned I’d be surprised to see it at all. I don’t think Ian has gone the same way because there’d been other male serial killers before and it’s also a much more common name.

              1. Akcipitrokulo*

                My other half is Ian…

                I think it is the horror + unusual name.

                Mind you, I do have a relative who still goes by Myra, and I can well see her attitude as “it was my name first!”

    4. Akcipitrokulo*

      Familiar. Comfortable. Safe. Not one of those names that those… other people use.

      Yuck. (Sanitised response.)

  17. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, I think it’s great that you want to give folks a head’s up about your office culture. I want to note, however, that it can be a form of ADA discrimination to package information in a way that may make a candidate think you’re trying to screen out or discourage people in recovery. It’s clear from your letter that that’s not your intent—you want folks to be fully informed so they can understand the office culture. Alison’s advice is great, but I wanted to flag the risk for concern bias, just because it can sometimes result in well-meaning actions having unintended discriminatory effects.

    1. JSPA*

      Yep. Have to present the soda, chips, candy and booze as a benefit that people are welcome to use in ways appropriate to a friendly but completely professional setting. No hand wringing. Let them lead further questions.

    2. OP #2*

      Thanks! I’m glad it was clear to you that I’m not trying to screen out anyone in recovery, but you’re right that I would need to be careful how I present the information. And as Observer noted here, leading with the information about the dogs in the office may help with that.

  18. Massmatt*

    LW 1 I want to be kind and not pile on but please take the reactions from Alison and the commentators to heart and try to learn from this experience.

    Your new hire is probably VERY used to people mispronouncing her name, if she figures it’s annoying to have to repeat it or spell it she can certainly decide to shorten it or use a nickname IF SHE WANTS TO. For some people it is not an issue, it’s common in many phone/call center type jobs especially, but for others it would be a VERY big deal, especially if worded in the way you have in the letter.

    And yes, all names are “ethnic”, even Smith and Jones.

    1. Hornswoggler*

      Your comment reminds me of a passage in Dorothy L Sayers’ “Gaudy Night”. Lord Peter Wimsey refers to a student hypothetically as “Mr Jones of Jesus [College]”. When the student realises it, he storms “I’m not a bloody Welshman!”

      1. Daisy*

        Jesus is historically a predominantly Welsh college. I’m not sure Jones alone would provoke such a strong reaction.

        1. Hornswoggler*

          How interesting – I didn’t know! That explains why the reaction of the student was so strong! Though of course, Jones, as well as being spread throughout the UK, is acknowledged as being part of a group of names that are considered very Welsh (Evans, Pugh, Hughes, Price, Morgan etc.).

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            Although Jones is commonly found all over the UK, it is not evenly spread. There’s a large concentration in the NW of England, for example.

            And yeah my experience of Oxford is that Mr Jones of Jesus is like saying Mr Welsh of Welsh Street, Wales. You do also have to understand the anti-Welsh prejudice to get why it would offend a typical Englishman of the period, too!

            1. UK Civil Servant*

              An old grand-boss of mine, in my leaving presentation, referred to my Welsh surname and how it was ok because “security didn’t find any dubious Welsh connections”.
              I burst out laughing and blurted back “They didn’t look very hard then!”
              Yes – despite a very mild Cardiff accent (often mistaken for Bristol-ish area) I am definitely Welsh. A***hole.

              1. embertine*

                When I worked down on the site of the Olympics in London, we had a call from security because one of our delivery drivers was deemed to be foreign but didn’t have his passport on him.
                … he was Welsh.

              2. Quill*

                Flip over a rock about people’s names, discover a bunch of prejudiced Donkeyholes crawling beneath it, I guess. 0.0

          2. AnonEMoose*

            …and now I need to go watch “The Englishman who Went Up a Hill, But Came Down a Mountain” again…

  19. Nee Attitude*

    LW1: If your new employee were a white man with a “ethnic name”, I am willing to bet that you would not dare to ask him to change it.

    I am a non-white person and I get constant failed attempts to pronounce my name, which is phonetic. Yet, white people can easily pronounce names like Vladimir, or Joaquin, or Sinead or Phoebe. Surprisingly, when you put in the effort, you learn new words [/sarc].

    1. Doc in a Box*

      Funny story on Phoebe/Greek names. Toni Morrison’s actual first name was Chloe, but people had trouble pronouncing it so in college she started using Toni from her baptismal name, Anthony (she was baptized as a teen and chose the name herself).

      The difference between that story and this is that she chose the name change; didn’t have some editor telling her “Well it’s unexpected for a black woman to be named Chloe; why don’t you go by Toni instead.”

    2. FrenchAnonymous*

      I wouldn’t be so sure of that. As noted above, I am a (white) French woman with a French name and surname, and I have been asked more than once if I had a nickname or middle name I could go by, because my first name is apparently impossible to pronounce.
      The name ? Laure. Litterally Lauren with no N. Sigh…

      1. AnonyRus*

        Yeah—you’re making a lot of inaccurate assumptions there. As someone with a long but phonetic Eastern European name (first and last), I’ve been told flat out by several people that they’re not going to bother learning to pronounce it. I have been told this by both other white people and POC.

        1. Database Developer Dude*

          You’ve been told by several people that they’re not going to bother learning to pronounce YOUR NAME????? AT WORK????? If that were me, I’d be going straight to HR. That is absolutely unacceptable.

        2. Blueberry*

          That is spectacularly rude and terrible of all of them, and I’m so sorry. That said, though, just because a POC does something doesn’t mean it is necessarily impossible for that action to ever be racist — I know White people who have gotten crap for their names in the US, but I also know that when people (including POC, augh!) have told me no one could get a job with a name like mine it was because my name “sounds Black”.

      2. AJK*

        My ex-husband has a really simple last name – it’s not common, but it is English and it’s spelled exactly like it sounds.
        The number of people who could not pronounce it still surprises me to this day. They’d try to say it with a long “oo” sound instead of the short “o” sound – there is no place in the entire English language (that I know of) where that syllable is pronounced “oo.” It’s like “pod,” but for whatever people were always attempting to say “pood?”
        I still don’t get it.

    3. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      A lot of this could be attributed to regional accents. Within the last month there was an online video of a group of young men from Baltimore saying the phrase “Aaron earned an iron urn” and the name Aaron kept being pronounced Ern (like Ernest) instead of two syllables AIR-on.

      “white people can easily pronounce names like Vladimir, or Joaquin, or Sinead or Phoebe” — not really. I used to work at a position that had clients from all over the US and I’ve heard many (what I think are) mispronunciations for names that I think are common and easy…Ewing pronounced E-wing or EEW-ing instead of YOU-wing; Javier pronounced with a hard J and A instead of an H sound and AH; we have the AAM famous Wa-keen and Jo-a-quin story; I’ve heard Sinead said with an S sound instead of SH; and FO-bee instead of FEE-bee; even names like Andrea — it could be ahn-DRE-ah or ANN-dree-ah. I had a friend growing up who was Ahna (spelled the way it was supposed to be pronounced) still get called Anna.

      1. doreen*

        I know someone whose father and brother were both named Javier. Both pronounced it correctly, but my acquaintance always refers to his brother as “Jay- vee-er”. And then there are the accents- I keep reading about how Erin/Aaron, Carrie/Kerry and Don/Dawn are homophones- and all I can say is “not in my accent”.

  20. Princesa Zelda*

    #1: DO NOT. In addition to how deeply racist it would be to your employee, think about this: People’s names are personal, and can be profoundly intertwined with their sense of self. It might be the first gift their parents ever gave them; it might be one they chose themselves as a formal acknowledgment of an aspect of their identity. It could be a family name that ties them back to people far away or long-dead. You don’t know, and it’s none of your business. You could profoundly hurt your employee on this basis as well.

    1. Ray Gillette*

      Speaking of names being personal and entwined with a person’s sense of self… if OP#1 has a transgender employee who wants to go by a name other than the one on their ID, is that something the company will support? Or will they say it’s “too confusing” or “impossible to change what’s in the system”?

    2. Sharrbe*

      Also, all the LW has to do is imagine if the tables were turned. What if an employer asked him to change his name to make life easier for everyone else?

  21. Nephron*

    LW1: As a young white woman, if I found out a local business had asked a sales person to change their name from ethnic to something “friendly” I would run away. You are going to damage the business if you do this.

  22. Mommy.MD*

    Letter 1 is the most tone deaf letter I’ve ever read on this site. Please tell me it’s a hoax.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Although I can see why people might possibly not have caught up to why precisely it’s such a terrible suggestion more generally, I am boggling at the idea that an AAM reader could do so. “A person’s name is their name and not to be joked about or messed with” is as obvious as “bathroom use is private” round here!

      1. Quill*

        I was hoping that OP 1 wrote in so they’d have a printout to wave at even more tone deaf people in their business…

      2. Database Developer Dude*

        General, tell that to the boss who pees in a cup and dumps it in the kitchen sink at work!

    2. Doc in a Box*

      As an Indian physician with an easily pronounceable but identifiably “ethnic” name, serving a mostly-white, rural population… I can assure you, this is not a hoax.

      1. WellRed*

        I have found Indian names, like other names, easy to pronounce. You may have to pause for a moment to read it through first, but Parthasarathy shouldn’t be any more difficult than DiPetriantonio.

        1. WellRed*

          Doc, that’s not to say I disbelieve your experience, just that it doesn’t need to happen if people would just think.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            “if people would just think”

            From your mouth (fingertips?) to God’s ears, as I believe the expression goes.

      2. MatKnifeNinja*

        I live in an area where Hindi is being kicked around as a language offering in the local high school.

        The “can’t you shorten your name” is in full force here. And the area isn’t considered remotely rural.

    3. fhqwhgads*

      It’s at least the third time this question has come up here since I started reading a handful of years ago.

  23. Lime green Pacer*

    I choose to believe that LW1 is simply restating points made by other people in the company, because they are concerned about the issue and its potential fallout. After all, LW1 was aware enough to actually ask the question.

  24. cornflakegirl*

    No.5. In some industries it signals what kind of relevant experience. Eg. Music industy, listing work experience in large cities known for their vibrant scenes can add a layer of description that ‘Bob’s bar’s doesnt give. Also, can flag international experience, which can be an asset in some industries as well.

  25. T3k*

    There’s one caveat to #4: if it’s actually the norm for employees to have headphones on and tune everything else out. For example, I do online customer support, and from day one we use headphones to 1) not disturb your neighbors each time a case comes in which helps keep noise levels down, 2) there’s almost 0% chance someone will physically come up to talk (almost all communications are done via chats, emails, etc. with coworkers and supervisors) and 3) music helps set the work pace (makes the complicated tech chats not feel so drawn out).

