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How To Observe Pronouns In The Workplace

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The topic of diversity and inclusion can seem overwhelming, especially when it comes to the workplace. Don’t beat yourself up about it, with all its terms and acronyms, if you are still on your learning journey.

Promoting and growing inclusion in various ways is a process and one that should not be taken lightly. One big step you can take is to learn, understand and take gender pronouns seriously.

Why share pronouns at work? As we become more aware of gender fluidity and dismantle regular constructs of gender, the topic of gender pronouns is becoming more common. As a society, we are moving beyond the pronouns of ‘he, him, his’ and ‘she, her, hers.’ Instead, many people would like to be addressed based on how they personally identify — not on the gender they were assigned at birth.

Individuals are now more open about their identities like transgender, nonbinary or gender non-conforming, where the preferred pronouns are ‘they, them, theirs.’ For example, more and more workplaces are taking steps to eliminate gender identity, from creating gender-neutral washroom facilities to having other identity options in completing payroll and HR forms.

Making your organization familiar with the other pronouns will contribute to having an inclusive culture where everyone is heard. Here are some of the things to note in a quest to become more pronoun inclusive in your workplace:

Approach Pronouns As A Learning Opportunity

Before changing systems and payroll forms with more gender selection options, it’s best for the organization as a whole to learn and understand what gender pronouns are and how they have evolved over the years. This learning session can be a lunch and learn or a diversity and inclusion committee speaker that helps break down these topics and answer questions for others to learn in a safe environment.

Verify Preferred Pronouns

When making introductions or breaking the ice at work, welcome statements should include ‘Tell us your name, your role, and if you’re comfortable, your gender pronoun.’ Also, in your welcome, don’t forget to include what your pronouns are as well. Adding this into your everyday language will make it easier for future conversations, and this question will become second nature.

It’s Ok To Make Mistakes

Honest mistakes happen, and most people are very understanding when it comes to incorrectly addressing someone. A best practice if this happens, is to apologize and correct yourself.

Ensure you’re not dwelling too much on the error so that the encounter doesn’t become awkward. Ultimately, the best apology is remembering and respecting employees’ gender pronouns.

Promote Inclusion Through Sharing Pronouns

Email signatures have to be the most cost-effective and easiest way to include gender pronouns as this serves as a reminder and builds awareness internally and externally. As most people have not been questioned about their gender identity, this gives a good impression that the company is concerned and respects gender identity.

Including them in company email signatures is a good way to bring awareness to something that many people might not have thought about before. This would also serve as a catalyst for in-depth discussions that further enlighten people on why pronouns are an essential part of a person’s identity that should be respected and not overlooked.

Social media is another promising avenue to communicate preference — in fact, several platforms including LinkedIn and Facebook now provide space for you to add these to your public profile.

Take Baby Steps For Giant Strides

We need to crawl before we can walk, especially in the areas of inclusivity. As a new change in your company, you want to ensure you’re taking the proper steps to understand this concept so that the adjustments are made in the right ways.

From lunch-and-learns to adding our preferred pronouns to our email signatures, utilizing pronouns is a process, and the biggest part is getting started. Creating an inclusive culture is an ongoing journey, so creating a strategy or roadmap to ensure you are meeting key milestones and goals will be a great advantage as you transform your workplace culture.

Gender pronouns are a key topic in the workplace and will not be going away anytime soon. It’s safe to say having a singular and visible gender identity is a privilege, and this is not a luxury everyone can afford. We now live in a time where we can’t always tell what someone’s gender pronouns are by just looking at them. Referring to individuals with the wrong pronoun can leave your staff feeling disrespected, invalidated and alienated, which is the opposite of what we are trying to achieve. As you use more inclusive language, ensure you ask, remember, and use employees’ correct pronouns to build the best supportive workplace possible.