Work tip: Use what your mama gave you


June 18, 2013 by juicefong

People everywhere want to be recognized, they want to be accepted, they want to feel like they’re at home where they work. They want others to know their stories, their values, what they care about, what they’re good at. They want to be able to help others, connect this person to that person, make a difference—heck, even get promoted one day. And then they try to be all cute and use their initials or a nickname when no one knows them.

Last week someone new to my organization, sent me a calendar invite titled “RM and JF” (I’m subbing her initials…and maybe the gender…you’ll never know!). Well I know who “JF” is—that’s me. Who are you, RM? You just emailed me for the first time time the other day and though I look forward to speaking with you (caution via previous post about managing your time), I’ve already forgotten who you are and what you do. And now I’ve got to click a couple times to figure that out. Trying to make a name for yourself? Use your name. Your full name. What your mama gave you.

Especially at big organizations (mine has over 2,000 staff members), using your full name is just good work etiquette. Don’t assume people know who you are, that you’re BFFs. I see a lot of young people—let’s go ahead and call them “millennials”—who like to get cute, especially in a virtual work environment. On a large conference call chat box I’ll see them use their initials “MG,” or a nickname or abbreviation “Kev” or even just their first name “Erica.” Do you know how many Ericas work here?

Especially on a big call, this isn’t helping their case. Sure, it’s cool and casual and makes it feel all friendly, but if you’re new and I have no clue who you are—guess what: I still have no clue who you are. Even for old-timers, we need your full name, especially for those newcomers who are trying to learn about everyone else.

When you get tight with your small team or whatever, call each other whatever you want, use initials, do whatever. But when people don’t know your name yet, and for people who may not know your name, well…make a name for yourself. A full name.

Justin Fong (@jgfong) heads the small but mighty internal communications team at Teach For America. He envied college classmates who had two middle names.

3 thoughts on “Work tip: Use what your mama gave you

  1. Rashina Bhula says:

    I think a lot of this stems from some company norm that abbreviations (or acronyms) in general make us more efficient in our work — which I know our whole team disagrees with. We also have to recognize the role that social media has played in conditioning people to shorten their speech. In linguistics, abbreviations historically became popular when it used less ribbon to type a person’s name or title, or the location of where the communication was originating from (the original 140ch). And though this doesn’t happen unknowingly when you get a calendar invite from “RM”, I’m sure s/he operates through a number of these now reincorporated language rules. Good post!

  2. Melissa Bakcsy says:

    I’m curious whether “RM” scheduled this meeting his/herself or if an assistant did. Some of us (assistants) either try or are asked to keep meeting titles consistent. Sounds like a great opportunity to give RM feedback.

  3. Ursa says:


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