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I work in a small office (6 people) and we recently started training a new person, who shares a first name with another worker who has been in the office for the last ~5 years (let's call them "John").

It happens to be the case that the new trainee has a surname which is also used as a first name (e.g. his full name is something like "John Scott"), and he's often referred to by friends etc. by his surname (i.e. they call him "Scott" and he introduces himself sometimes as "Scott" and doesn't have a problem with this). The first John has the email address "john@[domain].com" and we now have to set up a new email address for the second John. He says he's happy to have "scott@[domain].com" but obviously he'll be signing his messages with his full name "John Scott". I'm arguing that his email address should probably be "johns@[domain].com" as this is how I've seen it done before. Others in the office argue that this way will cause more confusion.

Basically I'm trying to remove confusion in terms of when people call up and ask for "John", and people emailing us and getting addresses mixed up. What's likely to be the best way to go in terms of how he introduces himself, and the email address and signature he uses?

  • Is your @domain.com part only for the 6 of you? e.g. there are only 6 or so names in the username portion? – Brandin Oct 12 '16 at 10:18
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    Industry standard is "firstname.lastname@domain.com", but I'm not sure how this is a useful question. I'm struggling to see how you can really answer anything other than "fix your naming system" or "the best practice is to call people by their name"... – Lilienthal Oct 12 '16 at 10:19
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    Don't ever use [name][initial]@ for your corporate domain. You will get an unfortunate combination which turns the email address into something inappropriate. Say, Takeshi Tanaka (Takeshit@). Or Ana Lewis. Or Dan Gardiner. Or, well, you get the idea. Just do Firstname.Lastname@ and be done with it. – Kaz Oct 12 '16 at 10:21
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    VTC as primarily opinion-based. There are so many fixes that could work here and choosing one will be completely subjective. – David K Oct 12 '16 at 12:24
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; the anecdotes about unfortunate email addresses have been moved to chat. – Monica Cellio Oct 14 '16 at 2:13
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Basically I'm trying to remove confusion in terms of when people call up and ask for "John", and people emailing us and getting addresses mixed up.

It seems like you are more confused than him. If he is not unhappy with the situation I don't see the problem.

If he uses "scott@[domain].com" it has the advantage of being very different than John & Johns and would avoid more confusion.

What's likely to be the best way to go in terms of how he introduces himself, and the email address and signature he uses?

I had the same problem in my previous company and instead of calling the person by her surname, we found her a nickname. Natalie became Nala and no signature or e-mail adresses concerns at all.

  • This is a good idea; an alternative maybe to see if the person was used in some point of their life to be called by another name. For instance, I often answered to my second name. – Rui F Ribeiro Oct 12 '16 at 10:03
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    Good approach. Used to work at a company with 3 people called Rob. We had a Rob@Company, Rob2@Company, and then, because it was funny and not a common name, Graham@company... Which was fine until a couple of months later when we hired a Graham – JohnHC Oct 12 '16 at 12:29
  • @JohnHC I guess it depends on where you live. In France at least not a lot of people use nickname or shorter name versions so it is easier to attribute them a nickame because there are 99.99% it will never be taken – MopMop Oct 12 '16 at 12:30
  • I'm not sure I would give a nickname address to any clients… – Pierre Arlaud Oct 13 '16 at 7:51
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    @OrangeDog 1.You call him Scotty or Scoot or 2.You don't hire him – MopMop Oct 13 '16 at 10:26
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If the company plans on continuing to expand it might be worth changing the email system from firstname@domain.com to firstname.surname@domain.com.

In larger companies this is fairly standard as you might have hundreds of people called Dave or Sharon but relatively few will have the same surname as well. For those that do, we add a number (dave.scott2@domain.com).

