The Dos and Donts of Pronouns in the Workplace
Oct 22, 2021
Misgendering runs strong in the straight community but if you've found this blog post, chances are you are here intentionally and are willing to receive this information.
For that, we thank you.
Our team is asked to explain pronouns and their usage almost daily so we thought it was time to put pen to paper on this topic. Think of this as your 101 guide to using various pronouns, leading conversations/introductions with YOUR pronouns, and a how-to guide on generally how to be a champion for inclusion of all identities.
This guide particularly caters to the work environment but is applicable in all places and spaces.
First, let's establish a baseline of knowledge:
- Misgendering: The act of using incorrect pronouns for a person of any gender identity. Often non-binary, trans and gender fluid people experience this most often but it can happen any time a conversation/introduction is not led with pronouns or when you assume someone's gender based off of what their body looks like.
- Dead naming: Equally, if not more harmful than misgendering someone is the use of dead names. The act of dead naming is when someone uses the name someone was born with or assigned at birth vs. the name they have chosen for themselves. This applies particularly to trans people but can apply to anyone who wishes to be referred to as a particular name that they were likely NOT assigned at birth.
- Gender identity is not a preference. It is a representation of who someone is. So when you dead name or misgender us, it's not an issue of not following our preferences. What you are doing when you do these things is disregarding our humanity.
At work, it is more important than ever to honor pronouns for all employees. Whether you are a part of the community or not, including your pronouns in all of your work (in your email signature, in presentations, in conference calls, etc.) is an easy, free and low labor method of increasing inclusivity and reducing harm.
According to a study by the Human Rights Campaign, 46% of LGBTQ+ workers say they are closeted at work. Let that stat sink in a bit. Nearly half of all LGBTQ+ employees report that they are not able to be their authentic selves at work. Why? The same study shows that LGBTQ+ workers believe if they were to report to HR that nothing would be done about it. They fear that the only outcome would be damaging relationships with coworkers.
As a result, we find that LGBTQ+ employees are statically more depressed, less productive and majorly unhappy at work. All because employers are struggling to understand basic terminology, make simple strides toward inclusion and put pronouns at the forefront at work.
Lack of action echos just as loudly as real action and the LGBTQ+ community is hyper aware of both.
If you've made it this far, we're willing to bet you're prepared to be a catalyst for change. So let's dig in.
Here are the Dos and Don'ts of pronouns usage in the workplace:
- It is SO simple to add your pronouns to Zoom, to TEAMS, to your email signature, and to your presentations and proposals. It takes the same amount of energy as adding your name and email so what's one more identifier going to cost you? Nothing. Adding this to your materials doesn't signal that you're a part of the community. It simply lets everyone in the room know that you value all identities.
- Speak up when you hear someone else being misgendered. Again, silence and inaction echos JUST as loudly as action. By unmuting yourself on a call and stepping in to assert pronouns on the other person's behalf, you are taking an immense weight off of the LGBTQ+ person's shoulders.
- Recognize this isn't about you. Never center yourself in conversations around pronouns unless you are the person being misgendered. These conversations should not be about the person who is causing the harm. It's not about the ally taking time to catch up with "the lingo" or the ally who is "trying their best".
- Be proud of yourself for being willing to do this work and intentionally foster inclusion.
- Don't expect patience and understanding from the community or from someone you're actively misgendering. You are doing harm and no one owes you their dignity. Catch yourself, correct yourself and move forward.
- Don't ask someone not to correct you on their pronouns. It doesn't matter if you're speaking 1:1 or if you're in a meeting with clients, everyone deserves to have their dignity in tact in all situations. If you are misgendering someone, you are robbing them of their dignity and deserve the correction.
In simply reading this article, you have served as an agent of change. We hope you'll take these guidelines with you as you grow in your company and in your allyship. Please continue to learn and advocate for your LGBTQ+ employees and coworkers. They say it takes a village and we are honored to have you as part of ours as we work to build more inclusive workplaces.