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Talking About Pronouns in the Workplace

Jun 21, 2023
Talking About Pronouns in the Workplace

Pronouns - what are they, and why are they such a hot topic? 

All of us have pronouns - they’re an identifier and are crucial for a lot of individuals in the workplace. It allows them to express their individuality as well as feel validated - particularly if they don’t resonate with the pronouns that they were assigned at birth. There are hundreds of pronouns available, but the most common ones that we see in the workplace are He/Him, She/Her, and They/Them. 

What’s the history of pronouns in the workplace?

Talking about pronouns is something that has become a lot more widespread and popular in the last 5 years. As organisations work to be more inclusive, pronouns are a key part of encouraging this. 

“And gender pronouns matter – studies have found that affirming a transgender person's pronouns can help lower depression and raise self-esteem and well-being. Meanwhile, being misgendered and/or misnamed is associated with feeling disrespected and invalidated.” - CultureAmp

Additionally, talking about pronouns in the workplace (as well as stating what yours are) is probably one of the simplest things you can do (and acknowledge) as part of your inclusivity efforts. It doesn’t specifically have to be organisational, either. Although there are some companies where pronouns can be integrated into onboarding, for example, “tell us your name, your role, and if you’re comfortable - your pronouns” - you can also make an individual effort to learn others’ pronouns and make them feel comfortable!

What are some beginner steps that you can use to get comfortable talking about pronouns in the workplace?

There are three key things that we think are easy to implement and can make a huge difference in inclusivity in the workplace.

Use them in your e-mails or on Slack

A great way of incorporating pronouns is by encouraging employees (especially leaders who can model this behaviour) to include them in their e-mail footers as well as on Slack. Not only is this a gentle reminder for individuals to be mindful of pronouns, but it’s also a quick, effective, and simple way to show new employees that you care about inclusivity. 

Even if you’re someone who uses the same pronouns assigned at birth, it’s less about you and more about other individuals who may feel strongly about their pronouns and how they want to be addressed at work.

Include them as part of your onboarding process

As we mentioned earlier - an organisational change can be including pronouns (and talking about them) as part of your onboarding process for new employees. You can also start this as soon as at the interview stage, too. You can implement this by simply stating your pronouns at the beginning of an interview and saying to the candidate that if they’re comfortable sharing, you’d like to know their pronouns. 

It sets a good precedent at the beginning of the interview, and can segue into the onboarding process as a gentle reminder! It’s important to note that not everybody is going to be comfortable sharing their pronouns straight away, so keep it open - and ensure that you aren’t forceful. People should only feel comfortable doing things that they want to, especially in the workplace. 

Create a culture of learning - not a culture of shame

There are going to be people within your organisation who are going to get people’s pronouns wrong, and there will be times when people may be offended by someone who has said the wrong thing. 

The most important way to mitigate this is to ensure that you have a culture of learning. No one is going to be perfect all of the time, we all have slip-ups - whether it’s on pronouns or something else. Unless there is malicious intent, ensure that people aren’t shamed for their mistakes and instead gently reminded so they can learn from their errors. 

We’ve created a guide on D&I in the workplace, download your copy here.

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