I really liked my mailman, Michael Jackson. I was sad to see him retire, but when he retired, another fabulous mailman, Michael Jordan, took his place.
Of course, my mailmen aren’t the only ones who share names with famous people. I did a LinkedIn search on the name “Brad Pitt”, 86 names came up; Angelina Jolie-55, one of whom is a manager at Target; Jennifer Aniston had 30. Of course, these are (mostly) well-liked celebrities. A LinkedIn search using the name of the famous bank robber John Dillinger turned up 60 people, Elizabeth/Lizzie Borden-33 and Jimmy Hoffa only 16.
On a more personal level, my husband’s name is Jeffrey Levitt. Many years ago, a man (who is no relation to my husband) was personally responsible for nearly bringing down the entire savings and loan industry in the state of Maryland. A lot of people lost a lot of money. Needless to say, the name Jeffrey Levitt was not a well-liked name. Depending on whether and how long a person has lived in Maryland when that person meets my husband or hears his name, they kind of do a double-take. Usually, he’s asked benign questions like where he is from (Alabama), how long he’s lived here, and then like clockwork if he’s related to “The Jeffrey Levitt”. Once the person is satisfied that my husband isn’t a convicted criminal or related to one, he will be told a story about the person’s interaction with “The Jeffrey Levitt”.
When “The Jeffrey Levitt” was first found out, my husband (who was then just this guy from Alabama I was dating), received threatening phone calls; very personal questions from his employer, and some odd stares when he paid for items via credit card or check. He even had his Baltimore Sun subscription canceled by someone in customer service who told him that “they didn’t need people like him as subscribers”.
Come on, you can admit it when you hear a familiar or sometimes even odd name, an image comes to mind, whether it’s good, bad, or simply humorous, it happens. However, as in the case with the overzealous customer service representative, that image can lead to some wrong conclusions.
In the workplace assigning an image to a name may lead to workplace discrimination. The New York Times published an article back in 2009 titled “Whitening” the Resume that discusses how even with all things being equal, job applicants with black-sounding names, get fewer callbacks for interviews than those who do not. Scary but true. For those who were wondering, the name Oprah Winfrey turned up 7 times on LinkedIn.
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