Coworker Keeps Calling Me By My Former Name

Question:

I have been working with a fellow elementary school teacher for over 10 years. Two years ago I got married and changed my name, yet this coworker continues to call me by my former name. At first I allowed for time to remember my new name, which is not difficult to remember. However, after two years it seems downright rude and I wonder if she’s doing it on purpose. Any advice?

Signed,

Irritated


Answer:

DearĀ Irritated:

The way to know if your coworker is being rude or simply sticking with the name she knew you by before, is to consider how firmly and definitely you have told her to use your new name. Ironically, I have a teacher friend who has been married for at least twenty years but most of her teaching friends call her Miss Jameson when they are trying to get her attention or just joking around. The rest of the time they call her by her first name. If she is with parents or students they say, Mrs. Pike. I don’t know if that just applies to her or to all the teachers in her school who have changed names.

Since it’s likely only your last name has changed, your colleague may not have occasion to use it often (unless you two refer to each other as Ms. Brown and Ms. Smith all the time.) If you have never made a strong point of asking her to make the change she may think it doesn’t much matter to you. She may also think that you have both a legal name (the married name) and a professional name (your former name, which is the one by which you are known to many people.)

The next time she calls you by your former name, say firmly, something like, “Hey Carol, I’ve been Jan Howard for two years. From now on, please call me that or just Jan. Please don’t call me by any last name other than Howard.” You can strengthen the tone of that according to whether or not you’ve asked her before.

If she says it even one more time, correct her immediately and more strongly. Let her know it bothers you to have her keep calling you by a former name. If she does it again, talk to your school administrator or some other in-house resource about it.

It’s one thing to make a mistake once or twice. But, repeatedly doing it, if you’ve clearly told her you want to use the new name, shows a hostile attitude or an insensitive nature. Either one is something that should be discussed and corrected. Best wishes with this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.