Stanley Bing

Ask Bing: My boss gets my name wrong

Don't say anything yourself -- you don't want to be perceived as criticizing your new boss about anything, particularly something about which you are correct.

By Stanley Bing

My new boss in a medium-sized office started about a month ago, and since then she has consistently misspelled my first name in e-mail to me and to others. (The name is five letters long and not terribly unusual, and is spelled correctly at the bottom of every e-mail she receives from me.)

I find this slightly inconsiderate but mostly disturbing, given that our business -- publishing -- depends on a certain degree of precision. I'd like her to correct this, but of course don't want her to feel angry or embarrassed. Do I: a) ignore it; b) say something polite myself; or c) ask a coworker to let her know?

It's weird. A lot of things annoy me. But very few things make me as testy as somebody who misspells my name. As you may know, I write under a pseudonym. My real first name is a pretty common one, and hard to get wrong. And yet, consistently, people do.

Most egregious are people in my own department who address things to me incorrectly. It makes me want to fire them. Like, if you can't get your boss's name right, what else are you screwing up? It's a little more nuanced when the boss -- particularly a new one -- makes the error about a subordinate. It shows a lack of attention, certainly, but not terminal idiocy.

I would say, strategically speaking, that c) is your best answer. If you opt for a) and ignore it, the mistake will become entrenched over time until, organizationally speaking, your brand becomes unclear and you have, in fact, two working names. This is bad.

Saying something polite yourself (option b) may read, unless you do it perfectly, as petulant. You don't want to be perceived as criticizing your new boss about anything, particularly something about which you are correct.

So ask a good friend in the department to raise it in an offhand manner while in the midst of an unrelated discussion. I'm betting the boss will argue at first (no! I'm sure that's the right spelling!) and then, after secretly and quietly checking it out, will conform to standards. To top of page

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