HR and people management

Using pronouns in the workplace

Judging by name or appearance is not always an accurate method for determining a person’s pronouns.

It’s good practice for us to normalise sharing our pronouns, rather than expecting people to assume them correctly (even if they do).

What are pronouns and why is it important to know?

We all use pronouns as part of everyday conversation.

Gender pronouns (such as ‘he/him/his’ or ‘she/her/hers’) are the way that we constantly refer to one another’s gender identity – except we often do not think a whole lot about them.

We frequently, and likely subconsciously, interpret or ‘read’ a person’s gender based on their outward appearance and expression, and ‘assign’ a pronoun.

However, our inference as to that person’s gender identity may not be correct.

Everyone deserves to have their chosen name and pronouns respected in the workplace. Some employees may opt to use gender expansive pronouns such as ‘they, them and theirs’ instead of, or as well as, ‘he, him and his’ or ‘she, her and hers’.

In addition, some people may prefer the honorific ‘Mx’ instead of ‘Ms’ or ‘Mr’.

There are various ways people can make their pronouns known.

Communicating your pronouns

Although you may feel it personally unnecessary to do so, and it may even make you feel a little uncomfortable at first, sharing your pronouns helps raise awareness and acceptance of different, including non-binary, gender identities.

As with anything new, practice makes perfect. It will take time for this to become a habitual part of your communications.

Do not be afraid of making mistakes: they are inevitable, but be aware of them, learn from them and, most importantly, keep trying.

Indicating your own pronouns is ultimately a personal choice. However, if someone has indicated their pronouns to you, make sure you use them correctly.

Ideas for getting pronouns right

  • Try to get into the habit of using ‘they/them’ until you know someone’s pronouns, for example: “There is someone here to see you. I will ask them to take a seat”
  • When you introduce someone use their pronouns so that others know what pronouns to adopt, for example: “This is Jen, they work in finance. This is Fred, he works in marketing”
  • Listen to how people speak about themselves and follow suit
  • Pronouns may be detailed underneath their email signature if you have received an email from them, alternatively, they may also be available on their LinkedIn or other social media profiles
  • If you're unsure, discreetly ask people what their pronouns are, for example: “Sorry, I didn’t catch your pronouns”
  • Include personal pronouns in your email signature lines, in letter correspondence and your LinkedIn (and other social media) profile(s)
  • Update your profile for contacts, work referrers and prospective clients with personal pronouns once you know them
  • Request your pronouns are included on your name badge

Find out more about pronouns in the resources section of our transition and change to gender expression template.

Resources

Transition and change to gender expression template

Inclusion allies guidance

Gender fluid inclusion within the legal profession

Our LGBT History Month 2021

We stand as allies to our trans and non-binary colleagues

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