Black History Month – What’s in a name?

During Black History Month, our Equality & Diversity Manager, Lyn Bowker looks at why it’s so important we pronounce people’s names correctly and offers some tips to make sure you always get it right. 

It can be easy to mispronounce a colleague’s or a customer’s name, if you’ve not met anyone with that name before. It can be equally awkward if someone gets your name wrong.

Top tips for the workplace

  • If you mispronounce someone’s name, it’s best to apologise, correct yourself, and move on.
  • Practice saying a colleague’s name if it’s not familiar to you. You can write your own phonetic guide to help you remember and if you’re still not sure, just ask them.
  • Also, don’t create unwanted nicknames or shortened versions – Peter may not like being called Pete and Samantha might prefer her full name to Sam or Sammy. If in doubt, I always ask when I meet them for the first time.

How to respond if it’s your name that colleagues get wrong

  • When you have a hard to pronounce name, think ahead and make it as easy as possible for colleagues to learn how to correctly pronounce your name.
  • They will want to get your name right, and they’ll feel embarrassed if they get it wrong.
  • If you have to correct someone, be polite and keep your tone light-hearted. If they repeat your name incorrectly again say your name again and think if there’s an easy way to remember your name you can share with colleagues.
  • Be patient – not everyone is familiar with other languages and the different ways to pronounce letter combinations.
  • It’s helpful to include a pronunciation guide on written materials and online platforms. On LinkedIn, you can even upload an audio recording of the correct pronunciation of your name.
  • Typos and autocorrections mean that someone might misspell your name more than once, so continue to correct them.
  • You can also use #MyNameIs to share the phonetic translation of your name – #MyNameIs – Name Pronunciation Tool – Race Equality Matters