Wearing a Name Tag

I wore a name tag for years and years. The first one I ever put on was my name tag for my first job at McDonald’s. (Neon pink shirt and hat. Who thought that was a good color for a uniform? I ask you.) Right off, I wasn’t a fan of the tag. I wasn’t really sure why I had to wear one, and it was always a pet peeve whenever someone would come to the register, glance at my name tag, and then call me by my first name, like we were some long lost friends. I didn’t know them. Why were they using my name like that?

Then I went on a mission to Germany for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For that, I had to wear a name tag at all times: the familiar black shield with “Elder Cundick” on it in my case. For some reason, the badge didn’t elicit the same response in me as my fast food emblem had received. Maybe some of it is that it wasn’t my first name people were using, so it didn’t feel as casual. Maybe some of it was that in many ways, my name was the best thing that distinguished me from all the other missionaries serving with me. (Other than my charming personality, of course.) You can start to feel like a cog in a machine when you’re on a mission at times, and it helps to hold on to whatever part of you still makes you . . . you. (Not a criticism of the mission, by the way. I still view it as one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.)

I came home, and it was time for name tags again. This time at the Harold B. Lee Library at BYU. Once again, it was just my first name, and once again, it bothered me to have people actually use my first name. So clearly the two years on my mission didn’t change my feelings of that approach. Ah well. I continued to have a name tag at Orem Public Library as well, with the same results. Why did people even need to know my name, for crying out loud?

It was even worse at conferences. At the time, I was pretty much only going to writing conferences, and it felt like everyone was going around looking at name badges, hunting for an agent or an editor or someone important to talk to. They’d glance at my name tag and dismiss me. I didn’t like that feeling either.

Things began to change somewhat for me when I moved to Maine. For one thing, my new job had nothing like a name tag in sight. I thought it was great. No more first name “friendliness,” with an emphasis on the quotation marks. Of course, when I went to conferences for my library job, name tags were everywhere. Again, I didn’t mind as much. Now, I appreciated the reminder of what everyone’s name was. I didn’t really care that much where they were from or what they did, except as a conversation starter. But speaking as a person who has a really hard time remembering names and faces, I began to be thankful for the reminders.

Last week, I ordered name tags for all my staff at the library, and I’ve started wearing a badge at work again for the first time in 12 years. Why the sudden shift? For one thing, I’m no longer that worried about people using my first name anymore. Somewhere along the way, that irritation left me. Maybe some of it is that almost everything at my university happens on a first name basis. Most professors have their students call them by their first name, even. (That never happened at BYU.) Some of it might be because now I want people to know who I am. I want to be seen and to be able to answer questions when they come up.

I haven’t told my staff they need to wear name tags. It’s totally up to them. And when I first put in the order, I wasn’t planning on wearing one myself. But now that I have for a few days . . . I see no need to stop. Maybe it’ll grow old after a while, but for now, it’s here to stay.


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1 thought on “Wearing a Name Tag”

  1. When I became library director 8 months ago, that was one of the first things I wanted to do–order name tags. I waited until I hired the rest of my staff and although I don’t require it, I do encourage it. We know everyone’s name due to the nature of our work (we see their names on our computer screens) and it’s nice that folks know our names so they know who to thank…or who to stay away from. 🙂

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