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Which is why Alison suggested observing the office culture before using the headphones.

  26. Vera Steine*

    I’m surprised by the advice to LW2 because asking good candidates to self select out over something like alcohol comes dangerously close to discrimination. What if the candidate wears a hijab and you tell them this? Essentially you’re asking candidates to opt out over something non essential that would be, if they were employed with you and not in a job interview, a form of discrimination. Alcohol should have little to no presence in the workplace, and if the culture is such that it is this present, you’re going to lose out on a lot of good candidates.

    I don’t drink and maybe that’s colouring my vision, but I frown upon any modern employer who regularly provides alcohol and/or gifts it as if everyone welcomes it. This is the 21 st century and many don’t, for religious or medical reasons, exactly the sort of grounds that employers should be sensitive to.

    1. Daisy*

      I agree that OP shouldn’t make people feel like they can’t work there if they don’t drink. I disagree that this is a particularly high level of drinking, based on the description. I’ve certainly never worked anywhere that would forbid you from giving a colleague a bottle of wine as a gift.

    2. Fikly*

      I don’t think LW2 is asking them to self-select. They are giving them the option to self-select. That’s choice, and I’m fine with that.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        Yeah, I think it’s a matter of finding the wording to say alcohol will be present, with no expectation of consumption, but you should be aware. Then leave it up to the candidate to decide if they want to pursue the position.

        1. jam*

          I wonder if a way to bring this up without overemphasizing it is to do a quick office tour. “As you can see, we’re a dog friendly office, and we usually have two or three doggos in here on a normal day… here’s the snack area, there’s soda and beer in the fridge, and everyone’s welcome to anything they like; it’s not uncommon for teams to hang out with a beer in here after work” or whatever.

          1. Lora*

            The way it’s been presented to me has been basically as you describe: “This is the main conference center where were have Happy Hour every second Friday with free beer and where we hold a lot of team building events and poster sessions with wine and cheese, that’s the cafeteria which is subsidized, this is the other cafe where they serve snacks all day, that’s the gym…” It’s just a thing that they do. At all events they also serve soda and mineral water, and nobody looks very hard at what you are drinking; they just assume you have something else to do later (driving or whatever) that precludes drinking.

            That’s when it’s done well, in a Western culture, with a lot of white collar folks who are definitely not executives. It can definitely be NOT done well, but in either case, OP is right – culture change of these things has to come from the top down, it never comes from the bottom up. If the CEO, CFO and COO are all boozing together on the golf course, then that is what the people under them will do too.

            1. Quinalla*

              Yup, this is how I would handle it too for the alcohol as unless we are misunderstanding, I think this or something tailored more specifically for your office conveys the level of alcohol presence in the culture, though I would mentioned specifically – free beer, soda and water for happy hours or whatever is accurate. We have happy hours 3-4 times a summer, but for those who don’t drink alcohol we make sure to have plenty of alternative beverages on hand. Same with food, I have a person who does not eat pork and another who is vegan and I always make sure to provide plenty of options for them and/or go to restaurants where they have good options when we do work lunches/snacks.

              I would probably give candidates a heads up about the office being dog friend prior to the first interview on-site. For the few with fear of dogs or allergies, this is a necessity! I’d just say in the phone call or email to schedule the interview: “Our office is dog friendly which means… (insert brief description of what that means for your office in general and for the interview specifically – example: you might see/get approached by/etc. a dog when you come in, but the interview itself will be dog-free). If you have any questions or concerns, let me know!”

              1. boo bot*

                Yeah, I think a description of the specifics like this is way more helpful than trying to generalize. If someone told me, “our office culture includes some alcohol,” or similar, I would assume WAY more of a party/bro culture than what I think the LW is actually describing. What people really need is exactly this – how often, how late, and do I have to?

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I agree with option to self-select.

        As a non-drinker who would be completely unfazed by the alcohol use as described, I’m surprised how many posters find it off-putting. But that’s part of the value of the site, that my obvious problem/not-problem line is not everyone else’s.

      3. Clisby*

        Right. If they tell me they have a dog-friendly office, I’m going to self-select right out of there and good riddance. It doesn’t mean they’re pressuring me to self-select.

    3. BRR*

      Discrimination based on what? I read it as the lw knowing interviewing is a two-way street and presenting the company culture. I know there are people here who would not like alcohol in the office and the lw not wanting to blindside any new employees on their first day.

    4. hbc*

      If you tell the woman in the hijab and no one else, you have an issue. If you tell everyone “Hey, here’s a few elements of our culture that are a little unusual and may be a draw or may be a problem,” I don’t see the issue. There are always people who will be turned off by a particular culture, practice, or policy–I wouldn’t last five minutes at Southwest Airlines. But that doesn’t mean they’re doing anything wrong, as long as they let cynics like me know what kind of “rah rah” atmosphere they cultivate.

      As far as this particular company, they sound less pushy about alcohol than most companies are about coffee, so the fact that it’s simply present shouldn’t cause too many to opt out. It sounds like it’s not the place for you because it’s around, but people like me would be looking at the details of the benefits that aren’t such a benefit to us–if there are animals meandering about, when in the week the beer gets cracked open and how often, the office smells like spilled alcohol or unwashed fur, etc..

    5. WellRed*

      Vera Steine, I do drink but I was a bit surprised too. It seems like they would weed out no only non drinkers but are also going to skew themselves toward younger employees. Anyone remember the letter where the manager encouraged drinking, created a toxic culture and froze out a slightly older coworker? I don’t think that’s at all what’s going on in today’s letter, but it bears keeping in mind.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Except that young people drink less than they used to – drinking culture may be common among Millennials, but Gen Z are much more abstemious as a group.

            1. Ego Chamber*

              Nope, those are young Millennials. Everything I’m finding has Gen Z at 22 if they were born right at the beginning of it. This is an old argument though, I thought I was Gen X until like 4 years ago.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            In addition to other comments about generation boundaries, I’m in the UK where the legal drinking age is 16 (in certain places, certain low-alcohol drinks, with food) or 18.

            It is particularly noted that undergraduates – mostly 18-22, solidly Gen Z, all legal here – really don’t drink as much as they used to. This is partly because university has become more expensive so (1) they can’t afford to and (2) they take their education more seriously.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I don’t drink, and would find this level of alcohol use completely unremarkable. And I’m in my 50s.

    6. Smithy*

      This was mentioned up thread regarding fundraising, but there are lots of jobs that either include events or are events adjacent that will result in alcohol being on the premises of a workplace. There is always alcohol in our office fridge/kitchen – often half opened – though given the lengthy presence, it’s clearly not always consumed.

      There will be times when cases of beer or wine is sitting around before/after an event and around 1-2 times a year the events team will have a “clean out the closet” party at the end of the day where alcohol is made available to those who want. There are also celebratory “cheers” or other parties in the office another 3-6 times a year where wine/beer is made available.

      Because alcohol is present in larger quantities around events, there is often a benign attitude towards its overall presence in the office. And while working with alcohol vendors might come up in an interview for someone on the events team – there are lots of other fundraising jobs more distant from events where it wouldn’t be a job task, but their desk might still be near crates of beer on occasion. With all that being said, I think what the OP is wrestling with is very kind for someone to have the opportunity to be aware if that kind of larger environment sounds untenable.

  27. Autistic Farm Girl*

    OP1, i don’t know if you’re just assuming that your customers are racists, or if you’re using this as an excuse to not check your/your company’s own racism. Asking someone to change their name because it’s “ethnic” and “not friendly enough” is racist. I also fail to see how white american names are friendlier (Chase, Hunter, etc?!).

    I have a non-english name, because i’m French/Belgian with french speaking parents. I’ve lived in an english speaking country for nearly a decade now, not once did i decide to change my name to be “friendlier” or easier to pronounce (and it’s not a name that’s easy to pronounce in English), and guess what? People say my name. Yes they misspelt it and mispronounce it, but they say it.

    If your employee wants to change her name it’s one thing, but don’t ask her to do it, and definitely don’t tell her the “reasons” that you told Alison, because that’s disgusting behaviour (outside the fact that it’s also illegal)

  28. His Grace*

    OP 1:
    Take it from someone whose name is ethnic sounding. What you asked is at best, tone-deaf and insensitive. And worst, blatantly racist and unprofessional. And this is not about being some easily offended “snowflake”. This is about respecting your subordinates and their cultures. Given that some people have a hard time landing jobs because of their names, you should learn to value diversity. I don’t know if this is your first time in a managerial position or how diverse your workplace is, but either way, this reflects poorly on you. (Full disclosure: if your new hire approached you and volunteered to use a nickname, that’s different).

  29. rosieinlondon*

    I went on an interview recently at a company that really drummed up the drinking culture to a worrying degree, my interviewer said the 5PM free beers were “one of the best things about us”. Classic startup putting more effort into being a “fun place to work” than actually developing employees. There were a lot of red flags in that interview (I turned down the offer) but I really did wonder how they would handle an employee who didn’t drink, for whatever reason. It’s good to be upfront about it, but outside perspectives can be useful in this case. What’s become normal for you could be a big yikes to an outsider.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I would have run away from that too. I do drink, but think it’s really inappropriate at work. That’s something you leave for after work at a different location.

    2. rayray*

      I don’t drink, but even if I did, I wouldn’t want to stay past 5:00 to hang out and drink. I need to leave the office after work hours and either go home or tend to my errands, go to the gym, see friends or family, etc.

    3. Fikly*

      The free beer isn’t the red flag, the free beer being “one of the best things” about them is the red flag.

  30. DiscoCat*

    #1 in addition to all comments, another background here is that in a lot of countries colonised in the past by Europeans people still have an alias. Mostly a very “typical” English or French second first name they use when they introduce themselves, almost apologetically- “my name is—, you can call me Maureen”. It’s hurtful and reflects how racism and otherisation have become internalised and entrenched to the extent that 60+ years after independence people still feel they don’t belong to the “mainstream” of humanity. Slavery is another one where owners took the liberty of renaming other human as if they were objects.

  31. Cat Meow*

    Change it to something “more friendly”? I am a white person and was really speechless to read this! It is not the customer’s presumed prejudice you need to worry about, it is your own. Please try to do some self reflection and try to be more accepting of those different from you. It’s not about the potential for being sued, it’s about being a good person.

  32. Longtime Lurker*

    #2, please mention this in the job ad itself. For a candidate with either “dog-friendly” or “alcohol available” being a deal breaker, it would be annoying to get as far as the interview.

