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June 13, 2017 / Stephanie Anderson

The pain of changing your name in the workplace

shutterstock_384188605First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a long line at the Social Security office in order to change your name … if you choose to do so.

New York Times’ data blog, The Upshot, reports women are keeping their maiden names more often than they used to. While adopting a spouse’s name was more common in the 1980s and 1990s, recent years show roughly 20 percent of married women are keeping their last names.

What’s more, there seems to be a rising trend of men taking their female partner’s name. The Huffington Post article “I Got Married And Took My Wife’s Last Name. Here’s Why” lends some insight into why a man would consider this nontraditional move.

Feminism? Yes, part of it was to support equality between him and his wife, but that wasn’t the only reason. The change was also in line with his desire to have one singular family name (The Brobergs), plus he liked that it sounded more Jewish, which is his heritage.

After reading the article, I started to think more about the implications of a name change. Changing your name is a nightmare, especially at work. You’ll visit HR to fill out necessary paperwork. You need to update your email, voicemail, business cards, etc. You’ll have to introduce yourself to clients and contacts again, explaining your new name. It’s all time-consuming and often frustrating.

Of course, a name change is more than just logistics. If you’re already established in your career, your reputation is closely connected to your name. Changing it can really challenge your reputation management. Your name is your own personal brand, and just like you’d never see Coke considering a name change, it’s not something many professionals are willing to do, either.

This ties closely to the trend that Americans are staying single longer. The average age for Americans getting married is estimated at 27 for women and 29 for men. That is plenty of time to attend college, get a job and start making a name for yourself. When it’s time to get married, a traditional name change may not make sense.

Ultimately, the choice of whether to change your name is between two partners and there are countless ways to approach the decision. Some couples both keep their names, others hyphen or blend their two names together into a totally new surname. Some keep separate names for their personal and professional lives, and still others come up with new options, much like my husband and I did.

When I got married, my husband took my maiden name as his middle name. It was completely his idea. However, he quickly learned the pain of a name change and actually faced additional challenges that can come from bucking tradition.

When I updated my name, I only needed our marriage certificate. For him to update his name, he was told he needed a court order. Apparently that DMV worker had never had a man change his name in marriage before! After a few phone calls to a judge and lawyers with the state of Virginia, he was finally able to make the change. Today I love both our names and the path we chose.

Did you change your name when you got married? How did it affect different aspects of your life and career?