How do I get people to get my name/gender right?
October 15, 2007 6:52 AM Subscribe
My odd to pronounce/gender-unusual name gives me lots of problems. How can I diplomatically solve all of them?
posted by olinerd to Human Relations (46 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My name is Mikell. It's pronounced exactly like "Michael." But I'm a woman. It's always been kind of annoying -- most people mispronounce it on reading it, and I did have a boyfriend whose grandmother thought he was gay until he brought me home in person -- but now that I'm out in the work force, it's really become problematic.
So, on to the issues!
(1) Pronunciation. I continue to have it mispronounced, and there are some colleagues (both in my immediate job and in other things I'm involved in) who continue to mispronounce it, despite having been corrected by others and having heard me pronounce it the correct way more than once. What do I do about them?
(2) Nicknames. A coworker has decided to call me "Mike." I sign all my emails with my full name, introduce myself to people around him with my full name, and I know everyone else calls me by my full name and he must hear it. Yet, I am "Mike." (Today it was written out in an email from him, which is the straw that broke this camel's back). How do I politely tell him no-thanks to the nickname?
(3) Gender. I work in engineering, so it's sadly often safe to assume that a non-gender-specific name probably belongs to a male. Since mine involves the letters "Mike" I usually get assumed to be male in email and phone messages left for me. When I put up a job posting, most cover letters are written to "Mr. Mikell Lastname." Emails addressed to "Sir." Customers refer to me as "him" when speaking with my colleagues or other customers. Is there a little note I can put in my email signature line that will clear up the gender issue without being obnoxious or making it so much of an issue that it endangers my credibility?
The big issue is that this name thing always puts first meetings at a slightly awkward tone; someone mispronouncing my name or getting my gender wrong right off the bat makes me feel scummy for starting a professional relationship by correcting them (and I know I've embarrassed people when they weren't expecting a woman to answer the phone/door or show up at a meeting). Doing this over and over is really wearing me down, and while a one-off solution is just "Actually, could you call me [correct pronunciation]" or whatever seems obvious, I'm so sensitive to it by now that it feels awkward. Anyone have a good way to solve it?