  • @djsmiley2k - Think again: youtube.com/watch?v=M7Cs-VIDKSY – Wesley Long Oct 12 '16 at 16:00
  • Upvoted, but consider changing the alternative suggestion to firstname.middleinitial.lastname. One place I worked had people make up an initial if they didn't have a middle name. – user1717828 Oct 12 '16 at 16:17
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    "One place I worked had people make up an initial if they didn't have a middle name." That is so disrespectful on so many levels. Besides what do you do when someone who actually has the that middle initial gets hired? You can't have john.p.smith that has been taken by john.l.smith. – Bent Oct 12 '16 at 18:35
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    This only works in some countries. In Korea for example most people are named Kim (and there are, like, 4 different last names for 90% of the population), and the first names are not diverse enough for this to work. – Shautieh Oct 13 '16 at 3:12
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Names are complicated.

I've found that policy based email addresses are more pain than they're worth and that you will eventually need to break from policy often as your user base grows. This inevitably leads to a fragmented mess where some follow the policy, some sort of do, and others don't at all.

One possibility is to let people choose their own email alias at hire. Simple first come, first served.

This anti-policy has turned out to work really well for us and users seem to enjoy the ownership in choosing their own alias instead of having one assigned to them like yet another ID.

  • Chinese names can be completely confusing too. I have chinese friends with difficult to pronounce names, so they use something like Marcus professionally instead of Eng Hooi, their legal name. And sometimes it's hard to say whether someone's name is really Fong or Phong. So it's best to let them pick themselves. – Muz Oct 13 '16 at 1:19
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    Chinese also have massive amounts of different ways to pronounce the same words. Your major dialects are Cantonese and Mandarin. One very glaring example of this is the city called Peking (where we get Peking duck) and Beijing. They're the same city, written the same way, but Peking is in Cantonese, which is used in Hong Kong when China was closed to international trade. This city has been changed back to Beijing due to China becoming more open, but it really is the same city. – Nelson Oct 13 '16 at 2:04
  • WRT actual names, CHAN, CHEN, CHENG and some other derivatives can all be the same written Chinese character. It comes down to how badly they pronounced it when they spoke to their lawyers to get an English name... – Nelson Oct 13 '16 at 2:06
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    Having some experience with weird names and countries were everyone are named the same, it's a shame I cannot upvote this more than once. – Shautieh Oct 13 '16 at 3:15
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    +1. I work at a large company with 100k+ people and a "pick your own alias" policy. It works much better than you'd think, and is particularly good at memorably disambiguating even people with identical names. – lambshaanxy Oct 13 '16 at 6:06
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I would suggest a fuller email address, e.g.:

john.scott@[domain].com and john.doe@[domain].com

to differentiate the 2 email addresses. Anything less is confusing.

To differentiate them in person, you can:

  • Address them by surname
  • Introduce as 'John from IT' or 'John from HR'
  • Agree a nickname, e.g. John and Johnny
7

Small office, not likely to grow to a multinational with thousands of names, I would go with jscott@domamin.com.

This has the advantage of clearly indicating that Scott is the last name but when people start typing John in their email system and it autofills, they won't accidentally send a lot of his email to someone else. I have this problem all the time with another employee who shares my first name. Luckily we each know how to determine which emails we need to send to the other person as our jobs are very dissimilar.

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Why not give him jscott@domain.com? It has the benefit of containing the name he will likely use most (Scott) while still containing the important hint that it's not actually his first name. Lots of people have discussed the negatives of [firstname][last initial]@domain.com, and I would add that first names are repeated often (as evidenced by it occurring in your small group), but last names are typically unique. For anecdotal evidence, my company of ~1000 employees has at least 13 "John"s but only 3 "Smith"s.

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Your company may grow and there may be a number of John(s) or even a number of John Scott(s). So it would be better if you would find a way to identify each of them separately and to give them email id's like johnscott.@.com. So this would help you in future as I mentioned when your company grows.

Hope it helps

  • If you add backticks (`) around the email address, it will keep Markdown from hiding the parts inside angle brackets. Or, you could switch to square brackets like this: johnscott.[employee_number]@[domain].com. – Matthew Crumley Oct 12 '16 at 21:06

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