    1. hbc*

      I can’t imagine putting “alcohol available” in an ad without making it seem like a much bigger part of the culture than it is, at least as described by the LW. I think more people would opt-out of “open office space,” “radio set to country station,” or “street parking free-for-all” than “there is beer on the premises for those who wish to partake after work.”

      1. The Original K.*

        I agree about the alcohol but I do think dog/pet-friendly offices should list themselves as such in job ads so folks can opt out. I keep thinking of the poor woman who had a serious dog allergy but didn’t know her office was dog-friendly until she started working there. (I don’t have allergies or phobias but I don’t want to work in a dog-friendly office either.)

        1. hbc*

          I agree. “Dog-friendly” basically signals the presence of dogs, which won’t make people concerned that you’re obsessed with dogs or they’re mandatory or anything. It’s just “Am I okay with the presence of dogs in the office?”

          Alcohol has such a weird place in American culture that you can’t signal “Hey, there’s alcohol present” for the people who won’t be in 500 ft of it without others picturing 10am kegs. It pretty much has to be a conversation, coupled with touring the office and *not* seeing red solo cups piled up or “funny” signs about hangover cures.

        2. Quill*

          I love dogs, I don’t want to work in a dog friendly office because I’d never get anything done. :)

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            2 of my coworkers have brought their dogs in on two separate occasions due to extraordinary circumstances. They were huge distractions. But it was so awesome.

            One was a little pug puppy and it slept on my desk for a couple of hours that day. Glorious.

            1. Quill*

              One of my undergrad cohorts got a puppy when I was in college, she became the department’s unofficial therapy dog. :)

          2. Database Developer Dude*

            Quill, I cosign there. Plus, dogs can tell whether you’re a dog person or not, and for those of us who are, they won’t leave us alone because THEY KNOW WE WILL GIVE THEM ATTENTION!!!!!!

            1. SimplyTheBest*

              Whereas every dog I’ve ever encountered seems to realize I don’t like them and so spends all their time trying to win me over.

        3. Guacamole Bob*

          The problem, as has been discussed before on AAM, is that allergies or phobias can fall under disability law, at least under some circumstances, and that raises the question for me of how a company should tell people about it so as to avoid discrimination.

          For an analogy, should a company put in a job ad that the work site is not fully accessible so people who use wheelchairs can opt out? Or is it incumbent upon the company to make it work if such an applicant is the best candidate for the position, even if that means moving offices or adding a lift or enabling telework or whatever? What about less obvious conflicts over disability – should people self-select out of applying for good jobs they are qualified for because the employer currently operates in a way that means the person would need to request an accommodation?

  33. Agnodike*

    OP 1, I encourage you to stop using euphemisms to disguise how you feel. All names are “ethnic.” Everyone has an ethnicity. What you mean by “ethnic” is “sounds like it belongs to a person of colour.” What you mean by “friendly” is “white-sounding.” “Can I ask my employee to present themselves as Caucasianly as possible?” is a hard no, every time.

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      ““Can I ask my employee to present themselves as Caucasianly as possible?” is a hard no, every time.”

      Perfectly put.

  34. LGC*

    *looks at first letter*

    I see the new year is already off to a good start! (And on the first letter no less.) LW1, I think you already know the answer, and just wanted confirmation. (I hope. And I’m assuming.)

    For LW2 – honestly, the bigger issue might be the dogs. It sounds like your office drinking culture isn’t in any way out of the norm for a professional office in 2020, but dogs in offices aren’t quite as mainstream.

    For LW4 – you might not have a chance to wear them on your first day! You’ll possibly be training and onboarding, and that might be a lot to deal with. I’d put them on once you feel more comfortable with your job. And possibly go with a less obtrusive pair if you can swing it – although that results in an entirely different set of issues! (I switched from bulky over-ears to fully wireless headphones. They’re great, but since they’re black and I have black hair…they’re not exactly visible.

    1. Veronica Mars*

      Good advice for LW4. Generally “deep, interruption free work” doesn’t come up the first few weeks on the job, so you’ll be ok without them for now.
      But I’m laughing at switching to a less obvious pair – I actually went the opposite way because when I wore regular earbuds, people would have entire conversations with me not realizing I couldn’t hear them. Now, they know they need to get my attention (or, better yet, not bother me right now).

      1. LGC*

        It depends. I switched to make myself look a bit more approachable (plus people were interrupting me ANYWAY even with humongous cans).

  35. MistOrMister*

    Re #1, at my office, when you start they ask what name you want to go by and that’s how you’re introduced. Some people go by an americanized version of their names. But the majority do not. There people who’s names I have absolutely butchered with the wrong pronunciation, but I woud never think to ask anyone to use a different name. My feeling is, if I say someone’s name wrong, they will correct me and next time I’ll know how to say it correctly. It’s really not a big deal at all.

    Interestingly, I just read an article in the Washington Post about an immigrant from Africa who runs a corner store in a very rough area of DC. His name is something like Semere, but his customers call him Sam because it’s easier. There is probably,no malice involved but I thought it was really odd because his name is only 2 (or 3 depending on pronunciation) syllables!! My very American name is the same length and no one would think to shorten it without my permission. But when the name is “foreign” somehow there are some who think it’s fair game to want to change them, no matter how easy they might actually be to say.

    1. MistOrMister*

      And, I could he wrong, but I think this feels particularly icky because of the assumption that the new hire is a person of color. It seems people are more likely to claim names are to “ethnic” for Africans/African Americans, Indians and some Asians. You don’t tend to hear people say that for Irish, Western Europeans, etc. God help me, but I could NOT figure out how Siobhan was supposed to he pronounced until I heard someone read it.

        1. Lierre*

          And Sauchiehall and Kirkcudbright. :-) But yes, I can see people struggling to pronounce Gaelic names and still not A) referring to them as “ethinc” and B) asking them to be changed.

    2. AthenaC*

      “Re #1, at my office, when you start they ask what name you want to go by and that’s how you’re introduced. Some people go by an americanized version of their names. But the majority do not.”

      And I think that’s the key. If OP #1, in honestly evaluating their client base, thinks that prejudice is something the new employee might have to deal with, and they also honestly think that a more local-sounding name might prevent / mitigate that, that is information the new employee should have. They can choose to go by a different name (or not!) but it is their choice.

      Or, if they choose to use one name for their coworkers and another for their clients, that also might work.

  36. kayakwriter*

    LW 1, search youtube for “Key & Peele, Substitute Teacher Mr Garvy” When you’ve finishing laughing, imagine it was the real world, that black teachers really did treat white students and “white” names that way. Because that is the real world for many non-white people dealing with white people in positions of power. See why it’s wrong now?

        1. The Original K.*

          My best friend’s SIL was dating a guy named Aaron and everybody called him A-A-Ron to his face (he knew the sketch and was in on the joke). It was delightful.

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        There’s a pokemon called Aron, and EVERY TIME my spouse and I see one and start throwing pokeballs at it, we say “Ya done messed up, A-Aron!”

    1. un-pleased*

      This video is one of the best teaching tools out there on this topic. You realize how much the written and spoken versions of names can differ in English, as well – his pronunciations are totally plausible given how the names are written.

    2. Third or Nothing!*

      I wasn’t really laughing up until Timothy said “pree-sent.” Easily the best part.

  37. Nea*

    LW#3, I wouldn’t walk around the corner to interview for something that vague, much less potentially strand myself in a different city. Alison’s script is an excellent alternative to screaming “Do you know how many red flags this is sending up?”

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yeah, that’s one of the places my mind goes when I see a posting for a job that doesn’t tell you what the job is. Or some kind of reshipping scam, or one of those fake interviews to facilitate identity theft.

    1. EPLawyer*

      I’m with you. If you can’t tell me even the job title I am applying for, why should I take time out of my schedule to come meet with you.

      It sounds disorganized. Disorganized hiring practices are usually not a good sign.

  38. Cheryl*

    The letter from OP#1 doesn’t sound real to me. The inclusion of the term “ethnic” twice makes the letter seem designed to elicit outrage here in the comments. It just doesn’t feel reasonable that in 2020, someone would not only want to change someone’s name because it’s ethnic, but would also write in here to ask if it’s okay.

    1. Tom (no, not that one)*

      Cheryl,

      I wish this is fake. But, they are out there – people/companies that believe this is acceptable.
      So, while I hope you are correct – i`m afraid you might be wrong…

    2. Akcipitrokulo*

      I am hoping LW1 is getting confirmation so that they can push back against what they know is wrong.

    3. EPLawyer*

      This isn’t even the first letter of this type on AAM. Sadly, this is all too real. In 2020, there are people who actually think they are doing people a favor by making suggestions like this.

    4. Gazebo Slayer*

      Can we stop posting “this is fake, nobody would ever be that racist in [current year]” comments? A look at the last five years of US news should make it clear that yes, plenty of people really are that racist.

    5. SaffyTaffy*

      This exact thing has happened to people I know at schools and jobs, and with their in-laws.

      1. Anon because of Kids*

        Yup – I have kept my kids out of the public schools in my very red state because the public school district keeps only sending me mail in Spanish because my married last name “sounds like it’s from Latin America” so of course I speak/read only Spanish.

        I once asked a secretary there if I was using my maiden name (which sounds German) what language would I be getting mail in, her reply was English…….that was the deciding moment for husband and I . The kids are in a charter school instead.

        1. Anon because of Kids*

          Adding, husband’s background isn’t central/South American at all – but European (Spain and Germany). But the name came from Spain, so some people make assumptions.

          Plus, yup red-state, but the job here beats others we have had in the past. But there’s not a word at all about the name at his job or at mine.

    6. Rusty Shackelford*

      {waves to you from a red state} It may not be reasonable, but it is definitely a thing.

  39. Red5*

    Funny story in relation to OP #1. My first name is very white American and my original last name is Italian. I took Italian classes in college and the professor had us all go by the Italian version of our names (think Giovanni for John, etc). My name, along with several other people’s, however, don’t have an Italian equivalent, so the professor made us choose Italian names to go by (think, Francesca for Jane). I hated it. It wasn’t MY name, but I had to go by it for three semesters of class. It felt gross and icky, like my given name was somehow inferior.

    The moral of the story: learn to pronounce people’s names. It’s their name.

    1. Humble Schoolmarm*

      This seems like a thing in many additional-language classes but as a additional-language teacher I’ve never actually seen it in the wild. I’ve never been a huge fan for the reasons Red5 lists and can’t imagine, practically, how the teacher manages to remember 100 legal names paired with 100 language x names (plus preferred names for those that have them).

