Say my name: Why the pronunciation of your colleague’s name matters

Say my name: Why the pronunciation of your colleague’s name matters https://www.thoughtfarmer.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Owls-high-five.png

Taking the time to learn the correct pronunciation of your colleague's names isn't just a courtesy, it's an important component in creating a diverse and inclusive workplace.

July 23, 2021

In today’s multicultural society, you would be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t struggle with how others pronounce their name. 

For some, that moment begins early in childhood when a teacher reads aloud their name in front of a large classroom. This inevitably leads to a dilemma: should you correct the teacher, or should you go along with whatever pronunciation they came up with? Or, should you simply change your name to something that is easier for everyone to pronounce? 

While these may seem like the easiest solutions, it is the instructor’s responsibility to learn your name, not your responsibility to change your name. 

These stories aren’t rare, but rather the reality for millions of people around the world living in a multilingual and multicultural society that is often dominated by anglicized communication. 

However, in most cultures names aren’t just random letters strung together, but instead a connection to lineage, land, traditions, and cultural identity that should be respected and appreciated. 

What are the ramifications of a mispronounced name?

A 2012 study titled “Teachers, Please Learn Our Names!: Racial Microaggressions and the K-12 Classrooms” found that when students of color had their names mispronounced in the classroom, it affected their social emotional well-being and impacted their ability to learn. The study also concluded that mispronouncing the names of students of color constituted a racial microaggression because it created shame and dissociation from their culture.

Further, there has been a lot of research that indicates that having a non-white name can negatively impact employment opportunities in Western countries. One study found that resumes with white-sounding names were 28% more likely to get a callback for a job interview. 

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Why is it so hard to learn someone’s name?

Learning a new name pronunciation can be challenging when we are not familiar with another person’s native tongue. Especially when we only know the pronunciation of the language we grew up learning. It can be challenging for some of us to make certain sounds, or to change our speech patterns. For example, some of us cannot roll r’s, yet this is a common sound in many languages. 

Also, It can be intimidating to ask a fellow peer or colleague for their correct name pronunciation. “What if I still get it wrong?” or “What if they think less of me because I cannot say their name correctly?” are common concerns.

How can we get it right? 

One of the customizations we offer within our software is a name pronunciation custom card. It works by enabling users to record an audio segment of themselves correctly pronouncing their name. This audio clip is then added to an employee’s profile page (LinkedIn offers a similar functionality). 

Stikeman Elliott, ThoughtFarmer customer and Canadian Law Firm, is one of the many organizations to benefit from this custom card. 

Hear My Name

Taking the time to learn the pronunciation is more than just a sign of respect, it’s an important component in creating an inclusive workplace, one that emphasizes psychological safety and belonging. For information on how to use this functionality on your intranet, visit the ThoughtFarmer Community Page.  

Not a ThoughtFarmer customer yet? No worries, contact us and we will give you a preview of this functionality.

Have questions? Get in touch! We're always happy to hear from you.