Respecting gender pronouns: why it matters in the workplace


Gender pronouns include him, he and his and she, her and hers.

But what is meant by ‘respecting gender pronouns’?

Gender is one of the crucial pieces to the diversity and inclusion puzzle. Last week we stressed the importance of gender equality in the blog How HR can better support women in the workplace, because, diversity and inclusion is about considering, supporting, and including all groups of people (including women, black and minority ethnic groups, LGBTQ individuals, and people with disabilities). 

When it comes to respecting gender pronouns, we’re considering and including those who are LGBTQ and who are either gender non-conforming (preferring the pronouns they, their, them), or who identify as a gender different to their given birth gender. “Preferred gender pronouns or personal gender pronouns refer to the set of pronouns that an individual prefers that others use in order to reflect that person’s gender identity.” (Wikipedia 2020)

Here’s why respecting gender pronouns matters in the workplace

You cannot claim to be diverse and inclusive until you include and respect every person

If you want to be a diverse and inclusive organisation no group or individual working within your organisation should feel excluded or alienated for their differences. A diverse and inclusive culture is (or should be) free of such feelings. So many organisation’s claim to be diverse and inclusive but when you really drill down, they’re not, which is also why they’re not reaping the benefits of being diverse and inclusive. Such benefits include increased performance, productivity and profit, reduced staff turnover, greater acquisition of talent and improved company culture and employee engagement. To be truly diverse and inclusive, make sure the entire organisation considers, includes and respects every single person within the workforce – and if some areas like gender pronouns have not been thought of, educate yourself and your people on what they mean and why they matter.

Talent retention is at risk of decline if LGBTQ employees feel excluded

Many leaders tend to forget human needs of employees. It’s why we at Inpulse still have to explain the role employee emotion plays in employee engagement, the importance of emotional analytics data (download our emotional analytics free guide for more), and other emotional needs of employees like belonging. When employees feel good, they do good. They feel more committed and inspired to perform. Belonging is one such human need that evokes positive feelings.

“Social belonging is a fundamental human need, hardwired into our DNA. And yet, 40% of people say that they feel isolated at work, and the result has been lower organizational commitment and engagement. U.S. businesses spend nearly $8 billion each year on diversity and inclusion (D&I) trainings that miss the mark because they neglect our need to feel included.” ( 2019)

Talent acquisition of LGBTQ, younger or inclusive employees may be difficult if LGTBQ matters aren’t acknowledged 

Just as organisation’s who are committed to diversity and inclusion are (or should be) concerned with and willing to be educated on the challenges and experiences of their black and minority ethnic employees, so they should be concerned with LGTBQ challenges and experiences. One such struggle within the LGBTQ community is not being acknowledged for the man or woman they are or feel to be (being addressed in a way they don’t identify with). This is one area where leaders can make positive differences by educating themselves and others on gender pronouns so that not only LGBTQ employees feel included and acknowledged, but also to demonstrate their commitment to D&I, their willingness to change and improve and their commitment to their company values.

When employees feel included and seen, their level of engagement rises

A lot of employee engagement is driven by how employees feel. That’s why we also measure employee emotion and provide our clients with emotional analytics data. Research confirms that “negative feelings are costly: employees who experience more negative feelings in the workplace are 40% less productive and 13 times more likely to quit a job”. (BCG, 2020)

To avoid your LGBTQ people feeling badly towards their experience in the workplace and therefore feeling disengaged, unmotivated and disloyal, make sure their core needs are being met as LGBTQ individuals: the need for inclusion, belonging, acknowledgement and respect. Our emotion driven pulse surveys can help to improve your company culture and diversity and inclusion strategy for today’s world of work. Reach out to us to find out how we can be of value to you! 

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