The Importance of Getting Names Right at Work

Have you ever experienced the discomfort and awkwardness of having your name mispronounced or misspelt at work? You’re not alone. 

However, getting someone’s name right is not just about avoiding awkward moments or miscommunication; it’s about showing respect, promoting inclusivity, celebrating diversity, and nurturing a sense of belonging for all. Here’s a breakdown of why name pronunciation and spelling matter and how to make it happen.

Why it Matters

Celebrating Diversity

Our corporate world is a colourful tapestry of diverse backgrounds and cultures. Names are not arbitrary strings of letters; they’re the threads of this tapestry that carry our identities, cultural heritage, and individual stories. By taking the time to pronounce and spell names accurately, we not only show respect for the individual but also honour the value and stories they bring to the table. After all, embracing this diversity fosters an environment where everyone feels seen, appreciated, and understood. 

Respect at Work

Remembering and correctly addressing someone’s name is a simple yet powerful way to show that you value and respect them. It’s a fundamental form of courtesy that creates an immediate connection and strengthens relationships within the workplace. Above all, people feel respected, and they are more likely to engage positively with their colleagues and the company’s mission. 

Feeling Safe, Seen, and Heard

A person’s name is an essential part of their identity. When their name is pronounced correctly, it empowers them to feel proud of who they are. Additionally, a culture that respects identities and acknowledges the significance of names fosters a sense of psychological safety. This empowers employees to feel comfortable being their authentic selves, contributing unique ideas, and collaborating with others to achieve common goals.

Mitigating Microaggressions

Mispronouncing or misspelling names may seem like a harmless and small oversight, but it can have significant consequences. It can lead to feelings of discomfort and exclusion and harm both individuals and the overall work environment. As a result, microaggressions can accumulate and create a toxic atmosphere that hinders productivity and employee well-being. 

How you can make sure you get names right at work

  1. Just Ask: Sometimes being direct works best. If you’re unsure about pronouncing a colleague’s name, don’t be afraid to ask. Most people will appreciate your interest in getting it right. A simple, “I really want to get your name right, could you teach me how to pronounce it?” shows genuine care and respect for the individual.
  2. Pay Attention: Whenever someone introduces themselves or mentions their name, listen carefully and pay attention to their pronunciation.
  3. Practise Makes Perfect: Once you’ve learnt the correct pronunciation, practise saying it to yourself so that you’ll be confident in saying it correctly the next time.
  4. Use Pronunciation Aids: Help everyone be familiar with one another’s names by using name tags in team meetings or going around in a circle to make sure everyone is clear on the pronunciation and spelling of one another’s names. 
  5. Start a Pronunciation Guide: Create a guide inviting employees to record phonetic spellings of their names or record themselves pronouncing their names and have it made accessible to all.

Fostering a #RISEworkplaceculture

Getting names right is a fundamental step towards cultivating a Respectful, Inclusive, Safe, and Equitable (RISE) workplace culture. It is essential to any organisation’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts. When names are correctly addressed, it sets a tone of respect and empathy throughout the organisation. This encourages employees to treat each other with kindness, compassion, and understanding, resulting in better teamwork and collaboration.  

Together, we can make a positive change—one name at a time.