Once when I was the managing paralegal at a law office, one of the other paralegals that I liked was dismissed, and the firm hired a new girl. Our boss called us in and told us that Mary Dell would be starting the following Monday and that he wanted us to make her feel at home.
At the time, we had phones that when we picked them up, the screen said “Good Morning, Rachel” and other similar messages, and when we’d call someone else within the office, our name would show up on their phone. We also had magnetic cards to use the elevator and other such personalized items, and it was my job to program everything with the person’s name. I begrudgingly set to the task.
The entire week, I scowled because I was unhappy that my friend was fired. My boss pulled me aside more than once and told me that I wasn’t being fair to Mary Dell and that I needed to at least meet her and give her a chance. “How can I like her?” I asked. “Even her name is stupid. Mary Dell. What was her mother thinking? That’s worse than Ellie Mae or Rose Mary.” He cautioned me to drop my attitude and give her a chance. I reluctantly agreed.
When Mary Dell started the following week, she was pleasant enough. I walked her around the office and introduced her to everyone and showed her the layout of the office. Then I took her to a couple of other offices within the building where other law firms that we occasionally associated with were, and I introduced her to all those employees and attorneys as well.
I trained her and mentored her for nearly a month before she was ready to work independently. As I cut her free, I started assigning more and more cases to Mary Dell and recommending her to clients.
A year later, we had an office party during lunch to celebrate Mary Dell’s first anniversary with the firm. I made a banner that said “Happy Anniversary, Mary Dell,” and we even bought her a cake that said “Congratulations, Mary Dell.” As the party got underway, everyone congratulated Mary Dell and told her how glad they were that things worked out and that she’d stuck it out with us for so long. Then I made a little speech about how wrong I was when Mary Dell was first hired, and how I didn’t look forward to her coming to work there because I missed the former employee, but then I liked Mary Dell after all.
But that’s when Mary Dell stood up and said, “I want to thank you all for this great party. But I just have to ask… How come everyone here always calls me by my first and last name?”
Bwwaaaahhaaaahaaaa!! YES, REALLY!
I totally thought her name was a double first name like Barbara Ann… You know, Mary Dell Smith or whatever. I had no idea it was just Mary! Of course, we all burst out laughing, and since I was who introduced her and programmed in her name, I got blamed. (But honestly, I felt that obviously the attorney as well as the payroll lady must have known her name, and they never corrected me, plus since she didn’t correct me herself for an entire year, then why should I have felt bad?)
Since then, I actually started using the tactic of purposefully misspeaking someone’s name when I interviewed them to see if they had the guts to correct me or not. (It’s actually a good little tactic to use if you’re in the position to interview or hire people.)
So tell me, what do you do when someone calls you by something other than your name? Do you ever answer to other people’s names? Do you ever call your children by each other’s names?