Your name is your own and is the first thing that distinguishes you from another person. We address each other by name, show relation by name, and speak our family history by name. Names serve as our personal labels, as part of our personal brands, and can stick with us for lifetimes and beyond. Even the bible tells us that a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.
But many people with ethnic or hard-to-pronounce names find it difficult to hold on to their real names as they join the corporate workforce. In some cases, career coaches and advisors actually support changing a very ethnic-sounding or hard-to-pronounce name to a more standard, North American name in order to get a new job.
All names are not created equal
A comprehensive study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology offers some interesting insight into the world of names, and their conclusion is straightforward: “Easy-to-pronounce names (and their bearers) are judged more positively than difficult-to-pronounce names.” The consequence is that your difficult name may be getting you passed over for that big promotion, or might be the reason you aren’t getting called back for an interview.
In addition, employees with hard-to-pronounce-names can feel isolated in work environments. In a recent article, Sandeep Tatla, Director, Office of Diversity & Inclusion at PwC, gives an example: “While facilitating a diversity training session at a company, when the appropriateness of nicknames in the workplace came up, a participant stood and asked his colleagues if anyone knew his name. He had worked at the company for more than 20 years and no one could answer his question. Over the years, they had only referred to him as ‘The Turk.’ It was only at this training session that he could muster the courage to finally address his colleagues about his name.”
Unfortunately situations like this are quite common for immigrants or people with ethnic sounding names, but we don’t think that’s good reason to stop using your real name.
Be proud of your name and identity
While we understand the hazards and implications of having a hard-to-pronounce name in today’s corporate world, we urge you to be proud of who you are and to use your name to its fullest. Even though it takes more effort, explaining the correct pronunciation of your name will be worth it to you in the long run.
Sandeep agrees, and tells us “I absolutely understand challenges names like ours can create, but I encourage you to try to use your real name because that means you’re coming forward as your whole self instead of changing who you are to fit into some organization.”
The important thing is to remember to be yourself, even if being yourself takes a little extra effort.
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