Updated: Aug 4, 2021
Fitting in at the workplace is important. It ensures people will feel confident, safe, understood and valued.
Now more than ever, it is vital that workplaces promote environments conducive to equality and that they do all they can to set up employees for success. The benefits of an inclusive and equal workplace go far beyond someone simply fitting in.
Countless studies have shown that diverse and inclusive workplaces results in heightened employee engagement, improvements to productivity levels, reduced absenteeism and staff turnover as well as increased ideation/creative thinking. These benefits are linked to both improvements to the bottom line but also creates a more attractive place for people to work therefore improves employer branding.
As a manager or business owner you have an obligation to humanity to be certain everybody feels safe and valued. One way of achieving this is to promote the use of gender-neutral pronouns. This can be challenging for some people to get right but hopefully, these ideas may help:
1. Understand that genitals DO NOT equal gender.
It’s an easy assumption to make accidentally, but genitals and bodies, in general, don’t reflect anything about a person’s pronouns or gender.
If somebody disagrees with your own choice of pronoun do not be afraid to simply walk away.
2. Everybody has a name
If you are not sure how to address someone and are too embarrassed to ask, simply refer to someone by their name. Other words that may do the trick are them, they, their and everyone.
3. Practice Empathy
Put yourselves into the shoes of someone who is trapped in a body that does not align with how they feel about themselves or what society may expect from them. You will pretty quickly realise how important it is to be respectful when it comes to pronouns.
4. Build good habits
Rather than using terms like. “Hey guys” or similar, use a word like folks which is more gender-neutral. Practice this a few times and it will become a habit.
5. Incorporate this into an introduction
If being introduced to someone for the first time build a habit of stating something like “I use the pronouns, she/hers. What pronouns do you use?”
6. Educate others
If you are comfortable doing so, educate others about your own choice. Add to your email signature your preferred pronoun. If you are posting on social media, include a pronoun after your name.
Pronouns: They, Them, Theirs
7. The buck stops with the leaders
As a business leader, the buck stops with you when it comes to educating your organisation.
Establish a best practice communication policy in the organisation that helps inform the workforce of expectations concerning pronouns. Circulate this policy company-wide and encourage buy-in across all levels. Lead by example. Place into the company handbook.
8. Do not assume
Assuming something makes an ass out of u and me! Sorry bad Dad joke, but just never assume someone's gender.
It is not safe to assume that because a person looks a particular way on the outside they may be of a particular gender.
9. When referring to a group
To continue to build a culture that is inclusive of all genders, you can avoid wording that assumes there are only two genders; instead of "ladies and gentlemen", say "everybody", "colleagues", or "friends and guests". Instead of "men and women", say "people”.
10. Practice, practice and practice
It is okay to make a mistake - misgendering does happen and it is okay to make a mistake. If this happens apologise. You will teach yourself a valuable lesson in the process.