As the days get longer and warmer, many people take some time to do a little spring cleaning. Usually, this involves homes and workspaces, removing clutter and discarding old, worn items.

But when it the last time you took a hard look at the language you use to get rid of what no longer works? Most people rarely take a deep dive into their vocabulary, so a little spring cleaning here can be beneficial.

Today, the pronouns you use and the gendered terms you rely on might not be ideal for your workplace. By adjusting your vocabulary to feature more gender-inclusive words and phrases, you can make sure that everyone around you is comfortable and feels respected. If you aren’t sure where to begin, here are some tips to get you started.

Avoid Gendered Terminology

While words like “dude” and phrases like, “hey, you guys,” seem innocuous on the surface, they are actually male-oriented. Similarly, saying a person was “manning” the desk instead of “staffing” it is also highly masculine.

When most people use the words and phrases above, they are usually not intending to insult or harm anyone. However, for some, using gendered terms when neutral options are available feels disrespectful or makes them uncomfortable.

In any instance where a gender-neutral term is available, opt for it instead. This ensures that your language choices are appropriate at all times and make everyone feel seen and included.

Don’t Assume a Person’s Pronouns

Most people have habits when it comes to pronoun use. They visually assess an individual and then categorize them with a “he” or “she” label. Often, this process is highly instinctual, relying on cues like a person’s name, clothing choices, or mannerisms.

Today, the world of pronouns is more complex. A person’s outward appearance or legal name may not indicate their preferences. This applies to individuals who are transgender as well as anyone who views their gender identity in a particular way.

Being misgendered – improperly identified by someone else as being part of a gender group they do not identify with – can be hurtful and may feel disrespectful. Plus, if you guess about a person’s pronouns and choose incorrectly, you may feel embarrassed and uncomfortable as well.

In contrast, making an effort to use a person’s pronouns demonstrates your respect for them as well as your diligence. If you are uncertain as to which pronouns you should use when addressing or referring to a person, one course of action is to ask them directly. For example, you could ask, “What pronouns do you use?” or say, “I was just wondering how you would like me to address you.”

Just be aware that asking can also be problematic. If you only approach individuals who look a certain way, they may feel singled out. However, if you ask cisgender individuals – those whose gender identity aligns with their birth sex – they may be offended that you couldn’t tell by looking at them.

If you want to approach the situation as delicately as possible, leading by example could be a great option. When you meet someone new and introduce yourself, give them your name and your pronouns. If the person you are speaking with wants you to use specific pronouns in regards to themselves, they will usually provide theirs in return. Then, you can thank them for the information and make sure to use their pronouns when appropriate.

By following the tips above, you can spring clean your vocabulary. If you would like to know more, the team at TempStaff can help. Contact us to speak with a member of our knowledgeable staff today and see how our workplace etiquette expertise can benefit you.



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