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Understanding personal pronoUns

No matter which personal pronoun you use, you can promote correct usage
for all in your workplace.
Dawn Papandrea, Monster contributor

Personal pronouns are probably
things you never give a second
thought, especially if you are
someone who identifies as
a cisgender male or female,
meaning if your gender identity
corresponds with the sex that
you were identified as having at
birth. You are either a he or a she,
a him or a her. But as we know,
every individual’s gender identity
is personal, and it may not always
conform to others’ perceptions.
We’ve been conditioned our
whole lives to make assumptions
about people’s genders based on
their names or appearances, and
unfortunately, these assumptions
can often act as barriers to a more
inclusive society. There are many
people who do not follow the
traditional, binary concept of male
or female, and instead identify as
genderfluid or genderqueer, for
example.
Imagine how you would feel as a
man who was constantly called she,
or a woman who was referred to
as him—then you can begin to see
how it feels to be called something
that doesn’t reflect who you are. As
we move toward a more inclusive
society and workplace, it’s a good
idea to get educated about the
power of personal pronouns so
that everyone can feel comfortable,
respected, and accepted.

Why personal pronouns are
important

Ze/Hir
Another pronoun option that some
Just as taking the time to correctly people use is ze/hir. As you can
pronounce someone’s name is a
see, these do not refer to a specific
sign of caring and respect, asking
gender, and can therefore be more
for and then using their personal
inclusive. For example: “Jesse is our
Invite colleagues to share their personal pronouns.
pronouns is another way to show
new intern. Ze comes to us from
that their feelings matter. On the
key is to acknowledge when you
City College. Let’s all welcome hir.” inclusivity initiatives.
contrary, not using their preferred
make a faux pas, and make a more
Other
ideas:
How to incorporate personal
pronoun can make someone feel
concerted effort to get it right
pronouns
into
the
workplace
If
you
are
hosting
a
client
meeting
devalued and alienated.
going forward.
Whether you’re a new employee or or attending an event outside
With a little effort and awareness
of the office, get in the habit of
someone who supervises others,
If you accidentally use the wrong
on everyone’s part, it’s an easy
writing your pronouns in the corner
and no matter which personal
pronoun for someone, the best
language fix that can make for a
pronoun you use, you can promote of your name tag.
more inclusive environment for all.
thing
to do is keep it simple and
correct pronoun usage for all in
In your email signature, put your
apologize. “I’m so sorry, Taryn. I
Some examples of personal your workplace. (For more tips on pronouns below your name.
pronouns
meant to say “they” not “she.”
how to use personal pronouns in
When making introductions, invite
Most people know that she/her and an inclusive and empowering way, everyone to share their name and Try not to go on and on about it
visit Mypronouns.org.)
he/him refer to female and male,
pronouns.
since that can make the person feel
respectively, but there are some
The best way to start is to share
even
more uncomfortable.
Don’t
forget
to
get
in
the
habit
of
other pronouns that those with
your pronouns when meeting
using
other
nonbinary,
genderother gender identities may prefer new people. You can say: “Hello.
If you realize it after the fact, you
neutral language, as well. For
to use.
My name is Jim, and I go by the
could take the person aside and
example, instead of “men and
pronouns he/him. What’s your
They/Them
women” or “ladies and gentlemen,” offer a quick, private apology.
While you might have been taught name?”This helps give others
try “friends, guests, and colleagues.” Something like, “Someone pointed
in grammar lessons that they/them the comfort level to share their
out to me that I didn’t use your
preferences, even if the majority
When mistakes happen
are plural nouns, they can also
correct pronouns earlier. Please
of
staffers
happen
to
go
by
their
Asking for people’s pronouns and
be used as singular, third-person
accept
my apology.”
culturally
assumed
pronoun.
using
something
other
than
he/
pronouns—meaning they/them
she is a fairly new concept to
Of course, you should also be
can refer to an individual. Usually,
Likewise, if you happen to hear
many people. And, in some cases,
prepared to share why you’re
they/them is a preferred pronoun
another colleague use the wrong
for a person who does not identify doing this to someone who never people’s personal pronouns may
pronoun for someone, you can offer
was asked to share their pronouns change over time. Therefore, it’s
as a male or female. It would
them
a gentle reminder on the
look something like this: “Sam
before. Even better is if you can get only natural that not everyone
will get it right all the time—even spot. “Bill, just want to remind you
is a teacher. They are passionate
your company on board to help
about their job.”
those who are hyper-aware. The
that Max goes by ‘they/them.’”
educate employees as part of its

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