J. Kent's Blog - Articles for Employers and Job Seekers

Normalizing Pronouns in the Workplace

Posted by: Emma Berdanier on November 24th, 2019

Younger generations are entering the workforce in large numbers. They’re bringing the cultural norms they’ve been changing with them. The largest of these changing norms are those about the LGBT community. There is now a greater acceptance of gender identities and expressions. Likewise, Millennial and Gen Z workers expect their employers to embody their values.

You may not think your office is discriminating against these individuals. But little indiscretions can make employees feel uncomfortable at work. A direct result of this is greater employee turnover. LGBT workers face a lot of issues in the workplace. One of the most common is being misgendered. This happens when people use the wrong pronouns to address someone. Luckily, there’s an easy solution to this.

New Rules for Pronouns

Pronouns are no longer determined based on someone’s perceived gender. Someone who appears to be masculine may not go by masculine pronouns. Therefore, you can’t assume someone’s pronouns. The pronouns someone chooses to go by don’t have to be feminine or masculine. For example, they could choose to go by gender-neutral pronouns such as they/them.

What pronouns a person chooses to use is a personal decision. They never have to explain their choice or justify it. As the employer, you need to accept employees’ chosen pronouns without question. Above all, don’t ask why they’ve chosen those pronouns. If they want you to know, they’ll tell you.

Normalizing Pronouns – A Growing Corporate Trend

The practice of sharing pronouns is not yet a common corporate practice. Generally, young workers drive these initiatives. They’re more popular in urban and coastal areas. It’s also a more common practice in certain industries. It’s also a practice that’s more common in certain industries, i.e. technology and education, than in others, i.e. finance.

But that doesn’t mean your company can’t take part. Implementing an effective policy on pronouns is a necessary step to take. Every company can benefit from doing this. But when creating a policy like this, be careful how you do it. You don’t want to step on anyone’s toes, regardless of their gender identity.

It’s not good practice to go around asking employees what pronouns they prefer. This can backfire in two ways:

  1. It can appear that you’re only asking certain employees. As if you’re determining what employees look transgender or gender nonconforming. As a result, it will appear that you’re judging employees’ appearances.

  2. Asking every employee can anger cisgender employees. For instance, they may think their pronouns to be obvious and may dismiss the question’s importance.

How to Start Normalizing Pronouns in Your Workplace

Instead of asking each employee, the best practice is to normalize the use of pronouns. You can do this in a multitude of ways, from starting yourself or allowing your employees to take the reigns on it. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Your Employment Application. Invite candidates to list their preferred pronouns on job applications. As a result of this, you will set your company apart from the competition from the beginning. Leaving an optional section open for these markets your company as inclusive.

  2. Allow and invite the use of pronouns throughout different channels. Include a section for preferred pronouns in an internal company directory. Let employees write them on name tags at corporate events. Or even add them to internal means of communications like Slack profiles or individual email signatures. As a result, your employees will feel more comfortable expressing themselves.

  3. Be the first one to state your pronouns. This can make it easier for employees who use nongendered or different gendered pronouns to share them. You can do this in a multitude of ways. Consider introducing yourself with your preferred pronouns to new hires. Or adding your preferred pronouns to your email signature.

In summary, the goal of these practices is to normalize the use of preferred pronouns in the workplace. As a result of this, gender-nonconforming employees will feel accepted at work. All your employees should feel comfortable expressing themselves in the office. These policy changes will help you reach that goal.