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Woman Sparks Workplace Drama After Correcting Her CEO’s Pronunciation Of Her ‘Ethnic’ Name

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A newly hired 22-year-old woman thought she had a good interaction with upper management centered on the pronunciation of her uncommon name, but her supervisor disagreed.

Unsure, she turned to the “Am I The A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for feedback.

Redditor sh-aita-1 asked:

“AITA for correcting the CEO after he mispronounced my ‘ethnic’ name and embarrassing my boss?”

The Original Poster (OP) explained:

“I recently started working at a large company and a few days ago the CEO briefly joined our Zoom call for the first time. We were thoroughly warned about this ‘special occasion’ and my boss repeatedly told us what an honour it is that the CEO decided to pay our team a visit.”

“He gave us plenty of instructions on how to behave in preparation for this.”

“So the CEO just made a few generic ‘welcome onboard’ comments to us recent grads and I thought that would be the end of it. But then he greeted me and asked me how I’m settling in.”

“Well he absolutely butchered my name.”

“For the record, I’m mixed race (White/Kenyan). I have a Swahili name that people generally struggle to pronounce.”

“So before I answered his question I corrected him and he mispronounced it again.”

“It really depends on the situation. Sometimes I don’t bother correcting people—especially if I won’t ever see them again.”

“He asked me if he got it right and I said no. So I slowed down my speech and told him exactly how to pronounce it but he just kept messing up.”

“So I decided to use the whiteboard feature on Zoom and typed out how to pronounce my name, syllable by syllable(e.g. Alexia -> ah-lek-see-uh). He FINALLY got it right and I jokingly said ‘you get an A for that’.”

“I got the impression he wouldn’t mind a joke like that so just went with it (& he laughed so I guess I didn’t entirely f’k up).”

“Then I noticed that my boss looked VERY pissed. He apologised and said I’m ‘new’ and still ‘adjusting’ to the environment.”

“Afterwards my boss spoke to me in private and I got chewed out. He said that my behaviour wasn’t professional and that I basically embarrassed him in front of the CEO.”

“He said that I should’ve let the mistake slide instead of turning the situation into a ‘spectacle’. On top of that, he was angry that I jokingly told the CEO he got an A as that was ‘disrespectful’ and ‘deeply inappropriate’.”

“I thought I was in serious trouble but during lunch I received an email from the CEO himself. He was super friendly and asked me to send him monthly email updates on how I’m getting on.”

“He also encouraged me to reach out to him if I have any questions or concerns. I was kind of surprised.”

“So now I’m wondering.”

“Am I a petty AH for ‘wasting everyone’s time’ as my boss put and correcting the CEO?”

Ordinarily Redditors would weigh in using four voting codes:

  • NTA – Not The A**hole
  • YTA – You’re The A**hole
  • NAH – No A**holes Here
  • ESH – Everyone Sucks Here

Redditors decided the OP was not the a**hole.

“NTA for correcting the CEO on the pronunciation. Whether you are the a**hole for adding the last comment about receiving an A all depends on the vibe of the call.”

“If your team was joking around with the CEO and it was casual, definitely NTA. If it was a very formal meeting, then you could be the a**hole here but just for the last comment.”

“Pronouncing someone’s name correctly is one the most basic signs of respect. Every boss or company should show respect for their employees.”

“Be careful with your new boss. CEO sounds great.” ~ andtheanswerisme

“Definitely but can we also give props to this CEO? Whether big or small I appreciate anyone who takes the time to show the little bit of respect and the fact he didn’t brush them off and continue says a lot to their character.” ~ PyroKineticHamster

The OP answered:

“I agree. My coworkers & I discussed that he’s actually a lot nicer and down to earth than our boss portrayed him to be.”

“Later in the email he said some nice things, even my boss was never this nice lol.”

Most Redditors saw nothing wrong with the OP’s actions and offered insights on the supervisor’s reaction.

“A lot of times, bad managers try to create a distance between workers and higher-ups, in order to maintain their sense of power. Take up the CEO on their offer.” ~ ninaa1

“I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out why the boss was so pissy about this (since it sounds like the CEO and all the other employees were totally cool with it) but I think you may’ve hit the nail on the head.”

“If the CEO isn’t some big, scary, intimidating beast then what’s the stop employees from going to him if/when there’s an issue with the boss?”

“NTA, OP. And I agree with others—your CEO sounds like a really nice and down to earth guy. I expected whoever was corrected to be the one who was upset, but it sounds like he handled it very well.” ~ Willowed-Wisp

“NTA if people can pronounce Chekhov and other such names, they can pronounce yours.” ~ Cultural-Concept-485

“You’re good. Lot of CEOs are aware they represent the whole company to people in entry level so they’ll be in their nicest behaviour—to upper and middle management maybe not so much.”

“He’s probably more concerned he struggled to get your name right and wants to ensure you feel good with the job.”

“What your boss is doing is heavy-handed gatekeeping. NTA.” ~ vanspossum

While the OP was overwhelmingly declared not the a**hole, there were some who felt “ethnic” people needed to stay quiet and accept how their names are pronounced or adopt an anglicized nickname.

“I’m sure the other people on the call—and not just OP’s boss—were cringing and wishing they could just get on with it already.”

“In meetings, you need to focus on what’s important. No one cares about your name, OP. I’m sorry, but it’s true.”

“He isn’t going to work with you frequently so he doesn’t need to know it.”

“Your mistake is thinking you were the most important person in the room. You weren’t. YTA.” ~ heytherekitkat

“YTA. He was just being nice he wasn’t looking for someone to demand he master your native tongue—on some name he’s unlikely to ever have to say again.”

“My [husband] changed his Greek name to make it easier in America—he didn’t run around making everyone keep speaking Greek.” ~ vbpets

“I think the ‘normal’ thing to do would be to correct the first time and if the person is still having a hard time you just say ‘close enough’ or ‘that’s ok too’.” ~ BBDAngelo

But for the most part, Redditors felt the same respect demanded for common names was owed to people with unusual ones.

“NTA. My name is a common name with multiple pronunciations but I’m frequently too anxious to correct people.”

“I wish I had your courage to correct people more often! I’ve had multiple bosses/managers mispronounce it for years and I just let it go.”

“Everyone deserves to have their name pronounced correctly. If your coworkers aren’t upset and the CEO isn’t upset, then your boss being upset just means they have something they’re probably trying to hide and project it on you.” ~ QueenSeaBitch

“NTA. The CEO was engaged and didn’t have an issue and according to a comment from the OP there were only 6 people on the call shooting the breeze waiting for another team to join later.”

“The real entitlement comes from all the people who think it’s OK to disregard ‘foreign’ or ‘ethnic’ names but would have a conniption fit if someone called Kyle, Lyle or called Karen, Sharon.

“I mean, it’s close enough, right? Oh, wait, that only works for other people.”

“All y’all are lazy and entitled, demanding everyone get your names correct, but telling others to pick a nickname to make your life easier.”

“Quit being ethnocentric a**holes and make an effort. It literally would take you 1-2 minutes to learn a person’s real name instead of demanding they accommodate your ignorance and laziness.” ~ LakotaGrl

While a small contingent felt “ethnic” names deserved less respect—especially in a corporate environment, the OP can be reassured most of her fellow Redditors thought she was not the a**hole.

Written by Amelia Mavis Christnot

Amelia Christnot is an Oglala Lakota, Kanien'kehá:ka Haudenosaunee and Metis Navy brat who settled in the wilds of Northern Maine. She considers herself another proud Maineiac.
Member of NAJA.