If You Struggle to Remember Names at Work, Do These 6 Things.
We’ve all had that moment when we are in a full on conversation with someone at the office, we have some laughs, and we get to the end of the conversation and realize we don’t even know the person’s name. Or moments when we are walking through the office realizing “I don’t even know any of these people.” It’s so weird to work in an office every day if you don’t know the majority of the people. My personal favorite is when I have a full on working relationship with someone, and when someone else walks up, I can’t introduce them because I can’t remember their name. Seriously-- I am someone who is terrible with names, and it takes me 3-4 times meeting someone to confidently know their name.
I work in an office with almost 200 people in a company with almost 500, and I am in a position where I should know who people are. Obviously I am not going to get 500 names right every time, but over the years I’ve developed some ways to learn names of people I work with, because I know it’s important. When I know people’s names, I can better engage with them at work- personally & professionally. I am just better at my job when I know who everyone is. Here are 5 ideas if you, too, need to get better at knowing people’s names.
1. Follow co-workers on instagram
If you know someone’s name but don’t know exactly who they are, or don’t recognize them in person when you see them, one thing you can do is follow them on instagram. It’s a bit bold so this is usually better if you know you’ve had at least some connection to them before. Once you follow them, you’ll start to see their name attached to pictures of them every now and them- it’s like flash cards right in your feed! This way, you’ll get to learn their name quickly, but you also have a conversation starter next time you see them- you can ask them about what they’ve posted. For this one, if there is any awkward reporting structure (like you are their boss), maybe it’s best to ask them first- otherwise go for it!
2. Look them up in your company’s HR platform
If you know details about someone at work, but you don’t know their name, a great place to start is your company’s HR platform, which usually has some type of org chart you can search. So if I know of someone who is the new SEO specialist at work, but I don’t know their name, I can start by looking up “SEO Specialist” and see who comes up. Usually people have photos and you can make the connection there.
3. Ask a friend
If you’re ever in the common area of your office, or at a happy hour having a conversation with someone you don’t know (and you don’t want to just ask their name), here’s what to do: Wait until they leave and grab a friend to say “who was the woman I was just talking to?” If they know, they’ll tell you! If they don’t know, then you know you’re not crazy for not knowing her, and the two of you can make it a mission to learn her name.
4. Invite them to coffee or a walk
If it’s someone you’ve been emailing with but you just don’t know them personally, invite them to coffee for 30 minutes outside the office. People typically are down to get coffee, and I’ve never left an initial coffee date not knowing someone's name and face. Coffee and conversation is great because you also get to know a little about them, so when the time comes to introduce them or make connections, you’ll be able to do that.
5. Initiate an ice breaker
If you’re in a group setting, like at a meeting where you don’t know a few people’s names, suggest that the group starts the meeting by going around and saying a few things about why they are there. The name thing can seem secondary, but you can suggest that everyone goes around and says their name, and their end goal for the meeting- or their connection to the project. That way you not only learn their name, but why they are involved in the work.
6. Check their nameplate on their desk.
At my office, we have nameplates on our desks with our name and title-- this is so helpful for me when I want to learn names. If I’m talking to someone at their desk, and I don’t know their name, I take a quick look at their nameplate and then I’m golden! This is also great because the person doesn't even have to be at their desk. If I know who someone is and I know where they sit, sometimes I just glance at their nameplate as I walk by and they’re away. It’s so easy!
Knowing people’s names makes working every day a lot better. This is not an exhaustive list on how to learn names, but it’s a good start! If you have more ideas, leave them in the comments below :)