Proper Filenames are Critical to Proper Business Etiquette


Sometimes You Have to be a Prick to Those Outside of Your Company


I just received the March 2009 purchase report from one of our company’s 50+ vendors who provide such recaps. This particular vendor chose to name the file MyCompanyMarch.xls. By “MyCompanyMarch,” I mean he put the name of my company and the month in the filename… and nothing else. I could scream. What in the world was he thinking? Clearly, he was not.


Imagine if all of the vendors we dealt with used the same filename nomenclature as this self-centered simpleton. If that were the case, I’d have more than fifty files on my laptop all named MyCompanyMarch.xls. Now imagine if we’d been doing business with these fifty-odd companies for a number of years; I could potentially have hundreds of files all named MyCompanyMarch.xls. Suppose I needed to find the March 2006 recap from Vendor Z; could I easily locate this file? Of course it would be cumbersome, because this vendor wasn’t thinking of the audience when he named his file, just himself.


Yeah, But the Vendor Can Find the File


When this vendor peruses through his files, he’ll easily spot the one he sent me this week. The data will be at his fingertips and he can look like a hero to anyone who asks him to retrieve it. He named the file for himself, not me. Of course, if he plans to keep his job longer than 12 months he should add the year to his filenames. Though I doubt he’ll still be employed next April. On the off chance he is, I wonder if his March 2010 recap to me will be named MyCompanyMarch2010.xls. Probably not; it’s likely that someone this unthinking will never bother to change the way they do something as meaningless as naming files.


(Of course, naming files is not meaningless. I just wrote that to see if you were paying attention.)


Using Proper Filenames is Critical to Maintaining a Free Society


Filenames on your computer, whether they are monthly recaps for your customers or your resume for a prospective employer, should reflect not only what you want to know about the file, but more importantly, what the intended audience wants to know about the file. Here are some examples of bad filenames (all of which I have received) and better alternatives:


  • Bad filename: MyResume.doc. Good filename: Smith.John.Resume.doc.
  • Bad filename: CustomerNameMonth.xls. Good filename: VendorName.CustomerName.Description.MMYYYY.xls (for example: AcmeWidgets.WidgetRetailer.OrderHistory.032009.xls).
  • Bad filename: CustomerNameProposal.ppt. Good filename VendorName.CustomerName.Proposal.MMYYY.ppt.


Is There a Leadership Lesson Here?


Not everything on comes with a leadership lesson. Sometimes, we just like to rant. Though it’s a little bit of stretch, we do think there is something leaders can learn from this.


Jimmy Dugan was a good leader. Despite his alcoholism and apathy, he was able to get the most out of his team. And although his team lost the AAPGL Championship (of course he was missing his best player, Dottie Hinson), his leadership helped turn a bunch of girls into accomplished ballplayers… not an easy task, even in a fictional world.


The next time you’re faced with a vendor, an applicant or a prospective vendor-partner who provides you with a file that includes an inconsiderate or idiotic filename, you need to take a deep breath and a page out of Jimmy Dugan’s book. I suggest using Jimmy’s words of wisdom that he provided to right fielder Evelyn Gardner: “Start using your head. That’s the lump that’s three feet above your ass.”


Sometimes you have to be a prick.