      1. doreen*

        I’m going to guess that a lot of it depends on specific details- for example, my Italian teachers in high school did the same thing, but nearly everyone had either an Italian first name or one with an Italian equivalent , so there were only a couple of cases where the legal name was very different from the Italian name. On the other hand, my daughter took a Cantonese class, where everyone had to choose a Cantonese name- she was the only person in the class who already had one, and it was not her legal name. That must have been much more difficult for the teacher.

    2. hbc*

      I had to do that for my first French class, and yeah, it wasn’t good. The hilarious thing was that my mother’s entire family is French-speaking, so I grew up with tons of relatives managing to say my name with a French accent. Seems like it would be much better practice for everyone to get used to responding to the accented attempt of their name rather than raising your hand at Etienne or Paolo.

      1. Shad*

        That’s what we did for Spanish, iirc. People with names like Mary or John got called Maria or Juan, but anything that was really any more distinct than that was just the Spanish-accented/Spanish-letter version of their real name (think Spanish vs American Anna/Ana or Jesus for what I mean by Spanish-letter version).
        My own name, Jennifer, was pronounced as Yennifer, though still spelled the same.

        1. rayray*

          I always hated this. I took spanish, and there wasn’t a spanish version of “Michelle” so I got called “Mee-chelle”

          I at least made an effort to pronounce foreign names correctly. I don’t call people named Juan “Wonn” like many other native- english speakers do.

    3. WellRed*

      We did this in junior hire Latin class. While I went by something similar in terms of first letter, number of syllables to my name, others picked something totally different. It can be fun to try on something different as a kidn.

      1. MsM*

        Yeah, I loved it – but I suspect that speaks to the privilege of having a name that is extremely common across the Western world and therefore having the luxury to choose whether I want to use it or not.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Yep. I had to do this for German (let the other Julie have ‘Yulia’), and it was fun, but it was my choice, not other people’s constant mis-naming me.

      2. Red5*

        Yes, it can be fun to choose but not so fun when it’s imposed upon you. I also remember my professor making a disparaging comment about my first name, something along the lines of why would my parents pair something so ugly like “Jane” with such a beautiful Italian last name.

        With the OP using the descriptors “ethnic” and “more friendly” in an obviously-derogatory fashion, adding to her employer requesting the person go by a nickname instead of the employee choosing to, I’d say it’s an all-around bad situation.

        1. Throwaway*

          Yeah…my first name is Nicola – girl’s name if you’re Scottish (like me), but in Italian it would be a boy’s name. I’m wondering if I’d be asked to go by something else, or if there’d be a discussion on gendered names. (In Japanese class, we went by given names, and trying to figure out the names from the katakana name tags could be interesting – the closest we came to mine read as Nee-koh-ra…which is not how it’s pronounced, but hey, why not!)

    4. Quill*

      We did that for my beginner spanish classes but everyone picked out of a list. It was absolute chaos – inattentive middle schoolers responding to a name they picked yesterday? No thanks.

      By two weeks into the semester we were reduced to “señior lastname” and “señiorita lastname.”

    5. CircleBack*

      I see arguments on both sides for this practice of kids picking names – on the one hand, we learned pronunciations for common names found in the language we were learning (so as a French student, I wasn’t totally thrown off the first time I met a Thibault).
      However, it also reinforces some racist assumptions about what a “[Language] name” is. While I was in France, I met a Mohammed, an Omar, a Yasmine – but you can bet your butt that Mohammed wasn’t an option for a “French name” in my middle school French class. “Sarkozy” isn’t a “French” last name, but President of France is as French as they come.

    6. Koala dreams*

      I didn’t go to any language class where that’s expected, but I can see that it could be useful to practice common names in your target language every day. I’ve taken classes with the opposite, though, where the textbook is all about John and Mary and what they are up to, and the students are hardly ever exposed to common names in the language.

  40. Cherries on top*

    Yeah, I was also wondering why #3 isn’t ADA problematic?

    Hypothetical: If someone with, for example, severe dog allergy were to knowingly take a job at a dog friendly office, would they be able to request accommodation?

    1. Natalie*

      Yes. Assuming the company is large enough for ADA (or state level laws) to apply, the ADA accommodation process is always available to you.

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      OP specifically mentions accommodations in their letter:

      “I don’t want to ask anyone their history with alcohol, just give them the information they need to make a good decision–whether that’s to self-select out or plan to request some form of accommodations.”

      It’s good to put all the info out there. If someone is applying at a bunch of places and ends up with multiple offers they may prefer to go with one that wouldn’t involve having to deal with getting accommodations. And if someone needs to accept this job then it’s helpful for them to know going into it that it’s something they’ll need to deal with.

  41. TimeTravelR*

    My given name is difficult to pronounce. I get a lot of variations on it when people try. But I’m okay with that. I (gently) correct them if necessary but I often just let it go. I would, however, be incredibly offended if I were asked to use a nickname by an employer. You are asking for trouble here, OP1.

  42. Interview Disclosure*

    Alison, I’m wondering when/if you think the dog-friendly information should be given for op 2’s office. I know the past feeling has been that people with allergies and non dog lovers should self-select out of such offices. I have some issues with that idea, but if that is the way dog-friendly offices want to work then it would seem that they should be disclosing it as soon as possible.

    On the drinking front, I’m a light social drinker, so if the op did bring it up, I would hope that she’s going to provide some context. Pointing out that there is a drinking culture would set off alarm bells for me unless she made it clear that it’s for special occasions, people limit themselves and don’t pressure or judge the non-drinkers.

  43. Tom (no, not that one)*

    OP #1 – With the current climate with ‘americans’ threatening yet another war (Iran) – the culture might be that you would be asked to change your name to sound ‘non american’ (otherwise our customer base might think that your company is violent). So if your name is Jane, best change it to Jasmina. If you are Doug, then Sharif would be better.

    Do you see how totally insane this sounds? Because, this is what you are considering.
    So, either your company is not really ‘clean’ and may have far right leaning “standards” – or you have questionable ethics.

    That said – if a name is very hard to pronounce for the majority of the colleagues or customers – the person could choose ‘hey, call me xyz’ – but it should never be mandated by the company. Really.

  44. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    OP#1: Ever watch American Ninja? See the hosts’ names? One of them is Akbar Gbajabiamila. I still cannot pronounce Akbar’s last name but I’m so impressed that he never changed it (as TV is one medium that is so brutal) and there he is, hosting a very fun and very public show. And he does it well.

    Let your employee shine with her real name, her skills and her personality. If she does well, that’s all the proof you need that names need not be changed to be “friendly.” If a customer won’t use her, you don’t need that kind of customer.

    1. MsM*

      There’s a clip out there of Hasan Minhaj talking about his struggles with whether he should Anglicize his name, and how he came to the decision he wasn’t going to do that. I can’t remember if it’s SFW, or I’d link it.

      1. sssssssssssssssssssssssss*

        There’s one of him correcting Ellen on how to pronounce it too. It’s funny but also on point.

    2. Observer*

      That last name is going to be genuinely difficult for most English speakers to pronounce completely correctly (and please don’t trot out Tchaikovsky – most people actually do NOT pronounce it correct – to the point that most Americans don’t even realize that the “common” pronunciation is actually incorrect.) But seriously, it doesn’t matter. We’ll all survive difficult names. And as long as people make a good faith effort to come close and the person doesn’t get on their high over good faith errors, it’s just not a big deal.

      A little bit of respect goes a LONG way.

    3. emmelemm*

      Yeah, that’s a pretty difficult name for white Americans, but I’ve heard him say it enough times now that I could probably not butcher it if I met him in person. :)

  45. Eillah*

    OP1- One of the most effective methods of combating racism is exposure to different cultures, aka the *exact opposite* of what you’re trying to do.

  46. Justin*

    1: Acting in fear of the racist clients just emboldens them so stop it, stop it now. Racist money isn’t more important than kindness to your employees.

  47. Saraphina*

    #1. It really bothers me that your concern is being sued, not that you might offend or hurt someone…

    1. Observer*

      Shrug. That’s the thing that has changed a lot of behavior. And when you change behavior, culture tends to change. So, while it’s not the best reason to change behavior, it’s still a good thing.

  48. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

    OP 1, by any chance don’t you work for a company that interviews via Skype and asks the interviewee if they are a legal resident in their country of origin? Because it was super weird that in 2018 I had to clarify where my lastname is not from.

  49. Akcipitrokulo*

    A positive comment for OP1 – you knew enough to write in and ask at least. It’s not much, but it’s a start! (And if it is to get arguments to push back against someone in your office, then good luck and do not give in.)

    Please listen to the information given and take it to heart. I am glad you asked first! Do not do this.

  50. tinybutfierce*

    OP#1: Forget worrying about potential client prejudice, you need to address the ACTUAL prejudice amongst yourself and whomever else thought her name wasn’t “friendly” enough. It’s absolutely absurd that you’d even consider asking this of an employee for those “reasons”, and I’d be shocked if this was the only incident of bias in this workplace, intentional or not.

  51. AthenaC*

    #4 – I wouldn’t wear the headphones on the first day, but if you find them as helpful as you say you do, I would ask your immediate supervisor early on.

    One helpful thing is that you say you always keep one ear uncovered – to me, that seems to make the difference between “tuning the world out” vs. “accessible for work things.”

    1. Quill*

      For me that 100% negates the point of headphones – I need to NOT be able to hear people walking or whispering behind me, but I do make a point of unhooking the headphones when someone comes by my cube to talk.

      1. Shad*

        See, I use headphones/earbuds (realistically, my personal preference is for earbuds) primarily because my brain does not do well with silence, and it’s rude to impose my personal sound preferences on the world. For my purposes, using only one side so I can hear someone approaching or starting to talk to me (also can we please not do that? I need to know it’s aimed at me so I can start processing) is ideal.

        1. Retail not Retail*

          Yes I do the one earbud thing so I can hear my radio or coworkers!

          Most of our work is repetitive and nearly mindless but most of it is in view of the public/boss/big boss so no dice 90% of the time. Saturday we were doing one task all day in one spot in a service area and my manager wasn’t there so I said dangit I need a podcast! Cue the huge loader getting manure and then here come the leaf blowers. It was a nice thought.

          I definitely waited a few weeks to bust them out in our indoor work upon seeing someone else. At the time our radios didn’t work there and the boss of any variety never came so let’s get some private tunes going as we weave ivy.

          I definitely remember at my retail job that one of the perks of this overnight shift was wearing headphones. With one ear free for the radio.

