posted by Matt W on July 11th, 2012

I recently started a new job. It has been nice to go to work every day after being out of work for a while. All my new co-workers are very nice and have made me feel right at home from the start. The only problem is I am now right in the middle of the “everyone knows my name, but I can’t remember anyone else’s name” phase.

I have never been all that good with names. When I meet people for the first time I am usually distracted by something about them and totally forget their name. “Hi, I’m Bob Smith, I work in accounting.” The conversation in my head is going something like, “Bob Smith, Bob Smith, Bob Smith; wow did you know that you’re left earlobe’s a good half an inch lower than your right. Now, would that be his right or my right? Get back on track. Bob works in human resources, no accounting, yes accounting. They had donuts in accounting this morning. The glazed were surprisingly good for grocery store donuts. I’m going to have to try that grocery store… What the hell was his name again?” Now, you get one extra time asking when you’re new to a job, but I usually get distracted again by something new this person is saying or wearing and totally forget the whole reason for my conversation, until it’s to late. This time the conversation in my head goes something like, “Bob Smith in accounting. That’s really cool that he kayaks, I haven’t done that in years. I wonder how much a good kayak costs? CRAP, what was his name again? Well at least I’m in accounting and they have donuts.”  Mission failed.

Over the years, I have become really good at not needing people’s names to communicate. “Pardon me; I’m going to need that file by Friday.” By the way, the words “pardon me” are a really big clue I don’t know your name.  There are many other phrases that I will not share in case I know you but have forgotten your name.

Well, with this job, I thought I was safe as everyone has to wear a name badge around their neck. If I can’t remember your name, I look at your badge and viola, I have it right there. Unfortunately there are a few problems with this plan as well. First, I have a hard time reading the badges without my reading glasses. So, it kind of defeats the point of subtly finding out your name when I have to put my reading glasses on and basically hold the badge in my hand to see it. Second, you can’t really stare at people’s chest to look at their badge without being creepy.  Next.

So I finally came up with the perfect solution. I have an intern, and to “teach” him how to be a part of an office environment, I ask him the names of people when we are out of earshot. When he can’t come up with a name, I say something like “You really need to know people’s names in order to interact with them more professionally, you better go find out and get back to me.” As he’s an intern and not a crazy manager, everyone is more than happy to tell them their names, as many times as the intern needs. As a reminder for him, I sometimes even write their names on my whiteboard. It has worked amazingly well for me, I mean him.

Now if I could just find someone to remind me what my interns name is, I’d be golden.

File Under Working Stiff