Here’s a pretty simple lesson about showing respect at work


Out of all the stuff I’ve ever written on this blog, including the true crime stuff, one of the things that made me the saddest was writing about how no one apparently “has the time” to respect their employees at work. I have no idea what that means, or who would think that, but eh. People are terrible sometimes. I was just thinking a little about the concept after a conversation with a colleague and I wanted to share a really quick, potentially small example around it. 

When I worked at ESPN, I was based in New York, but periodically I had to deal with one of the ESPN Dallas editors (this dude) who was, as you might expect, based in Dallas. Ironically it’s three or four years after this story and now I live in the Dallas area (it appears he does too), but ultimately that’s neither here nor there.

He was a newer editor at the time — although older and more experienced than me in terms of overall work — and I was younger, but had been around ESPN longer. The first time we ever interacted was via phone, as you’d expect from NYC to Dallas. We had set up the phone call via e-mail, so he knew my name — “Ted” — because it was on the e-mails we were using to set up the call.

I got on the call and he repeatedly called me “Tim.” It happened four or five times. On the sixth time, I said, “Hey, sorry to interrupt, but my name is actually Ted.”

“Ted” and “Tim” both have three letters and start with “T,” yes. But they’re different words.

He totally glossed me over on this; his next line was “Well, I’m newer here! I can’t keep track of everything!”

I sighed and we kept talking.

This just happened to a friend of mine at my current job — set up a remote (employee in another place) call with a newer employee, and he kept calling her the wrong name (in this case, it was totally different — I won’t use real names, but it’s like “Sandra” to “Cathy” or something).

Getting someone’s name right should be the fucking baseline of respect, you know?

Here’s what I was explaining to my co-worker: when you meet people for the first time in middle school or high school or college — people that could ostensibly become life-long friends, right? — do you suddenly call them by the completely wrong name on first meeting simply because “you’re new here?” What the ever-loving fuck does that mean?

If you have someone’s e-mail open in front of you — if there was a meeting invite that included the number for the phone call — then you know their name. It’s literally sitting right in front of you. So you’re not exempted for “being new here.” Rather, you’re being lazy and can’t take the time to care. You’re basically saying, “Well, you’re broadly irrelevant to me; I’ve already determined you aren’t a person I need to impress.” It’s a more personal form of the bullshit we all heap on around “The Out Of Office.”

I know you probably think you’re too busy to be nice or respectful to others — DELIVERABLES ARE IN PLAY, PEOPLE!!! — but seriously, check yourself once in a while. “Ted” isn’t “Tim,” and “Sandra” isn’t “Cathy.” That’s just baseline respect.

Ted Bauer


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