  52. MyNameIsRoisin*

    So, my name is Roisin – an Irish name that rhymes roughly with machine when anglicized. My entire 12th grade year, my history teacher called me Rosalind. I tried correcting him during my first month, but gave up because it seemed part of his brand identity was to not treat his students like individuals with their own names, backgrounds and stories. It was far worse for others in my class. My friend Shafeen, whose name is pronounced like it’s spelled and rhymes with mine, was just called “you”, and Puneet and Ajit were just amalgamated into Panjit and…from what I can tell just treated like one student.

    People above have mentioned that white ethnic names are generally treated with a lot more respect than non-white ethnic names, and this discussion has been enlightening for me because I think, in spite of the difficulties people have shown towards my name over my life, I’m pretty sure they’re right about that one. In spite of that teacher, and one other guy who accidentally called me Rebecca the year I knew him (and the Justice of the Peace who called me Stephanie during my wedding ceremony), I’ve never been asked to take on a nickname. And when people find out they’re pronouncing my name wrong, they go way out of their way to get the pronunciation right.

    Anyway, all that to say, LW1, please don’t ask your new employee to take on a friendly nickname. And when did “friendly” become the opposite of “ethnic” anyway? I missed that memo!

    1. hbc*

      I swear, names like “Shafeen” are a nearly perfect racism test. The first time an Anglo asks how it’s spelled, fine, it’s new to you. After that, it’s *exactly* what you would write down phonetically, so there’s no excuse to keep getting that wrong but somehow managing all the Shawns, Shauns, and Seans in your life, especially in the case where you’re regularly getting emails or papers with the name *right* *there*.

      1. saf*

        “Shafeen, whose name is pronounced like it’s spelled and rhymes with mine”
        See, I would pronounce it Sha – feen if I were reading it, and if I heard it pronounced, I would spell it Shafine.

        1. Close Bracket*

          I don’t think she meant “Shafeen” rhymes with “mine.” I think she meant “Shafeen” rhymes with her name, “Roisin.”

    2. Anon for this one*

      I was christened Larnee.

      An old Irish family name with very little context anywhere else. Denotes a specific place in Ireland.

      It’s pronounced fairly phonetically.

      So why oh why do I get called Lara, Alana, Laura or my personal favourite Louise.

      Lar-Knee. Or slightly more accurately LaR-née

      Yet for some reason if I spell it the Hawaiian way “Lani” everyone is magically able to get it right. (I am not in America)

      Go figure.

      1. Dancing Otter*

        Yes, well, Doris gets turned into Dorothy, Dolores, or in one particularly egregious example, Joyce. People just don’t listen or care.

        1. JanetM*

          It doesn’t happen so much anymore, but I’ve had Janet turned into Jan, Jane, Jean, Jeanette, Janice, and Karen. My last name, Miles, often became Miller or Mills.

          Once when I was quite young, my doctor prescribed three different meds for an illness: the pharmacy filled each one under a different variant of my name (this was long before electronic records or faxing scripts to the pharmacy).

      2. Throwaway*

        Nicola (nih-kih-lah is as close as I can type it) – gets me Nicole most of the time, or Ni-COLA (I am not a carbonized beverage, please for the love of God, no). And I will absolutely Lose My Everloving Mind on anyone who decides they can just call me Nikki, or worse…Nick. NO.

      3. Princesa Zelda*

        I’ve had Zelda turned to Briselda, Griselda, Zella, Zelle, and Zola. “Like the video game” only seems to work on people under 45 or so, haha.

        My first name is the Classical Greek form of an extremely common name (Alexandrea) and I got extremely fed up with never being called my correct name ever as a kid. I still have a Pavlovian answer-response to all possible derivatives of that name. Whenever I’m out and about and hear Alex or Andy or Lexi or Dre get called, I immediately begin to turn and correct them. They are never talking to me. I’ve been exclusively Zelda for nearly a decade.

  53. pretzelgirl*

    #2- I would actually be more inclined to warn of the dog friendly office before the drinking. Some people are allergic and others are horribly afraid of dogs. Especially for an interview, if that person is allergic they will not be able to stay for the interview. I would still mention the drinking and see if it is an issue for your interviewers.

  54. Captain Crabs of Of Crustaceans*

    LW#1: as someone with an “ethnic” name, whose accepted mangled and bastardized versions of my name for MY ENTIRE LIFE and even more so in a customer service position let me just say…absolutely not. Their goddamn name is their goddamn name and basic human decency and respect is taking ONE IOTAS worth of a second to listen and ACCEPT and LEARN how it’s pronounced. You can mess it up (I accept the mess ups as at least an attempt to TRY and even appreciate it) but do NOT RENAME someone or even propose to do so because it’s easier for other’s lazy and questionable selves or to pronounce. I’m sorry if this comes off as aggressive but I am so very tired of being expected to capitulate and accept incorrect pronunciations of my name when someone cannot even be bothered to pay attention or to TRY.

    1. 1234*

      If it is a name that I can’t pronounce, I usually start with “Forgive me if I mispronounce your name, but is it _______?”

      And the person will usually say “yes that’s correct” or “It’s actually [how you really say it].” And I will make every attempt at saying their name correctly after that point.

      1. Laney Boggs*

        I went on a date with an Indian girl. It wasnt a difficult name by any means, but I googled it beforehand and first thing I said in person was “Can you tell me how to say your name?” Because that’s just basic respect…

  55. My boss is dumber than yours*

    I know it’s early, but OP #1 is our leader in the clubhouse for Worst Boss of 2020z

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Don’t jinx it. Next we’ll be getting a racist boss who calls her employee a “friendly” Anglo substitute for her name… while interrupting the eulogy at her dad’s funeral to demand an update on the TPS reports.

    2. No Longer Working*

      No, LWs are never considered for that position. People wouldn’t write in for advice if they are shamed for their questions.

      1. Blueberry*

        Well, there was the LW who wanted advice on how to scold his now ex-employee for quitting when he refused to give her time off for her graduation. But you’re right that it should at least take something huge. Unfortunately, in my experience, there are bigger misdeeds than trying to rename people.

  56. Julie in Ohio*

    #1, leave the name alone. It may be that it could even change your outlook. I work at an organization with an Ikia, pronounced exactly the same as the Scandinavian store. I now have to check myself whenever I spell the store name!

  57. queracista*

    Person in #1- I cannot believe any rational person would even consider doing such a thing. There is nothing “unfriendly” about a name you deem “too ethnic.” I am sad to see someone in your position ask a question like that. Please seek mental health assistance for your issues with persons from other cultures.

      1. embertine*

        It’s unkind to mentally ill people. Racism doesn’t mean you’re crazy, it means you’re an asshole.

          1. Observer*

            “Mental health issues”, which is your term, are NOT the same as racism and stupidity. Please don’t conflate them.

          2. Fikly*

            Counseling and therapy are for mental health issues, not for racism. Educate your ignorant self.

      2. queracista*

        Who is “we”? I am not shocked or even slightly surprised, just saddened.

        Racists do not deserve altruism and as a queer, nonwhite person who has often been the butt of jokes due to my ethnicity, I don’t think I need to be NICE about it. Sorry if you have a problem with my response, but perhaps if you care about change, you can put your efforts towards something more concrete.

        Oh, and I wasn’t mean at all. I was pretty polite.

        1. Observer*

          The implication that racism is a likely outcome of mental illness (or as you put it “mental health issues”) is pretty awful. On the one hand, it gives an excuse to the racists. On the other is unfairly labels people with mental health issues who are no more likely to be racist than the rest of the population.

    1. Fikly*

      Prejudice is not a mental illness. Please take your stigma elsewhere. And examine your own prejudice.

  58. Bibliovore*

    Please, please, please include the city and state on the CV or resume. It is either presumptuous to assume that I will assume that Prospect Park Library is in Brooklyn NY because you presently live in Brooklyn.

  59. Miranda Priestly’s Assistant*

    #1: “more friendly”?!!!!

    “We don’t want to insult her” – then don’t!

    Also the irony of the claim they want to “protect” her from racism.

  60. Snuck*

    I’ve commented above… and going to stand corrected!

    I think us Aussies have a slightly more relaxed attitude somehow… I had no idea this was going to have such an impact in the US…. Sure drinking at work isn’t the done thing, but a glass of wine at lunch once a month for someone’s birthday isn’t going to shock anyone… And Christmas drinks are very much a done thing… if you don’t drink that’s fine…

    I’ve never seen “jugs of beer” at the table thankfully (well.. Christmas Party after party down the pub, but that’s when people choose to kick on, not on the company card…)

    Interesting how polarised people seem on this… food for thought!

    (I never drink much… never have… too much on, not enough time to sit around … but most people around me were the same…. one glass at midday leaves you very safe to drive at 5 or 6pm… especially if it’s had with a meal… I don’t understand people who would drink a lot… that’s not what I’m talking about here… I didn’t ever see a lot of that without it being someone who had a solid problem of some kind.)

    1. londonedit*

      Same. I clearly work in a country (UK), city (London) and industry (publishing) where these things are far more widely accepted, because in my experience it isn’t just start-ups trying to be trendy who have beer fridges and Friday afternoon drinks. Publishing used to be absolutely notorious for its long, boozy lunches, and while those have definitely become more or less a thing of the past, it’s still perfectly normal to have a glass or two of wine or beer if you go out for a colleague’s birthday lunch, and it’s perfectly normal to pop to the pub for a lunchtime drink with a friend now and then. Obviously no one’s boozing it up in the office every day, but we have plenty of company events where alcohol is served (along with soft drinks) and it’s also fairly common for a department to have a casual drink in the office together on a Friday late afternoon (not company-sponsored, someone would just pop out and pick up a few bottled beers or G&T in tins or whatever). Or for colleagues to go to the pub for a drink after work. There’s no pressure to drink at any of these things (not in my experience, anyway – I love a drink and I drink quite a lot, but there are also plenty of times where I won’t have a drink, or just have one glass, or whatever) but it’s a very normal part of office culture.

      1. An American Werewolf in London*

        Same same. I’m in the UK in a large marketing company. We have a beer fridge (a bell goes off once a week after 5.00pm at which point we’re allowed to grab a beer, wine, cider or soft drink) and lunchtime and afterwork drinks are definitely not unheard of.

        This polarisation doesn’t surprise me though; in my experience (I grew up in the US but have been in the UK over 30 years) some Americans are more ‘puritanical’ than many Europeans and Brits. Enormous generalisation, I realise!

      2. Akcipitrokulo*

        Yep. At oldjob we’d have team lunches every month or so – and unless you were driving, mist people had a pint or two. I’m teetotal and was nevet an issue. I think it just isn’t A Thing.

