During our 10 years together I’d often thought about the day my [now husband] and I would get married and I’d change my surname.
So, when the moment eventually came and he proposed, I was ridiculously excited as you might expect. However, during the months of wedding planning I started to become daunted by the prospect of losing the surname that had been a part of my identity for 30 years. I was changing from Ruth Morris to Ruth Dance overnight. Not to ‘Ruth Morris-Dance’ as many of my friends had advised. “That’s a comical surname. No-one will take me seriously. It’ll be far too complicated to change to that at work,” was my usual reply. Little did I know I know just how complicated that would be.
December 2014 - We had a wonderful day, the sun shone, the wine flowed – all the usual you might expect.
I was really looking forward to getting back to work, to seeing my colleagues and showing them the wedding pictures and my wedding band, to changing my name to Mrs Ruth Dance. It all felt very special and after all, this was the best time of my life.
First day back – Call HR to tell them my happy news. “You’ll need to fill in a form to change your name” was the reply.
Day 2 – Call HR to ask why my email address hasn’t changed. “We don’t do that, you’ll need to call IT Helpdesk”
Day 3 – Call IT to ask why my emails aren’t working “It can take 48 hours to make the changes so there might be an overlap or some emails might be getting lost”
Day 4 – Pop out to the local sandwich shop and not able to get back in the building. “It’s because your name has changed, your security pass no longer recognises you on our system,” was the reply from the Security front desk. “We’ll need your manager to come down from the 14th floor [during his ridiculously busy schedule] to authorise you back into the building. You’ll then need to request a new pass and get that authorised.”
Day 7 – The printer denies me access to print an important report I need for my meeting (which I’m already running late for.) “It’s because we haven’t changed your name on the printer system. You’ll need to put in a request form for that.”
Day 12 – My monthly pension contributions summary arrives in my inbox from our pensions company - addressed to my maiden name. “You have to let us know directly about any changes, your company don’t inform us of this.”
Day 14 – Unable to authorise my team’s holiday requests in the system. “You’ll need to speak to the technology team to get them to change your account details in SAP so you can log in,” was the reply from the IT helpdesk.
Day 20 – My payslip lands on the doormat at home addressed to my ‘old’ name. “Argh… I wish we’d never even got married, the hassle in changing my name at work is just ridiculous.” Was my flippant, emotionally charged angry response to my new husband. “You’ll need to email Payroll and ask them to do that for you,” was the response when I called the HR desk.
Married less than a month and I’d made 12 phone calls, eight emails, four forms, and five times asking my manager to make authorisations. I’m feeling utterly deflated and fed up and regretting ever attempting to change my name at work.
It had taken under a week to change my name with my bank, passport, driving licence and all other online accounts that I hold. Why was I still finding it so hard at work?
I estimated I had lost three full working days to trying to change my name and all the effort that went with it. Add to that how I was then feeling, and my lack of productivity and motivation - you’re looking at up to two weeks of little to zero good work from me.
I honestly felt that my company didn’t really care that I’d got married and changed my name. It felt like they didn’t care about the biggest thing that ever happened in my life.
Show them you care
Decorate their desk, buy them a card or a balloon, take them out for a lunch, make them feel special in a way that’s personal and appropriate to them – after all, this is going to be the biggest moment of their life.
Pre-empt their needs
We’ve all experienced the post-holiday blues. Now imagine that same feeling but straight after a wedding and/or honeymoon. How might they be feeling being back at work? Where might their energy levels be? What can we do to re-motivate? Think of wellbeing programmes, gym classes, financial planning support (weddings can be expensive!), stretch goals for the next six months, new projects.
Make the experience seamless
Set up a working group to look at every single point where names are used throughout the organisation. Then work out how it can all be linked, so when an employee requests a name change everything else is taken care of, and every other party - Security, HR, Technology, Pensions, Payroll, IT - are all notified and can make the necessary changes.
Share the happy news
Update the team, department or even the organisation on the happy news. Let people know about your employee’s news and name change so they’re not accidentally excluded from important meetings.
Consider other life-changing events
It’s stressful enough when someone experiences divorce, so let’s not make the process even more complicated when one of our team is changing their name; find out how they might want it to be communicated, offer support and flexible working where needed for appointments, they time to focus on the mountains of paperwork that come their way.