Speaking Up Against Mistaken Identity

Can't Remember His Name

I am naturally an introvert. I am passive and soft spoken. It should come as no surprise, people have mistaken me for someone else or called me by the wrong name. In the past, due to my fear of confrontation, I would look the other way. But deep down, it gnawed at me. “How could he/she have forgotten my name? This is so awkward. Should I say something? No, it would just be too uncomfortable. Just let it go.” Lately, I’ve made strides to deal with this issue head on. It’s still not natural, but at least I am putting effort and taking action.

Last week, one of my directors returned from a long vacation in Europe. We caught up in the lobby. He was slightly tanned and grinning ear to ear as he recalled Turkey, Greece, and Rome. In a meeting, a few days ago, when he entered the room he said, “Good Morning Chet.” I quickly fired back, “Buck” in an attempt to correct him. He didn’t react. I wasn’t sure if he didn’t hear me or if he was just distracted with the critical issue we were meeting about. There were a few other people in the room. I decided to let it go rather than make a big deal of it.

In my nearly three years at my current job, I get mistaken for Chet quite a bit. I chalked it up as we are both Asian and senior network engineers. But when I dug deeper, there is an additional reason. Since Chet is more outgoing and sociable, he probably is more memorable and likeable as well. However, none of this explains what happened this afternoon.

I resolved an issue with someone I had helped quite often before. She replied via email to thank me and told me there was a nice shout out to me in the most recent department newsletter. I had no idea so I asked her more about it. She said it was a special department newsletter, but I could find copies of it in their office. There was a nice picture of me and a note. Sure enough, the main article talked about how iPads were improving work flow. I was involved with testing so it made some sense, but I wondered, “When did they take a picture of me?” I combed through the newsletter twice and did not find myself. Pardon the pun. On the third review, I found what I was looking for.

“We would like to thank Boris for developing our new mobile, web application that allows us to use iPads to streamline our workflow and improve our customer experience.”

There was a nice head shot of Boris, my department’s website programmer. He is Caucasian, older, and shorter than me. The only reason I can think of for this latest slip up is both our names begin with the same letter. I was more bothered than usual so I asked Chet and a few others what they would do if they were in my shoes.

Chet would let it go, but would playfully mention it if he ran into her in the hallway. Three others on my team would correct her over email. After some thought, I decided to combine the two suggestions.

I sent a playful email which read, “Hi Michelle. You may have mistaken me for Boris. 🙂 Have a nice weekend. Buck” I could write an entire post about email etiquette. But for starters, I made sure to put the smiley face emoticon to express to Michelle that I was not upset or angry. I told Chet about my email and he couldn’t understand why I just didn’t let it go. Thankfully this story has a happy ending.

“Aahhhh… the hazards of e-mail over face to face communication. So sorry. :o) Have a great weekend! Michelle”

What made it more satisfying was I took calculated action and it turned out just the way I wanted it. I also took one more step in overcoming my mistaken identity problem and facing my fear of confrontation.

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