What does diversity mean for workforce effectiveness? According to a new study that workers with more complex names are less favored than Smith, Jones and John.

In a rapidly growing global workforce what are the implications? And, what are the implications for team cohesiveness, empathy, workforce tolerance and unity?

Having a simple, easy-to-pronounce name is more likely to win you friends and favor in the workplace are the findings in  a study conducted by Dr Simon Laham at the University of Melbourne and Dr Adam Alter at New York University Stern School of Business.

 “Research findings revealed that the effect is not due merely to the length of a name or how foreign-sounding or unusual it is, but rather how easy it is to pronounce”.  To read the full paper, visit: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022103111002927

In the first study of its kind, and published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, researchers analyzed how the pronunciation of names can influence impression formation and decision-making. In particular, they demonstrated “the name pronunciation effect,” which occurs when people with easy-to-pronounce names are evaluated more positively than those with difficult-to-pronounce names.

The study revealed that:

  • People with more pronounceable names were more likely to be favored for political office and job promotions
  • Political candidates with easy-to-pronounce names were more likely to win a race than those without, based on a mock ballot study
  • Attorneys with more pronounceable names rose more quickly to superior positions in their firm hierarchies, based on a field study of 500 first and last names of  US lawyers

Lead author, Dr Simon Laham said subtle biases that we are not aware of affect our decisions and choices. “Research findings revealed that the effect is not due merely to the length of a name or how foreign-sounding or unusual it is, but rather how easy it is to pronounce,” he said.

Maybe this is why all the wonderful technical support we receive fromIndiais responded to by people named Dan, John and Alex?

Dr Adam Alter who conducted the law firm analysis said this effect probably also exists in other industries and in many everyday contexts. “People simply aren’t aware of the subtle impact that names can have on their judgments,” Dr Alter said.

Dr Laham said the results had important implications for the management of bias and discrimination in our society.

“It’s important to appreciate the subtle biases that shape our choices and judgments about others. Such an appreciation may help us de-bias our thinking, leading to fairer, more objective treatment of others,” he said.

At TIGERS Success Series we could not agree more. “Fair and unbiased treatment of others is important to empathy, which is the 4th team principle required for high functioning team dynamics. The others are trust, interdependence, genuineness, risk and success,” said TIGERS Success Series Founder, Dianne Crampton.  “Discrimination breaks work teams and society into Us and Them factions,” Crampton added.

Researchers conducted studies both in lab settings and in a natural environment using a range of names from Anglo, Asian, and Western and Eastern European backgrounds.

 Image by iStock

Copyright TIGERS Success Series

By Dianne Crampton


Copyright TIGERS Success Series

By Dianne Crampton

TIGERS offers a complimentary business membership program for leaders desiring a scalable, cooperative, quality-focused and friendly work environment that spikes commitment and loyalty from employees. TIGERS® Success Series, Inc. is a team development consultancy that has served leaders and their teams since 1989. TIGERS® helps leaders build teams of employees that are as committed and engaged in the success of the organization as the leaders are.