  61. Duchess*

    Post #1 reminds me of a story from UZo Aduba – Crazy Eyes from ‘Orange is the New Black’ –

    “So I went home and asked my mother if I could be called Zoe. I remember she was cooking, and in her Nigerian accent she said, “Why?” I said, “Nobody can pronounce it.” Without missing a beat, she said, “If they can learn to say Tchaikovsky and Michelangelo and Dostoyevsky, they can learn to say Uzoamaka.”

    1. anon4this*

      I mean, let’s be real. It’s doubtful *most* Americans could even spell “Tchaikovsky and Michelangelo and Dostoyevsky”, must less pronounce them correctly or even know who they are.

      For real progress to be made, the Employer needs to treat the Employee’s name like they would any plain boring Caucasian name. Historically, African American names (e.g. Watermelondrea) get treated poorly in America too, and there’s no been zero solution to this as well. Wake up America!

        1. StellaBella*

          It was a comment made by Raven Symone on The View a couple of years back about hiring people with ‘ethnic’ or ‘ghetto’ sounding names (yes she said this). And there is a youtuber who goes by Watermelondrea Jones, who responded to Raven Symone’s view on The View. There is an article on CNN, and one on The Root, and in other reputable media if you search for it.

      1. Observer*

        This is true.

        That story annoys me no end. Sure, Mom was right that “everyone” could figure out how to say the name. But pulling up those names as proof? Puleeze.

  62. Jam Today*

    Uzo Aduba talks about her Igbo name, and as a child wishing she could change it to something “American”. She recounts telling her mother she wanted to change it to “Zoe”:

    “I went home and asked my mother if I could be called Zoe. I remember she was cooking, and in her Nigerian accent she said, “Why?” I said, “Nobody can pronounce it.” Without missing a beat, she said, “If they can learn to say Tchaikovsky and Michelangelo and Dostoyevsky, they can learn to say Uzoamaka.”

    1. saf*

      I have a friend named Zoe. For years she went by “Joy” outside of family circles because Zoe was too hard for folks to say/remember/use. (Mid-atlantic US)

  63. Quill*

    #1) Woooow no. I really hope you wrote this in so you can wave Allison’s advice in the face of whoever suggested it, because yikes.

    #4) If in doubt and there’s no reason you might need to be able to hear everyone walking past (such as in an office job) ask! You’ll probably need a pair for online training, anyway. Personally, I’m in an office where headphones are a basic necessity to keep most people from going a little twitchy due to it being as silent as a stereotypical library except for random “humans are moving” noises.

  64. Observer*

    #1 – Some other things not to do – Ask her to change the way she dresses, change / add makeup to make her look less “ethnic”, lie about where she is born, if it’s outside of the US. And most importantly – look the other way when client prejudice rears it’s ugly head.

    You should never allow your staff to be mistreated by customers anyway. If your customers act badly to your staff because of prejudice you need to act – even if it means losing the customer.

  65. Buttons*

    #1, I use a similar scenario in Diversity & Inclusion, Unconscious Bias, and interviewing/hiring trainings. Studies have shown that people with ethnic names get called to interviews less, please please please work on this bias. This type of bias grows into outright discrimination.

  66. An American Werewolf in London*

    #1 – Back in the giddy days of high school, when the Dead Sea was still only sick, I had a guidance counselor, who looked at my full first name on the school record and said, “oh, that’s unusual – is it pronounced Katrina?” I said no (it’s not even spelled Katrina, not even a little bit) and told her how to pronounce it. She replied “oh, I like Katrina better, can I call you that?”

    I felt like replying ‘oh, I like Cockwomble better than your name, can I call you that?’

    Clearly I didn’t. And again, I’m a white, reasonably privileged woman (then a girl, of course). I hate to think what she did to the POC students. This is way back when – I’m sad it’s still happening now.

    Please, please don’t ask your employee to change their name to conform with your or your clients’ racist sensibilities.

    1. Quill*

      I had a “weird” name, but one that wasn’t stereotypically “suburban mom makes unique spelling” and during school I was pretty much always ready to throw down about it, much to the dismay of a bewildering number of subsitute teachers, who saw a tiny girl with braces and Hermione hair and did NOT expect me to go off on them when they “corrected” my name to what they assumed my full name was. Or just… butchered my last name in increasingly inventive ways.

      “Sir, are you aware that you’re not qualified to teach us English, based on the fact that you apparently can’t read, because you pronounced my last name as Crow?”

    2. Miranda Priestly’s Assistant*

      Right? It annoys me when people normalize the racism instead of diversity.

  67. Jubilance*

    OP #1 – I think you SHOULD go ahead and make your request of your new employee, for them to make their ethnic name “easier”. That way they know the type of people they are working for and with, and they can get the hell out of there immediately.

    For you to even think this is a good idea is offensive and disrespectful.

      1. PollyQ*

        I wondered that too! (And i’ve wondered the same thing with other letters to other advice columnists.) What exactly did the LW think Alison would say? Maybe they’re not a regular reader, and just found the site on a basic search? Or are trying to take the voice of someone they report to, so they can get an “official” ruling on the subject?

  68. EmpathyMatters*

    op 1 I am sure from the many comments you have rethought your original position and maybe now have some empathy for the employee with the ethnic name. For you or anyone who is interested, here is a link to an article my daughter wrote for her college paper that was picked up by the local paper. The article is about being biracial but she does talk about how it feels when she is forced to shorten her name or give a nickname to accommodate people seeming incapable of learning a name that is not common to them. I suggest you read it. It may show you what that employee feels like.
    https://lancasteronline.com/opinion/columnists/what-it-s-like-to-be-a-white-brown-girl/article_2ac32c50-dfde-11e9-920e-9366e0513858.html

    1. Blueberry*

      Oh my goodness, your daughter’s article grabbed my heart and squeezed. She beautifully describes these familiar conundrums. Thank you for sharing this with us.

      1. EmpathyMatters*

        You are welcome :) Enough people have pointed out to OP this is just wrong and having legal implications. Maybe knowing how it feels, would change her perception. Hopefully, we don’t just avoid discriminating due to the law but because we don’t want to in the first place. I think it was Hawthorn that said, “Be there no scorn in a women’s heart save that which comes from the gallows” Translate that to modern day – do people only do the right thing because they fear a punishment or do they want to be good. Honestly as an HR professional my Jaw dropped when I read the question.

    2. Fikly*

      You have more faith in humanity than I do. Typically people whose positions have no reason behind them simply double down when they are faced with how badly they are behaving.

      1. EmpathyMatters*

        Forced due to the what comes next. The article I linked to contains her experience that because she appears to be Caucasian when she says her name is Simren she then ends up explaining the origins of her ethnicity and she feels if her name were Caucasian sounding she wouldn’t have to. Also the having to teach people to pronounce it—- not hard (Sim-Ran) who still butcher it and then ask the aforementioned race/ethnic related questions and then the inevitable oh I should have known you have x and y features when Caucasians do not get that response is too much for her to even bother. So she has never been forced by an employer to change her name but has had the experience of others saying I am just gonna call you because I cant say Simren.

        1. Database Developer Dude*

          That’s awful.

          As an Army Reserve Chief Warrant Officer, I had it out with a Sergeant, because we had a soldier whose last name was Srivanchaoran (he was Thai). I made the effort to learn his name, and this Sergeant tried to insist I call him SS (short for Specialist S). I refused.

          As a Chief Warrant Officer outranks a Sergeant, needless to say this did not go well for her (the Sergeant).

  69. Junior Assistant Peon*

    #1 – I’ve seen the practice of Chinese co-workers giving themselves American nicknames cause them problems when they have a driver’s license, passport, social security card, etc, and half the documents have one name and the other half have the other name.

    The intention often backfires when the person unintentionally picks some super-obscure American name that gets mispronounced more than their real name would!

    1. Quill*

      Or just wildly out of sync with their generation… you expect, for example, Edwin, to be at least middle aged, and turns out he graduated the year after you. :)

    2. My Family Members Did This Too*

      I am Chinese and have family members who did this because they came to the US when they were elementary school aged. They didn’t want the teachers/other students to have a hard time saying their names and eventually legally changed their names to their American names.

      Of course, my family members were told to choose American names that were “common” and “easy to pronounce” and were given suggestions. Think of names like Sue, Lisa, Mary, etc.

    3. Indian-American*

      A very good friend of mine (Caucasian) lived in Chengdu for several years and married a Chinese woman. When they were moving back to the US, she wanted to pick an American name for everyday use with non-Chinese speakers and as a Starbucks name. Something sort of close to her actual name, but easy to pronounce for Americans who aren’t used to tonal languages.

      She picked Seesaw.

      (Her husband gently advised her to pick Susanna instead.)

  70. Dancing Otter*

    Regarding letter #1, I totally agree about not asking her to be less ethnic. Might it be OK to ask about a nickname, if the ethnic name is particularly long? I knew a Rabindranath who went by Rob. My father graduated with an Obie, who turned out to be named “Oh Be Joyful”.

    On a less loaded variation, what ought one to do if there are already employees with the same (non-ethnic) name as the new person? I had five Lynn/Lindas in my kindergarten class; my daughter’s class had seven Jennifers. Can one reasonably ask about nicknames or alternates?

    1. windsofwinter*

      Most reasonable work places get around this by asking for a preferred name at time of hire. The thing is you have to ask everyone, and not just the “ethnic” people.

      I once worked somewhere with two women who have common American names. There was one Sarah who had been there for years, and a new hire also named Sarah came on. They insisted she go by her middle name as to not be confusing, which I always thought was messed up.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, that’s not cool. My workplace currently has three Amys, two Elizabeths, and two Sarahs (out of only about 30 total employees) and keeping them sorted out is really not hard.

        1. windsofwinter*

          It was super rude. But this is the same workplace where a) my boss said to my face that she throws away resumes with names she can’t pronounce, and b) a new manager named German (hair-mon or her-mon) was routinely called German, as in of Germany. Those people were awful.

      2. 1234*

        Did the Sarah’s have different last names? If so, they could say “Sarah A” and “Sarah B.” not just make the new hire named Sarah go by her middle name.

      3. DarnTheMan*

        That’s definitely messed up. My work place has two sets of same named staff; two who go by “First Name Last Initial” when clarifying them and the other two who either got by “Department First Name” or “Anna Two Ns” (not the actually name but think something similar; names are pronounced the same way but one has a two of a letter in their spelling and the other doesn’t.)

