From The Straits Times    |


In this series, manpower reporter Tay Hong Yi offers practical answers to candid questions on navigating workplace challenges and getting ahead in your career.

Q: People at work keep getting my name wrong. How should I correct them?

A: Having one’s name forgotten, misspelt or mispronounced repeatedly could leave the person feeling left out or unvalued by colleagues, says industrial psychologist Brandon Koh.

Two separate studies have found that such people felt “somewhat ostracised and their sense of meaningful existence was dampened”, adds Dr Koh, a lecturer at the Singapore University of Social Sciences.

“Unsurprisingly, psychological research shows that one’s sense of self-esteem and meaning in life is strongly related to their feelings of social inclusion. Therefore, being rejected or ostracised can be emotionally hurtful.”

Constantly misspelling someone’s name or referring to them by the wrong name could also inadvertently lead to other problems, such as sending sensitive information to the wrong employee should there be someone else with a similar name in the workplace.

However, Dr Koh says such issues are unlikely, as it is rare for people in one company to have similar names, “and if this does happen, people usually put in extra effort to avoid mixing them up”.

Dr Koh advises employees to politely correct those who misspell or mispronounce their names, as most co-workers would likely be understanding and want to correct the mistake.

In some overseas cases, employees, especially those belonging to ethnic minorities, have even changed their names to assimilate and advance in their careers, according to a 2022 article in the Harvard Business Review.

However, altering one’s name may lead to compromising the person’s identity at the expense of emotional well-being.

This is why co-workers should ask for the pronunciation or spelling of names they are unsure of to help foster a more welcoming environment that actively strives to get names right, the article suggested. 

Dr Koh also advises: “If someone has an uncommon name, it helps to provide others with a simple method for remembering how to spell one’s name during self-introductions.”

The Harvard Business Review suggested offering colleagues a phonetic spelling of one’s name.

For the record, my name is pronounced Ho-un-g Y-ee.

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This article was originally published in The Straits Times.