A generational gap exists in the workplace around gender identity. For companies and organizations to successfully attract much-needed knowledge workers from emerging generations, including Millennials and Gen Z, leaders have a pressing need to expand and change the way that they think about identity and concurrently, the way pronouns are incorporated into daily communications.
Every one of us has a personal story behind the way we look, the way we dress, and by extension, the ways that we present ourselves to the world, including the pronouns we use. Increasingly, the younger demographic is leaning towards fluidity in identity and deepening the way that pronouns reflect that identity. By ignoring this important aspect of an individual’s reality of who they are and of how they want to be seen by the world, we are missing the chance to welcome people’s full selves onto our teams and into our companies. Paving the way to hear someone’s pronouns is a simple way to convey your desire to know and respect key aspects of their identity beyond their first name.
A new take on the greeting trick
Remember the memory trick of repeating someone’s name back to them when meeting them for the first time? A simple way to take that greeting one step further and open up the conversation about pronouns is to introduce yourself first: “Hi! I’m Michelle, and my pronouns are ‘she’ and ‘her’.” Sharing about yourself in this way allows the other person to share their own pronouns or to answer however they feel comfortable. It conveys to whomever you are meeting that you care about their whole self and how they present to the world.
Guidance from experts and advocates within the LGBTQ+ community suggests that considering an individual’s pronouns should be built into the way we greet everyone around us. This means introducing yourself and including your pronouns even in situations when you may not feel that the other person would care or need to clarify their pronouns for you. Including pronouns more naturally in your interactions ensures that common practices like greeting a new colleague will continue to become more inclusive towards the way each person wishes to be identified.
The importance of inclusivity
Everyone wants to be recognized as individuals with their own agency, goals, and personality, and they want to be able to do that in the workplace as well. The more your organization’s leadership can convey through words and actions that they are interested in employee’s whole selves, the more you will help pave the way to make a warm and welcoming environment for those whose gender identities are crucially important to who they are.
Focusing on the employee experience
It can be challenging to uncover what’s most important to employees’ identity and well-being. UX research is most often used to measure users’ experiences with technology to improve design and usability, but UX methods can go even further to reveal employees’ needs and expectations related to their work environment. Capturing data with open-ended conversations with employees and mapping trends and pain points reveal workplace concerns and needs, delivering insights to promote the well-being of employees and the organization.
About the author
Michelle is a seasoned human resources and operational leader who thrives at taking on tough challenges. Her background is in compensation, benefits, people analytics, HR systems, processes, and services, globally. Michelle’s career has mainly been with technology companies, both as a people leader in-house and externally as a consultant. She has had successes at transformational initiatives including M&A due diligence and integration, office launches, and change management planning. Michelle has a BA in Economics from the University of California, San Diego.
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