    2. Just Another Manic Millie*

      I used to work for a company where there was an employee named Minerva, and another employee named Minerva Charlemagne was hired. The office manager told the new Minerva that she would be called MC so as to avoid confusion with the old Minerva. As far as I know, the new Minerva never objected. Everyone called her MC, and she always identified herself as MC.

      One day, flowers arrived at the office, and the envelope containing the card said that they were for Minerva. I put the flowers on Minerva’s desk. Soon afterwards, a guy called and asked to speak to Minerva Charlemagne. I said that she wasn’t in and offered to take a message. He said that he wanted to know if she liked the flowers. Horrified, I said that I had thought that the flowers were for another woman named Minerva, and I had put them on her desk. I asked him why he hadn’t had the name Minerva Charlemagne put on the envelope. He said that it was because he never in a million years would have thought that there could be two Minerva’s at the same company. (The name was obviously not really Minerva. It was a name as ordinary as Mary or Cynthia or Leslie – not a name that would make you think that there couldn’t possibly be more than one of them at a company.)

      I ran to Minerva’s desk to get the flowers, only to see that she had already opened the envelope and read the card and saw that the flowers were not for her, and she had put them on MC’s desk. I had to explain to MC what had happened when she came in. She was very understanding. The next day, more flowers were delivered, this time with the name Minerva Charlemagne on the envelope.

      One day, after the company placed a help wanted ad in the newspaper, a resume from someone who had the same first name as me came in over the fax machine. I showed it to the office manager and said that it was from another Millie. She promptly ripped it up, saying that it would be too confusing to have more than one Millie working at the company.

      1. 1234*

        Your last paragraph proves the point that a candidate can be disqualified/not given a fair chance at a job for any reason, including their NAME. *eyeroll*

        1. Just Another Manic Millie*

          Oh sure, didn’t you know that already? I don’t know why the office manager didn’t have a problem with two employees named Minerva, but she didn’t want to have two Millie’s.

          In addition to rejecting you because someone else at the company has your first (or last) name, the person who first reviews the resumes can reject you because you graduated from a university that rejected him/her, and he/she just wouldn’t be able to stand being around someone all the day who graduated from that university. Or maybe your name is the same name as his/her MIL, whom he/she hates. Or maybe your name is the same name as his/her former bully. Or maybe you once worked at a company that he/she really wanted to work for but did not make the cut. Or maybe you are called in for an interview, and the interviewer sees that you look just like his/her MIL or former bully.

          Now that I think of it, my last name is Russian. (I don’t know if the LW would consider it to be an “ethnic” name or a “friendly” name.) At one of my previous jobs, I found out that there was already an employee there with the same last name, except that the spelling of our last names differed by one letter. But they were pronounced the same. I was not asked to change the pronunciation or to use a variation of my last name in the office. I guess I lucked out.

    3. Observer*

      No, no and no.

      As you noticed – you survived intact with 5 Lynn / Linda’s in your class, and I can’t imagine that your daughter is suffering due to the presence of 7 Jennifers.

      As for asking people with “long” names to shorten the, it would be problematic if you did it to EVERYONE. But the “long” ETHNIC names? Could we stop pretending?

    4. Blueberry*

      Teach your daughter the song “27 Jennifers” so she can teach the Jennifers and they can sing it in chorus.

      1. DarnTheMan*

        I went to a school with 60 students at one point and myself included there was 8 girls with variations on the same name. We got by. One of them even ended up at my high school to the endless confusion of substitute teachers because we were right beside each other on roll but she went by her full legal name and I went by a shorter version of it.

    5. Akcipitrokulo*

      No. I understand the instinct to offer a solution, but no, asking if they have a nickname is not ok either.

      If they have a preferred nickname, they will tell you.

      Suggesting any kind of alternative to their name implies that their name is unsatisfactory. And that’s a huge no.

    6. Kiwiii*

      I once worked at a deli where three of us (of literally, about a dozen employees) had the same first name. My dad came in looking for “Kiwiii” and the girl at the counter said, “oh, I’m Kiwiii”. He was still for a minute before saying something like, “I believe you, but you’re not the one I’m looking for.”

      The youngest of us (she was about 16 while we were 19 and 20) went by “Little Kiwiii” most of the time, but the other Kiwiii and I basically just argued about who should be nicknamed what most of the time. I’m not sure how any of us would have reacted had there been insistence on calling us something that was not our name or a chosen nickname.

      In similar news, my boyfriend’s workplace already had a Michael/Mike when our friend started working there, so friend now goes by Mitch.

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        If I were called “Little” Anything when I reported for work, I’d respond “that’s not what your mother said”. That is so rude and belittling that’s not even funny.

        1. Avasarala*

          I think it depends on the context… dunno how many women would want to be called “Big Linda.”
          Compare to Lil Jon, Lil Wayne…

          1. Database Developer Dude*

            Fair point. I’m not a rapper, I’m a software and database engineer, and Army Reserve Chief Warrant Officer, though. I’m not ‘Little’ anything, I’m just me. Plus, those aren’t their real names, those are their stage names. Lil Jon is Jonathan Smith, and Lil Wayne is Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr.

            But yeah, Paul Rodriguez, the comedian, did a little bit about that, talking about calling men ‘Big ‘ and comparing it to calling women ‘Big ‘.

          2. DarnTheMan*

            I actually had a friend in high school who went by Big Abbey but that was because in the friend group, we had another Abbey who was Little Abbey and anyone could tell by looking that it was because of their heights and nothing else (Little Abbey was only about 5′ whereas Big Abbey was about 5’11). Granted high school not work so certainly not the same circumstances.

    7. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

      In my last workplace, there were multiple [insert common American woman’s name]s and [insert common American man’s name]s. If we needed to address them in the same message, we distinguished by last name or last initial. Otherwise, we addressed them in person by their first names as is normal.

  71. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    LW1, are you perchance employing my best childhood friend?

    Knowing her made me see both sides of the naming issue, though I maintain it should always be the person’s choice.

    Her name is something close to, but not, Sabrina, and is relatively easy to figure out once you know whether the vowels are short or long in the name. The pronunciation issue is along the lines of Viktor Krum not being able to pronounce “Hermione”. So, why change it? It’s something of my friend’s heritage and people can learn.

    OTOH, because of her I also met guys named Osama and Saddam. They had American nicknames! That was their choice, even though circumstances did dictate it, and one I understood because it was the mid 2000s. Like not naming a baby girl Isis today.

    So, LW1- is there currently a widely known terrorist/serial killer/or such similar named Salma? No? Then don’t mention it.

    1. Quill*

      Not due to racism, but I had a young neighbor once named “Exstasy” (With the x, not a c) and abruptly started going by Stacy in middle school when she learned she had the same name as a party drug.

    2. fposte*

      Even if there is a currently widely known bad guy, don’t mention it. It’s still not appropriate to ask the employee to use a different name, and most people grasp the fact that lots of people have the same name.

    3. Akcipitrokulo*

      There was an awesome site – the infant sleep information source – that issed a statement why they were not going to change it after the other isis became well known. They did eventually change it for infant to baby, making it basisonline.org.uk instead of isisonline… which I get, but it’s a shame.

  72. windsofwinter*

    I have an unusual name. I guess it counts as “ethnic” even though my parents claim they made it up. It turns out it is a word in a different language. It’s only two syllables and very easy to pronounce, but most of the time I just let a common mispronunciation go. I have a few nicknames that are only acceptable for close family. If someone told me I had to go by Polly because customers may not like Pnina, I would have to rein in the urge to tell them to eff off.

  73. SojournerBluth*

    LW #1 – Biiiiiig effing yikes. Don’t even hire this person if you aren’t going to respect them as a human being! How can you believe that customers will make racist assumptions when your very question demonstrates a racist attitude?

    1. unlurking*

      Also yikes tho! The applicant deserves a job, deserves to be hired for a position, if she meets the qualifications. Regardless of her name! It’s not wise to give advice to advice-seeking LWs that they should not hire anyone with ethnic-sounding names, when doing so would be unethical and possibly even illegal.

  74. Not really a waitress*

    After dealing with a few control freak bosses, I have come to the conclusion that deliberately not calling someone by their preferred name is a type of bullying. I am not talking about their my little pony name. I am talking about the name they were given (and pronouncing it correctly) or the derivivative of the name they were given that they have gone by all.their life. I have a beautiful old fashion name but I have always been called a common derivative of it. Even in the early pages of my baby book, my mom referred to me this way. I once had a boss who “didnt believe in nicknames” and flat out refused to call me by my preferred name. There is a supervisor at my current job who , despite me asking several times, still calls me by my “govt name.” I finally looked her in the eye one day and told her my parents called me nickname and since they are dead I have no interest in overriding them. She still does it but not as often.
    Management rule #1
    Dont screw with people’s pay, lives or names.

    1. Business Socks*

      It really is. The overall message seems to be “I’m important and you’re not, so I’m deliberately going to not learn your name to show how little I think of you.”

      Not work related, but my FIL consistently called me by the wrong name (as a “joke”) for the first year I dated my eventual wife. I later learned he did the same thing to the two guys who married his other two daughters. He was just one of those guys who saw every interaction with another human as a dominance competition. And of course, he was a boss in his career, can’t imagine what it was like to work for him.

    2. Dahlia*

      ” I am talking about the name they were given (and pronouncing it correctly) or the derivivative of the name they were given that they have gone by all.their life.”

      Or the name they chose to go by. Period. Just because your parents didn’t choose your name doesn’t mean it’s not your name.

  75. bluephone*

    “We also don’t want to get sued…”
    hahahahahahah well at least they’ve got their priorities right, I guess?

    Even if your employee’s name is Sheev Palpatine Vader Hux III, they still get to use it how they see fit. Good lord.

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        Speaking as someone who used to be Luke Sky Walker’s uncle, please don’t do that.

  76. AltAcProf*

    OP #1 probably does not think of themselves as racist. They may “not see color” and just have good intentions–but I hope the responses here drive home the point that the problem is not potentially racist customers, but a racist employer/coworker who does not realize that believing white/Anglo to be the default IS racist. You, OP, are being racist with this request. You may not “hate” the Other, but you are othering the Other. And that is racist. I hope you’ll reflect on how YOUR actions perpetuate the systems that allow your potentially racist customers to go about their day, unchallenged.

  77. WantonSeedStitch*

    Some people with long names, from whatever country, have a shorter nickname that they prefer to use. Some people with long names, from whatever country, do not go by nicknames. If the person has a long name, ask, “do you go by [full first name], or do you have a nickname?” Use whatever name they indicate is appropriate to use, end of story. Swatilekha may ask you to call her Swati because her friends and family call her that all the time, but she may be (rightfully) pissed off if you ask her to go by Sue.

