You guys, I know this one is a little long, but it’s worth it. Check it out:
My first name contains the letter “L”, with “la” being the predominant sound and literal centre of the name. Unfortunately, as a kid, I had trouble with making this sound and as such couldn’t pronounce my very simple first name. I was taken to a speech therapist (I remember none of this, by the way) and the therapist told my parents that the particular speech impediment I had would fade away with age, but until then they should just call me by my middle name.
So they did and they continued to do so even after I grew out of the speech impediment because, by that point, that’s how my siblings and my friends knew me. Plus they felt my middle name suited me. The only problem was my middle name was and is a very common name. There were at least five of us in the same grade at one point. I never considered going back to my first name while growing up but I did think about doing it when I was older if I had the chance just because it’s a more unique name.
About eight months ago I was getting ready to move to my current city and was applying for my current job. My job application had the very neutral “First and Middle Initials and Last Name” as the title because I wasn’t sure if it was professional to apply under my middle name (in hindsight I feel very stupid about this). I thought I’d avoid confusion by just using the initials and explaining that I go by my middle name but my email address is [email protected] so that gave away my first name and that’s how my interviewer (now boss) addressed me in her first email to me.
Let’s say my middle name is Grace. I let her know in my reply that I actually go by Grace or Gracie and not my first name. In her second email to me, she again called me by my first name and, again, in my reply I corrected her. On the letter of reference I supplied her, I was referred to as “Gracie”. On my outgoing voicemail message, which she must have heard as she left me plenty of messages, I identify myself as “Grace” but still she kept calling me by my first name.
When I was eventually hired, a big announcement was made to the department introducing me by my first name. I didn’t know how to correct my boss’s boss (not a very pleasant man) publically, so I let it slide and figured I’d quietly inform everyone individually later. I was hired in the midst of a restructuring/office relocation so, when I finally was placed in the same working environment as my team, it was about three weeks into the job. When I told them I go by “Gracie” one of them literally said “that’s weird. I’ve known you by [first name] too long now to start calling you something different.” Instead of arguing back I had a mini-epiphany: maybe this was the chance to go by my first name I had been thinking about since I was a kid. So, I decided to try out my first name in my working life and I stayed with my middle name in my personal life. (Oddly, the co-worker who said she could never call me Gracie introduces me to people as “her name is [first name] but she goes by Gracie! Isn’t that weird?!”)
It’s been almost seven months now and I know for certain that I prefer my middle name. I feel it suits me better and I feel more comfortable identifying myself as Grace or Gracie. I want to be able to call myself Grace and introduce myself that way.
Now, here’s where you come in, how can I switch names at work? How can I ask to go by my middle name when my boss doesn’t seem to get the whole other name thing and my co-workers are hesitant to swap?
Obviously, I’m not the bravest and boldest person, or I would’ve handled this myself months ago so any input you can provide will be appreciated!
I can’t decide what to tell you.
I think because it doesn’t help you for me to tell you things you already know. You already know that you should have just explained to them what you explained to me. “My first name is Alpha, but I go by Gracie.” [No, her first name isn’t Alpha. Promise]. You already know that when they got it wrong, you should have laughed it off right away. “Funny story, only my grandmother calls me Alpha. I’m Gracie, it’s hard to change all the legal documents.”
But you tried an alternate route, and who wouldn’t? A chance to explore another life, another personality. You decided to go by your first name to see what happened. And what happened is that you are a Gracie.
So how do you go by it at work? First of all, understand that people aren’t suddenly going to “get it”. You have to make short, sweet announcements every time you talk to people. “Hey Alan, before we get started, I’m going to go by Grace full time. Just so you know.” Do it in meetings. When everyone is introducing themselves around the boardroom table. “Hi, you may have emailed me as Alpha, but I actually go by Grace and I.T. is changing my email address. (Get IT to change your email address.) Thanks.” When the obnoxious dude in your department speaks up all “Uh, since when?”, you shut him down. “I’m going by my second name, Grace.” Don’t apologize, don’t giggle, definitely don’t talk about how it happened that you started to be called Alpha instead, unless specifically asked, and even then it should be, “My family has always called me Gracie and it’s better at work”.
This will take fully four to six months. You have to answer the phone “Grace here” instead of “Hello”. You have to sign off on your emails that are addressed to Alpha “Actually I’m Alpha Grace and just go by Grace”. You have to be utterly committed to this. When the big mean boss says something like, “Alpha, Grace, who the hell are you today?”, you have to be able to be light and businesslike. “Grace from now on. I promise I’ll let you know if it changes. So the projections are…”
Also, you have to be ready to accept that people are not going to get it, and that they are going to think something terrible happened to make you dissociate with your first name. You just have to be straightforward if anyone asks. “I thought I should try Alpha, but it’s never worked for me and now I know for sure.”
Now, why do I get the impression you’re not going to? Partly because this takes a lot of gritted teeth and riding through awkward moments, and partly because, um, you didn’t do this the first time.
So the other option is to see Alpha as a kind of secret identity that you put on when you go to work. Maybe there’s a different personality than that which Grace has. Maybe Alpha can do things Grace can’t. Dare I say you have a Jerrica Benton-vs-Jem scenario going on here? If Gracie is too cringey to tell everyone that Alpha has become Gracie, then why don’t you let Alpha become Alpha, and inhabit that body 9-5? It might be very freeing to leave Alpha behind at the end of the workday, the same way you would a confining bra.
I’m so curious what your real first name is. Hit me back.
Attached: Lorde whose real name is Ella Maria