The problem: We have more and more new colleagues who come from other countries. One of my co-workers mispronounces all of their names. I’ve gently corrected him, but he does not change to get their names right. I’m beginning to wonder if he is doing this on purpose.
Low road: Call him by the wrong name every time you see him. That’ll make your point.
High road: Getting a new colleague’s name right is an established, and respectful, protocol for welcoming him or her onto your team, regardless of where the colleague came from. It’s possible, though, your co-worker is just bad at names and needs more practice than you do. Help him by correctly addressing your new colleagues in front of him as often as you can and see if, in a week or so, he’s on board.
It’s also possible that your “gentle” prodding is seen not as gentle to him, but as annoying or embarrassing and he’s punishing you for calling him out. Step back and see if things get better. If they don’t, then, yes, I fear he’s got some underlying biases that are above your pay grade. If mispronouncing a name turns into slurs or other behaviors that are insulting or exclusive, please talk with a supervisor or your human resources department.
Send questions about life’s little quandaries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more of Gail’s “High Road” columns at startribune.com/highroad.