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      I think that would still not be ok. The most you could reasonably ask is “how do you like to be addressed?”

      Suggesting that they should choose between Akcipitrokulo and Aki implies disapproval.

      1. SimplyTheBest*

        If Aki is a common nickname for Akcipitrokulo then it’s really no different from asking someone “do you go by Michael or Mike?”

    2. PollyQ*

      If people want to use a nickname, they’ll tell you themselves. Unless you’re asking every single employee, regardless of name origin or length, it’s still offensive to ask.

      1. WantonSeedStitch*

        True, I think “do you want to be called [full name] or something else?” is a good thing to ask every single employee when they come aboard, and in that way.

  78. Yllis*

    W couldn’t even ask a “mike” with the last name of “hunt” to go by Michael so i think lw1 is SOL

    1. Database Developer Dude*

      I was going to ask you why you would ask that….but it just clicked. Not enough coffee, it took me a while… LOL

  79. Business Socks*

    OP: Salma, we’d like you to change your name to something more friendly.”

    Later:

    Salma: This is Princess Sunshine Sparklehorse speaking, how can I help you?

    All joking aside OP asking someone to change an “ethnic” name is the epitome of “I’m not racist but….”

  80. Earthwalker*

    #1 I read this differently than, well, about 100 other people. Folks jumped on the OP for being racist, but the OP hired this person after all, and is now faced with a business challenge: racist customers. I agree, changing the employee’s name is not the answer. But what do you do when your customer objects to a foreign name, will not work with an employee who is black, won’t deal with someone in a hijab, or won’t speak to a woman? (I am one of these, so please, don’t assume I hate every non white male too!) In some areas they could assume he’s one bad apple and say, “Sir, you may take your business elsewhere!” In other areas that tactic would mean losing too many customers. What reasonable actions can the OP take and coach her employee to take?

    1. Shadowbelle*

      But the OP is not providing any reason to think that the customers actually are racist, so it comes across as projection. “Well, *I’m* not racist, but some of our customers might be!”

      There was a story some years back — and the situation may still exist somewhere — about Hispanic employees named “Jesus” having their name spelled “Hesus” on their uniform name tags so as not to offend Christian customers (never mind that the employees themselves were Christian …)

    2. Business Socks*

      We don’t really know enough about the company or the role itself to know how valid the concerns are. How client facing is it? Do employees have designated clients or is it pooled? (I’ve had a job where, it wasn’t explicitly stated, but it was obvious that certain problem clients were always assigned to white service managers for this reason).

      That said, it is telling that the LWs question was “can I ask my employee to change her name?” And not “Help! My customers are racists!”

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Yes, this is a good point – we don’t know enough about the company or the role. For all we know, the LW works for the Department of Motor Vehicles or the Social Security office and doesn’t have the ability or the right to tell racist customers to go away. But as you point out, the LW didn’t say “I know from experience that my new employee will have to deal with racist customers; how can I handle that?”

        1. Observer*

          On the other hand, in such a case, the OP would also not have to worry about losing customers if they refused to “accommodate” racist customer.

    3. Existentialista*

      Fire every racist customer. There is no room for discrimination in business, period, either by companies or by customers.

    4. Blueberry*

      (I am one of these, so please, don’t assume I hate every non white male too!)
      You’d be surprised how widespread internal categorism is. But anyway.

      Dealing with bigoted customers is an annoying corollary of dealing with customers. There are different methods depending on the situation. However, re-naming an employee is neither a viable nor an ethical method.

    5. Liz T*

      That’s why we have anti-discrimination laws for the workplace. It doesn’t matter how many customers you lose because they won’t talk to a woman: you’re not allowed to reject applicants based on gender.

      Pretty obvious I think!

    6. Kaaaaaren*

      I think OP #1 is largely asking this from a “good place,” and may be right that the new employee will face some prejudice due to her name, but the OP can’t preempt the clients’ possible racism with a racist and disrespectful suggestion, especially if the OP implies the new employee’s name is “unfriendly.” Yikes.

    7. PollyQ*

      That wouldn’t be a terrible question, but it’s not the one the LW asked. It’s not even clear that there is or will be a problem with actual customers.

    8. Fikly*

      There’s a fascinating thing being studied in psychology/sociology actually, where people will do something publically not-racist, and then act more racist afterwards.

      An example of this is people who voted for Obama for president, but then started acting more racist than before the election.

      The theory is that people feel like this one public action means that they are not racist, therefore they can act however they like in the future.

  81. Olive*

    Yikes, I’m Latino with a very Latino ethnic name. Even though it’s pretty popular now in the states, I still have to repeat it several times with new people until they get it. But they always do. It’s not hard. With customers, it’s a nonissue. If they’re not regulars, why do I care? But if an employer ever suggested that I go by a more “white” version of my name to appease (patronize) the masses, I just have no clue how I would react to that. Insulting doesn’t even begin to cover it.

  82. Catmom*

    I knew of someone who had a 7-syllable first name. Without insisting on any change, they were asked if they ever used a shorter version of their name that might fit on a name tag. They did. It was also made respectfully clear that the full name would be accommodated if preferred.

    1. somebody blonde*

      Ha! I had a few Mongolian friends in high school, and they all had names between 4-7 syllables with 3-letter nicknames.

  83. Existentialista*

    #5 – Also, it shows that you have experience and understanding of specific geographic markets. I’m in the midst of recruiting for a position with transatlantic responsibilities, so we were quite open in terms of location, but it was helpful when resumes showed that a candidate had studied or worked in several different countries

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      I completely agree. I hire in a place that is “neat to live in” and “exciting”- think tourist heavy spot of the US. We get tons of candidates for every job, because people think living here would be cool. Half those people don’t survive the first year when they realize all the downsides of the place. So, yeah… I want to know you have lived/worked in small isolated towns before I interview you.

  84. Delphine*

    I’m guessing/afraid that the employee who is about to be hired by LW#1 is not going to receive an offer after all.

  85. Lisa Large*

    LW changing a person’s name to something you consider ‘more friendly’ and ‘less ethnic’ speaks volumes of you and your company. Racist much? I mean, if it talks like a duck and it walks like a duck…..

  86. ShortT*

    About a decade ago, I interviewed for a customer-service position. I was born and raised in MA, just outside of Boston. I have a very ethnic, very Greek, last name. The interviewing manager had a very WASPy name and was from a city in TN.

    Not only was I asked if I would go by a shortened version of my first name (I already do, amongst friends) but he didn’t know that, but, after seeing that I’m proficient in Arabic and Hebrew on my resume, he asked which religion I am. I told him, “That’s an awfully personal question to ask someone I met ten minutes ago.”

    I apologized to the next manager I was to meet and said that I wouldn’t be proceeding. Then, as soon as I left the building, I called the HR person with whom I’d arranged the interviews. I said to her that I wouldn’t proceed and told her exactly why. She was horrified. Apparently, someone had a chat with the first manager because I soon received a voicemail with an not-sincere-sounding apology that I ignored.

    Even back in 2010, I was pissed by this kind of nonsense.

    1. Kaaaaaren*

      OMG he asked what religion you belong to!?

      I’m a young-ish woman and I was once asked what my future reproductive plans are during an interview, as well as my ethnic background.

      This was for a job as someone’s personal assistant (I was much younger/straight out of college at the time) so I didn’t really have anyone to report the incident to, but I told the woman I wasn’t interested in the job after all. I figured if she’s already violating rights and norms at the interview stage, what will she subject me to as her employee?

      1. ShortT*

        Yes, he did.

        Then, there was the clown whose sister married a Greek. That’s nice. Then he said that I must understand how important church is to Greeks and asked which I attend.

        The look on his face when I said, “None, I’m Jewish!” was priceless.

          1. Fikly*

            They were shocked – shocked! – I wasn’t married, and I was in my early twenties and looked like a teen. And clearly expected (and desired in a creepy way) for me to be popping out babies. Super gross.

  87. Duvie*

    OP 1: As an average North American, I expect to get about 43,099,200 minutes on this earth. I’d be pretty darn ashamed if I couldn’t bother using one of them to get someone’s name right. If I can learn to pronounce Xavier and Genevieve, I can learn to pronounce Mittapheap and Lakshmi.

  88. Non-Binarian Librarian*

    #1 — No, that’s really racist, rude, and shows a lack of respect for other cultures. Take a good, hard look at yourself as an individual and as a workplace and ask yourself why you value this employee so little that you can’t take the extra few minutes to learn how to say their name. Spell it out phonetically on a sticky note that you can refer to until you get familiar with it. It is on you to do the work to respect this person and ensure that bosses, coworkers, and clients get it right.

  89. Kaaaaaren*

    OP #1: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

    Absolutely, 100% NO.

    You may be right that client xenophobia/racism/whatever will be an issue, but you can’t circumvent that by preempting their xenophobia with your own.

  90. call centre bee*

    Hey LW #1, I worked at a company that did this! Started working there just as the lawsuit was getting settled. (Had I realised in advance, I would have seriously reconsidered working there.) It made the newspapers as well, which called them ‘racist telesales firm’ in the headline, so you have to decide if that’s the look you want in the public eye! The only silver lining was that POC at the company began giving white employees their own ‘ethnic names’ to make fun of the whole thing XD

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Wow!!! Good information for LW1 to have! And I chuckled at the last part.

  91. Anon Here*

    #1 – All names are ethnic.

    Secondly, it’s the customers’ responsibility not to be prejudiced. Turning that around would be prejudiced.

    Solution: Welcome the new employee (and her name). Lead by example. Tell customers that your whole team is great at what they do. Support the employee in dealing with any challenging situations that come up. If you lose customers, let them go, and find new ones. You’ll be better off with a customer base that supports diversity. Also, use your team’s diversity to your business’s advantage. A variety of backgrounds means different perspectives and insights. There’s a ton of info about this out there. Wishing you all the best.

  92. Ellis*

    I’m kind of surprised no one has mentioned how the American goverment commonly did this for ages. There’s a reason my grandfather’s last name was Kane, and not something actually Polish.

  93. Backfired*

    I’m not sure if this has been mentioned already but having your new employee use an “American-sounding” name can backfire in other ways.

    I am non-white but was born in the US and my parents gave me an easy to pronounce American name, think a name like “Lina.” I’ve been asked “That’s not really your name, what’s your real name?”

    If your customers are rude/racist enough, they will have no problems saying that to your employee so this is a no-win situation.

    1. J