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My surname is a feminine name and I do occasionally get people misreading my email address (forename.surname@etc...) in reverse, although I do always sign the email off:

Kind regards,

Forename

Mostly, I'm fine with either correcting the person after a few emails, or calling them, or they realise in their own time. However, most of my contact with customers is in a support role, where the customer's feelings towards me personally only really affect my effectiveness as a support engineer. In other words, if they feel embarrassed at their mistake or affronted by my correction, it doesn't really change anything.

Recently, my role has shifted more towards providing sales information. Now I have a situation where a business analyst is analysing my product via email correspondence. I feel I can't easily correct the person without potentially jeopardising the sale because the person's impression of me may influence their decision and I certainly wouldn't want to make them feel uncomfortable.

Do I correct them, or wait for them to realise? Clearly if I call them, they will realise, but is it better to correct them via email so they aren't put on the spot?

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... guess no one got the Peggy joke :( –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Jul 6 '12 at 19:59
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So is this question about correcting your gender, or your name? –  NickC Jul 7 '12 at 4:45
    
@NickC correcting my gender. People often misspell my name, but it's not such a big deal. The trouble comes when I meet the person or speak to them on the phone for the first time. If they've been thinking I'm female the whole time, they'll get shock. It's the shock I want to avoid more than anything else. –  LordScree Jul 9 '12 at 7:45
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The simple solution to this problem is to sign your emails as "Mr. Forename Surname", or stop worrying about something silly, if people have a problem with their mistake thats on them. Of course I sign all my emails using my full legal name. –  Ramhound Jul 9 '12 at 12:54
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@EmilianoBartolome I especially like "ASCII MADE ME A WOMAN!", hehe. –  LordScree Nov 22 '12 at 22:08

9 Answers 9

up vote 48 down vote accepted

There is no harm in correction by email in my book. I too have the "my last name sounds like a first name" problem, although since both my gender and my last name sound female, I mostly feel like a decent chunk of the time I must be in the military or gym class. '

Personally, if I am hoping or expecting to continue the communication, I nip it in the bud. I figure the embarassment will be much less if it's a first time mistake and quickly corrected than if I let it linger over many emails. I go for simple, forgiving and sincere in my gentle correction, in the hopes that the person will get over it quickly and move on to whatever we are communicating about. Something like:

Hello {customer}

Just to clarify my first name is {firstname}. {surname} is my last name. Sorry for any confusion! Our email addresses seem to be the culprit, I get it all the time! Anyway - moving on to our thread of conversation.

Then never mention it again. I've seen cases where people really don't get the point, and I get called by my last name for endless conversations. I usually give up on the first one, and figure it'll work itself out...

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+1 for simple and sincere. I was thinking more along the lines of making light of it via a joke, but having considered your approach, I much prefer it. Cheers –  LordScree Jul 6 '12 at 13:58
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Thanks. Once and I while, I use my "if you call me my last name, I'll think I'm in gym class" line, but sometimes I find people who are humor impaired and that doesn't go so well for me. :) –  bethlakshmi Jul 6 '12 at 15:12
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Jokes are difficult enough when you know the person fairly well - trying to "make light via a joke" in professional correspondence is almost certainly a bad idea. –  Michael Kjörling Jul 6 '12 at 20:36

I wouldn't bother and instead let them come to the realization themselves. When you correct someone on this, it eliminates the possibility for them to recover gracefully and save face. Continue signing your emails in the way that you are and when you call, provide enough information for them to put 2 & 2 together -- "This is forename, calling from company name, we've been corresponding over email regarding X." If they mention the discrepancy, you can say "ah, it's no big deal, happens all the time" and keep them at ease.

If, rather, you send them an email correcting them, then the recipient is going feel obligated to provide an apology or some other acknowledgment of the mistake and that may or may not cloud your future interactions.

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For future, how about using this in your emails/signature:

<Name> <Initial of Surname>
<name>.<Initial of Surname>@mycompany.org

eg

James K.
james.k@mycompany.org

You may ask your IT department to create such an email id for you and set auto-redirects from the old email id to the new email id (so that you don't miss the communication sent to the old email address).

