From forms to greetings pronouns are a big part of day to day business. “She/her” for female and “he/him” for male is quite common but some people might not be familiar using non binary terms such as “they/them/their” or “Zie/Zim/Zir”. Getting it right is important and identifying preferred pronouns for the people you work with is an important part of ensuring an inclusive workplace.
When designing forms that gather information on the diversity of the staff team or the clients you are working it can be hard to know what options should be included and how those boxes might make those completing the form feel.
An example of good practice
You will notice that call centres and customer service operators will ask very early on in the conversation for your name and ask what how you would like to be referred to.
Something along the lines of:
Call centre operative: Could you confirm the full name on the account
Caller: Jasmine Wilson
Call centre operative: Is it okay to refer to you as Jasmine?
Caller: Yes that’s fine
Or there is space for the caller to respond with an alternative:
No I would prefer you call me Jay
No I would prefer you call me Mrs Wilson
No I would prefer you call me Dr Wilson
By using a persons name and avoiding pronouns altogether there is no need to make assumptions about their gender but even then it might be wise to check it is okay to do this. On calls it can be particularly hard to identify the right title and pronoun for an individual without making assumptions based on the tone of their voice, the matter they are calling about or their name. These indicators of gender are not always helpful and can lead us to make assumptions which could offend. Someone transitioning/transitioned from male to female may have a deeper voice than the average woman however if referred to as Mr or sir this could cause offense. Equally there are women with deep voices that would be offended if they were referred to as Mr or sir.
How to identify the correct pronoun?
In person, overuse of someone’s name can be irritating and it isn’t common in conversation. This is where it is important to establish correct pronouns. Having these conversations can feel uncomfortable or unusual as it isn’t something we are used to doing. This is a very important step to including those who identify as trans, non-binary and genderfluid and reducing the likelihood of making assumptions that cause offense.
It is becoming increasingly common to introduce yourself with your name and your preferred pronouns at meetings, conferences, events and in schools. This is good practice and means pronouns are established before innocent mistakes are made based on assumptions. Mistakes made after pronouns have been identified could be seen as careless or inconsiderate. It is worth taking note of the preferred pronoun. If you are still unsure of what pronoun to use, it is better to ask (sensitively ask again if necessary). Always apologise if you get it wrong and try to get it right next time.
Example: “Hi, I am Jo, I work in accounts and my preferred pronouns are she/her”.
Simple steps towards an more inclusive workplace
- Encourage all staff to identify their preferred pronoun in their email signatures
- Include preferred pronouns in introductions at meetings
- Review the gender-based tick boxes on your employee and client forms
- Update yourself inclusion of LGBTQ+ train your staff
By Mary Mobbs-Beal
Garnett Interactive is a leading provider of interactive behaviour and culture change programmes, we believe strong, inclusive workplaces improves team performance. Our methodology sets us apart. Through facilitated, live drama-based learning teams will see the impact of different behaviours and identify ways in which they can work better together. Behavioural change owned by the team itself leads to engagement, focus and a desire to get the job done.
Contact Garnett Interactive to see how they can help you dramatically shift your performance and create an inclusive workplace.