Got a name like Wojewodzic? Sorry, no promotion

by HCA02 Oct 2013

People with easy to pronounce names win friends and favour in the workplace, a study has found.

According to research by Dr Simon Laham at the University of Melbourne and Dr Adam Alter at New York University Stern School of Business, those with a simple, easy-to-pronounce name are more likely to be favoured for political office and job promotions.

In the first study of its kind, and published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, researchers analysed how the pronunciation of names can influence impression formation and decision-making.  In particular, they demonstrated “the name pronunciation effect,” which occurs when people with easy-to-pronounce names are evaluated more positively than those with difficult-to-pronounce names.

Dr Laham commented that subtle biases that we may not even be aware of are enough to affect our decisions and choices. “Research findings revealed that the effect is not due merely to the length of a name or how foreign-sounding or unusual it is, but rather how easy it is to pronounce,” he said. Dr Alter added that many people simply aren’t aware of the subtle impact that names can have on their judgments. “It’s important to appreciate the subtle biases that shape our choices and judgments about others.  Such an appreciation may help us de-bias our thinking, leading to fairer, more objective treatment of others.”

The researchers conducted studies both in lab settings and in a natural environment using a range of names from Anglo, Asian, and Western and Eastern European backgrounds.


  • by Naomi Calligaro 23/02/2012 7:53:16 PM

    I was never aware of my unusual name causing me any problems in the workplace or elsewhere, other than people sometimes misspelling or mispronouncing it - and that does not particularly bother me, as I know that my name is difficult for people and they are doing their best.

    I find that people have appreciated my making light of their misspellings and mispronunciations of my name, and the fact that we could share a chuckle over the matter turned a potential negative into an actual positive.

    One advantage with having an unusual name is that people tend to remember you, so, if you have talent, it is my experience that having an unusual name can actually be a plus.

    The singer Engelbert Humperdinck was actually born Arnold George Dorsey. He changed his name specifically to draw peoples attention to him professionally. Changing his name from one which was fairly straightforward to one which was exotic and challenged people both in pronouncing it and spelling it, raised him from being a singer with a stagnating singing career, to an international star!

    I don’t doubt that there are occasions when names which are difficult to pronounce and spell will result in some negative feelings towards the holder of the name. However, I would like to encourage everyone who has an unusual name to be proud of their name and proud of being different, to make light of peoples misspellings and mispronunciations of it, and to use these situations as an opportunity to have a chuckle with people about the name and bond with them.

    Most people feel better after sharing a chuckle.

    Vive la difference!

  • by Nic 2/10/2013 3:05:19 PM

    I agree with Naomi, I have struggled with people mispronouncing my christian name since primary school, hence shortening it to assist people, and I have found people tend to remember you once you have pronounced your name correctly for them.
    It has never hindered my career, and sometimes been a great conversation starter with new work colleagues.

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