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Great idea. But you just "rezzed" a question from July that had already had an answer chosen. –  cloyd800 Nov 21 '12 at 19:34
    
Seconding what cloyd800 said there. Great idea for an old question ;) –  J. Tanner Nov 21 '12 at 19:38
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Well, I came to workplace.stackexchange in search of answers to my questions (Life, Universe and everything ;-) and stumbled upon this. –  TJ- Nov 22 '12 at 8:35
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@cloyd800 "With badges like Revival and Necromancer to incentivize the answering of older questions, this is behavior that is clearly encouraged..." (quoted from respective discussion at MSO) –  gnat Nov 22 '12 at 8:54

I periodically correct people on the spelling and gender of my name. One sentence. "Just wanted to let you know I am female." And then proceed to other business.

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I had the exact opposite issue -- a support person assumed I was male because most people in my field are. I didn't bother correcting him, and eventually we had to talk via phone (where he realized his mistake). Future emails had my gender correct. So my suggestion is to arrange a phone conversation or face-to-face meeting :) That lets them correct their mental assumption without anyone ever being put on the spot or made to feel embarrassed.

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In similar situations I usually just let it go unless for some reason it actually matters.

Not only do I have a name that has become entirely feminine but my voice on the phone is androgynous to many people and feminine to many others.

I see no point in embarrassing them about a mistake an awful lot of people make.

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I see the awkwardness of your situation but the good part is that you have options:

  • Do you have a middle name you would rather go by?
  • Do you have a nick name, there is a guy here everyone knows (even his official e-mail) as Jimmy7 - no clue where that came from.
  • When you sign you can just use Mr. + last name

Depending on how much it effects you - you always have the option of legally changing your name. If it is something you really want, you can do that too!

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I find that a true deeply-cultivated spirit of unattachment is the answer to most all situations of pressure or feelings of awkwardness, at work, and outside work too.

Once it really does not matter, then you are free... to tinker with it as in bethlakshmi's answer, or play with it as in your original desire to add humor, or do nothing as in Jacob's answer.

The deeper the unattachment, the deeper the freedom, lucidity, and ability to hear, be flexible, and respond as per the need of the other/environment, if there is any need at all.

Here I mean like, e.g., thinking/feeling, inside, "in the ULTIMATE perspective it does not even matter if I even get the sale(s), because _____ " (<-- insert appropriate-to-you deepest possible (perhaps spiritual) perspective). Really integrate that deeper perspective, and then see if you even still have your question, or need to address it, and how.

With any luck readers will not mis-interpret my answer as off topic. I am really meaning to address how to deal with the others' mis-reading/handling of my name question, among countless other questions that could be answered with inner unattachment as well. The practical surface-level business behavior change/solutions will automatically manifest as a result of any deeper inner change.

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I think I understand where you're coming from, but I'm afraid my ultimate perspective is fairly morbid ("in the ULTIMATE perspective it does not even matter if I even get the sale(s), because in 70 years' time I, along with all other parties involved will most likely be dead."). Although this truth applies in most situations, if I did actually apply this to everything then I probably wouldn't leave the house (or even my bed) for the rest of my life. –  LordScree Jul 8 '12 at 20:31
    
:-D That gave me a good laugh. AND, your ULTIMATE perspective very well may have made you become that inward to not leave the house... but I am guessing that would likely be followed by the sense of freedom and sensitivity and giving I referred to. IOW, if there is no point in bothering due to everyone being dead in 70 years, then there is also no more sense in staying alone and forgoing the chance to participate and give, either. ;-) –  govinda Jul 8 '12 at 21:41

I think the best way to go is a combination of 2 things:

1) Always sign either just your firstname, or use Firstname Lastname. Never use Lastname,Firstname as a signoff.

2) Just leave it and correct it when it comes up. Have a little laugh about it, and a canned joke about it to ease the tension if they ever do say something like "Oh I thought Jane was your first name!" You could say something like "Oh ho ha ha, that is a common mistake sir. Actually my first name is George. Jane is my last name. <I don't even have long hair.>"

The last sentence is a <joke asserting you are male>. You could use anything, from a common (nonsexist) assumption a person would make about you if you were a woman. Or, you could leave the joke off.

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Downvoter, you should explain –  bobobobo Mar 4 '13 at 15:51

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