How to Remember Your Coworkers Names

by Staff - Original publish date: January 18, 2012

Dear Annette,

What is the best way for a new employee to remember the other employees' names? I will be starting a new job in a few weeks as the payroll manager so, of course, I have to get names down very quickly. I sometimes have a problem remembering names. Help!

Guess Who

Dear Guess Who,

It's the sheer volume of people waiting inside the theater, not lack of confidence in the film, that makes a movie star's stomach flutter on the way to her premier.

And so it is with a new job. You arrive, walk into the office, and notice that every coworker you meet has a nickname, first name, last name; sometimes an honorific, a hyphen here or there, an accent and a diacritical mark. If only their parents, like mine, had understood the basic marketing principle of branding. They would know to keep the message short and simple. That's why my parents gave me just one name, wisely marking all my possessions with it as soon as I started school. The results were fabulous: I never lost a mitten and my personal brand was on its way. I followed this parental wisdom in naming my dog Dickie.

Due to the nature of your job, your coworkers have good reason for wanting to be sure you can identify them correctly. The glare of those first-day flashbulbs makes it hard to remember who anyone is, but from day two onwards, you need a plan. Here's what I did when I had to learn 100 names in five days, what with the cruise being so unusually short.

Before you start your job, get a list of the people in the company or, if that's not practical, at least those with whom you will be interacting most often. Study this roster so that the names are firmly in your mind before you walk in the door. When you develop a seething curiosity to know the face behind the name, you'll know you've done enough to prepare.

Throughout the first week, when you have a moment, review the list and try to put a face to each name. Do this four or five times a day and quiz yourself by starting in the middle, at the end, etc. Each time you practice you'll reinforce what you do know while learning new information. The alternative is to make everyone wear name tags.

Stay fabulous,