Let’s talk about gender pronouns.
Employers are confused and worried about using the wrong gender pronouns. They ask me questions like:
- Is every slip-up actionable?
- How much is it going to cost me?
- Will employees keep changing their preferences in order to confuse me or even trap me?
You probably know by now I like to give simple guidelines for you to use in your day-to-day operations. I can’t guarantee you’re never going to have a claim, but I can give you three things that will minimize your risk of having one related to gender pronouns.
First, make a genuine effort to use the preferred pronoun. And if you’re having trouble with that, think about how you sometimes have employees who prefer to be called by their middle name instead of their first name. Or you probably have some that get married and divorced, and they change their names in conjunction with that. It’s really not that much different. It just takes some practice.
Second, apologize when you err, but don’t overexplain or overreact. Just practice getting it right.
Third, in the unlikely event that there are frequent changes, trust your documentation. It’s unlikely that you’re going to have that employee who is just changing their preferences to trap you. And if you do, there’s a good chance that you have other kinds of things that make that employment actionable.
Things that might document the pronoun preference may be:
- An additional check mark on the name-change or other change form that you are already using in your business
- The preferred pronouns on employees’ email signatures or social media profiles
If you’re struggling because your implicit biases maybe aren’t hidden anymore and you’re starting to recognize that you’re very uncomfortable with this topic, I’m happy to coach you through it. Schedule your free 30-minute breakthrough call.
In the meantime, keep listening with your third ear for those hurts you can heal.
Prefer to DIY for now?
Nance L. Schick, Esq., is a workplace attorney, ethno-religious mediator, and conflict resolution coach based in New York City. Her goal is to keep you out of court and build your conflict resolution skills so everyone has a better work experience. She helps managers and business owners have empowering conversations about emotionally-charged issues such as gender, race, religion, and disability. She is creator of the Third Ear Conflict Resolution process, author of DIY Conflict Resolution, and an award-winning entrepreneur acknowledged by Super Lawyers (ADR, 2018, 2019 & 2020), the New York Economic Development Corporation/B-Labs (Finalist, Best for NYC 2015 & 2016), U.S. Chamber of Commerce (2015 Blue Ribbon Small Business), Enterprising Women Magazine (Honorable Mention, 2014 Woman of the Year awards).