How to tell a boss she got your name wrong

  • Apr. 28, 2017 12:30 a.m.

Q: How do you go about correcting a boss who repeatedly pronounces your name wrong?

Have a polite yet direct conversation with your boss in a private setting. Clearly explain where the mispronunciation lies, so that he or she won’t make the mistake again. Say, “Boss, I’m not sure if you realize it, but my name is actually not pronounced ‘Ahna.’ It’s pronounced, ‘Anna,’ like banana.” You might even add a funny story to help make it stick, like, “My mom still calls me ‘Anna Banana.’ I guess childhood nicknames stay with us forever.”

The same way that we are often relieved (after we get over the embarrassment) when someone tells us that we have broccoli in our teeth, a boss will welcome this information and may even ask why you didn’t share it sooner.

When your boss says your name correctly in future interactions, make sure to acknowledge this with a nod and direct eye contact. And, if the boss returns to the old habit of mispronunciation, gently remind him or her with a smile. “Remember? Anna, like banana.”

— Dr. Amy Cooper Hakim, workplace expert and author of “Working With Difficult People”

I find that it’s normally enough just to let someone know in a nonconfrontational way that my name, Vaux, rhymes with “hawks.” Breaking down your name into English-style chunks can help bosses. Maybe your supervisor knows someone with your name who pronounces it differently than you do.

The name Maurice is pronounced “Morris” in British English, for example, but “More-REECE” in American English. If you’re a British Maurice working in the United States, your boss may find it strange to call you “Morris” when your name is clearly “Maurice.”

In this case, add a friendly anecdote to help your boss situate his or her newly forming memory trace in a richer context. I say something like: “It’s like Vauxhall station in London, just without the — hall.”

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