Names are tricky things. Take mine, Mark O’Neill, or as gaeilge, Mark ó néill. Even the Irish original is easy enough for most people to pronounce.
But what if my first name was Padraig? Or Tadhg? Or Cathal? That last name includes a shibboleth, a sound which is hard for people outside a culture to correctly pronounce. Much like the “th” or “þ” sound is for Irish people, I pronounce “three” and “free” identically. Though a lot of that is down to being from South London.
The only thing worse than someone getting your name wrong is when they can’t be bothered to get it right.
Aoife, Tadeusz, Alpesh, Ifeoma, Zhang Xiu Ying, Balasubramaniam, Marjatta…
Lots of great names which too often people are too lazy, too selfish, too racist to bother learning how to pronounce.
The best time to get people’s names right is at the beginning.
So two ludicrously simple things I do when building a new team:
- Have a session where we go round and introduce ourselves by our preferred names so we can all learn spelling and pronunciation.
- Have a “Wrong name” swear box which people put money in every time they get it wrong. The contents are totted up every week/month and given to a refugee charity.
Nothing sophisticated, just human.