As with many aspects of implementing DEIB practices in the workplace, implementing a practice that serves everyone, but especially any minority group, might not occur automatically to anyone in the majority. In this case, implementing the practice of sharing pronouns feels unnecessary to those who benefit from the privilege of being cisgender, those who are in the majority when it comes to gender identity. The step of making space for sharing and learning colleagues’ pronouns allows all employees to be addressed the way they want to, which is a sign of respect and care for your colleagues. As we would correct ourselves if we incorrectly pronounced someone’s name or addressed them with a title that didn’t fit who they are, sharing and using someone’s gender pronouns ensures that respect and care are being taken in communication with others.
You may notice that not once have I referred to them as “preferred pronouns.” As a catchily alliterative term, this has gained popularity in the inclusivity space, but also makes it sound optional to use someone’s “preferred” pronouns. The use of the word preferred, as stated in an article from Forbes, “gives the impression that pronouns other than the ones specified are acceptable,” which is incorrect when it comes to correctly addressing someone the way they would like.
Sharing gender pronouns is a way of ensuring that people address you the way you want to be addressed, but also opens up space for people to share their pronouns who may have felt uncomfortable bringing up the topic themselves. Making space for learning how best to address and refer to your teammates builds a stronger sense of community and creates a welcoming environment for colleagues to be their full selves at work.
Here are some simple practices for sharing pronouns in the workplace:
- Introductions and Icebreaker Activities: when having introductory meetings or getting to know new people at work, it’s simple to integrate sharing pronouns into a basic set of introductory questions. By sharing your name, your pronouns, your team or division, and your favorite ice cream flavor, all in one fell swoop, sharing pronouns doesn’t feel like such a big deal and making that space allows for everyone to know how to correctly address each other, and you start off your new acquaintanceships on the best foot.
- Office Door or Cubicle Signs: Integrating a space for pronouns on the sign for a team member’s assigned workspace allows for anyone coming to that space to know how best to address that person, in a very clear and obvious spot. Alongside pronouns can be communication preferences or whether they like people to knock or call ahead first to be prepared for sudden drop-ins from colleagues. Altogether, this can lead to a more productive and comfortable workspace.
- Email Signature: Alongside the position at the organization and what team a team member is on, including pronouns can make embarrassing email mistakes in how best to address someone a thing of the past. Sharing pronouns in the signature can’t save someone from still misspelling a name, but it can lead to more certainty in how best to respectfully address someone when communicating via email.
- Nametags and Badges: In this day of data privacy and office security for many workplaces, nametags and badges can be a means of building access, but also a convenient spot to display a team member’s name, position, and pronouns, especially if workplace standards are to clearly always wear badges or nametags. Having an in-your-face sign of how best to address someone in-person is a surefire way to provide the best information on how they want to be addressed, for easy reference.
- Social Platforms, At Work and Beyond: Many social media platforms are implementing fields for including pronouns, including Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn most recently. In the workplace, it might not be as useful for team members to include their pronouns on their personal social media, but for internal collaboration and social platforms, such as Slack, Teams, and other technology platforms, including pronouns as a field or in the account naming convention can allow for better digital communication and collaboration. Not only allowing this convention but also making it clear how the process of adding or changing the pronouns works is helpful for employees to know how best to make any changes to their profile and information.
As a celebration of Pride Month, we wanted to share these simple and effective opportunities for building a sense of welcome and belonging within the workplace. Any practice regarding DEIB which benefits any minority group usually ends up benefiting the whole in the long run. Establishing a culture for celebrating identity and diversity will lead to happier and more productive workplaces. For more information about pronouns, visit MyPronouns or the LGBTQIA Resource Center.