8

Though I'm not currently getting married, I've always wondered how I should handle my last name within the workplace when I do.

In the workplace, your name is directly attached to your work. When you get married and change it, and people are unaware of your new marital status, you can end up needing to start from scratch in your reputation. Though it's somewhat clear within your own place of work, customers and potential future employers who may have known of you prior to marriage may not realize you're the same person.

I'm a woman asking this question for down the road, but the question equally applies to a man who chooses to change his last name as well.

What are ways to handle name changes within the workplace without losing your prior reputation and link to your past work?

  • 1
    I'd switch to using a double name for a while, so people knowing you under the previous name will still see it. If your married name is a single name, then you can switch to that at a later time. Like Smith -> Jones-Smith or Smith-Jones -> Jones over two years. – gnasher729 Jul 1 '14 at 15:48
  • 3
    @gnasher729 - I'd be careful with that suggestion. In some circles, using a double last name is looked down upon. Not saying it's right, just saying it is. – Wesley Long Jul 1 '14 at 15:56
  • I didn't. It's kind of like those people who change all the file names for assets when you put out a new version of the software. A lot of extra paper pushing that doesn't benefit anyone. The only downside is my husband gets called "Mr. Blankenship" a lot. – Amy Blankenship Jul 1 '14 at 16:29
  • 3
    Wesley, just out of curiosity: What circles would that be? I can tell you that anyone looking down on my wife would be in deep trouble. – gnasher729 Jul 1 '14 at 21:56
11

I've had several coworkers change their names upon marriage (including one man). In most contexts they either used both names ("Jane Oldname Newname" or hyphenated) or just made the switch. People got used to it and they didn't seem to have problems with remote coworkers, customers, etc.

Email -- which is how most of this kind of communication happens -- offers some additional options, assuming the common corporate practice of addresses like "firstname.lastname@example.com":

  • Some changed email addresses with the old one forwarding to the new one. The first time they replied to a forwarded message they mentioned the change.

  • Some modified the email name (not the address but the text that appears in a From line): "Jane (Oldname) Newname". This has the advantage, over other ways of using both names, of conveying that the "real" name is Newname but you're providing a hint.

I'm talking here about what to do when interacting with other people, since that was the concern brought in the question. From a paperwork perspective (HR, payroll, etc), it's best to make sure that the name in their records matches the name you use for legal ID, taxes, etc.

8

If you feel you have a professional reputation to preserve, then you do not change your name professionally (you can use one name socially and another professionally or simply don't change your name, it is not required that you do so most places). This is what many people who have a reputaion outside their current workplace do such as women who have publications in their orginal name, women who are known professionally such as doctors, women who do a lot of professional presentations at conferences, women who are book authors, etc.

The vast majority of us only have a reputation internally to the current company to worry about, and everyone will get used to your new name rather quickly, so just change your name and let HR know about the change. Depending on the company you may need to have your work email updated. If you have outside contacts that you deal with a on regular basis, you may also want to let them know that this is your new email address.

  • 1
    Are you saying that you change your name legally, but still use your old name in a professional setting? Or that you don't change your name legally either? I would think that the former would add a lot of complications in terms of HR, payroll, etc. – David K Jul 1 '14 at 16:26
  • 1
    Many professionals legally change their names and continue to use both. Some do not legally change the name but use the husband's name when in a social situation only. Others hyphenate. Of course I am of the opinion personally that there is no reason whatsoever for a woman to change her name (legally or socially) when she marries, but hey YMMV. – HLGEM Jul 1 '14 at 17:43
  • 1
    @DavidK - What sort of complications do you envision? In practical terms, it's no different than using a pseudonym. Most things (and especially payroll) will be tracked by numbers anyways (bank account, SSN, etc.). And to HR in a large organization you're most likely something like 'Employee #5729'. In most contexts your name is not actually a primary key, which means changing it arbitrarily should not cause many issues. – aroth Jul 13 '14 at 6:42
5

I am a lawyer.

I went to law school, clerked and practiced for 7 years using my first husband's surname, call it Smith. I have a number of Appellate and Supreme Court decisions published using that last name.

I got married and chose to use my second husbands last name; we will call him Jones.

I used the former surname as a middle name but did not hyphenate it because it was not my maiden name and it felt uncomfortable to link two husbands quite that way.

Thus my business cards, letterhead and my formal attorney license uses Piquet Smith Jones.

After a few years people just called me Piquet Jones. Some people and even old clients who I knew before I remarried still call me Smith. We laugh about it because I have been married 31 years now.

As you know, some women choose to adopt their husband's surnames and some do not. Now that US society is learning to deal with gay marriage, women's surname choice is no longer a hot issue.

My advice is to make an announcement, get HR/IT to change your email address if it contains your old name and be gracious when someone forgets because someone will do so at a most embarrassing moment. I guaranty that.

1

I have been told it's not really a problem, but that is from women who were fairly well established before getting married, so the papers and so on that they were associated with still contributed to their reputation after one (or two) name changes. One wrote some documents that were used as the basis for legislation that is still in force years later, so when people make the connection, it's like "of course it's you".

When you announce the name change, it acts as an attention-getter for you personally as well.

Social media such as Linkedin should allow you to be searched by your maiden name. Linkedin, in particular, has a spot for it. If you're listed elsewhere, you should add it elsewhere in your profile to allow searching.

Of course you have the option of keeping your maiden name, and many women do that (especially those from other cultures such as Chinese), and not always for positive reasons.

1

My answer is based on US law, other locations will need to review their local laws.

The thing I've seen work best for those who DO change their name is continue to use their madden name professionally, but use their new name socially. In most states (if not all) you can legally refer to yourself by any name (referred to as alias on legal paperwork) regardless whether or not that is your legal name. So long as your use of that name is consistent and not malicious or criminal in intent.

I did a lot of research in this topic when my wife and I got married as she was concerned about the career implications as well (of which after the fact there was none, even though she did decide to use her new name professionally.)

Exception In the state of Florida a man cannot assume his wife's last name without first posting an article in a "newspaper" for three weeks consecutively stating his intent at assuming her name. (this law does not apply to men who are not taking their wives' last name, nor does it apply to women at all.) we have really dumb laws here

  • what is that, the equivalent of reading the banns or something? – sevenseacat Jul 3 '14 at 14:37
  • I would say the articles would be near equivalent to reading the banns. (the only difference is your focus is on you intend to change your name because your getting married vs. the intent to marry itself) The initial reason for the law was to prevent debt dodging, but now it just acts as a chilling effect for the non-traditional act of a man taking his wife's last name (This would also apply in case same sex marriage between two men, so chilling effect there too) – RualStorge Jul 3 '14 at 15:02

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.