Skip to main content

DEI: The Value of Using Inclusive Language in the Workplace – 6 simple tips

By January 17, 2023January 20th, 2023Employee Benefits

In today’s world, the need for businesses to embrace inclusivity is more important than ever. Research indicates that by changing language and implementing self-awareness strategies, employers can make meaningful progress towards a more diverse and equitable workplace. Creating a welcoming environment goes beyond hiring practices and involves using inclusive language in the workplace that’s sensitive to different cultures, genders, ages, nationalities, religions, sexual orientations and more.

6 Simple tips for making sure your communication is inclusive:

1. Edit your Assumptions

Avoid making assumptions about an individual’s identity or beliefs based on how they look or sound. We often naturally default to white, male, middle aged, middle class, able-bodied and straight when we think of a neutral audience, but most people don’t fit all—or even some—of these identities. Before speaking or writing, consider if what you’re saying may be interpreted as hurtful or exclusionary and make adjustments accordingly. By changing our assumptions, we can create an open dialogue where everyone feels seen and valued, which will build trust and help create a more collaborative work environment.

2. Play it safe with pronouns

Pronouns are a core part of our language. To ensure that everyone is included in conversations and meetings, try to use gender-neutral pronouns like “they” instead of gendered terms such as “he” or “she”. This will ensure that everyone’s pronouns are respected and valued, and will make it clear that your workplace is inclusive to all genders. Similarly, if you’re unsure of a person’s gender, opt for a nongendered term such as “they” or use the person’s name.

3. Be aware of microagressions

Microaggressions are a type of subtle, often unconscious discrimination that can cause feelings of discomfort and alienation. Examples of microaggressions include making assumptions about an individual’s background or culture due to their appearance, using language that implies someone’s gender, race, or ability is less valuable than another’s, and making jokes that target or belittle certain groups of people. Such language can have a detrimental impact on workplace relationships and lead to feelings of exclusion and alienation among employees.

4. Ditch Ableist Language

The use of ableist language in the workplace can further alienate those who may have a disability or health conditions. This includes refraining from words like “lame,” “insane,” and “crazy,” and instead utilizing terms that prioritize compassion and respect for all individuals, regardless of physical or mental abilities.

As a bonus, this method of communication is often more exact or specific. For example, “we can improve on last year’s event” is clearer than “last year’s event was lame” which is imprecise.

5. Speak Up

When someone in the workplace uses language that could be deemed exclusive or offensive, it’s important to speak up and let them know why their words were problematic. By having these conversations in a respectful manner, you can help ensure that these types of phrases aren’t used again.

5. Ignore Criticism

Although some individuals may resist change, others will benefit from your efforts and be inspired to create a more equitable and diverse workplace environment themselves. By setting an example of using terms that are sensitive to different cultural backgrounds, genders, religions, sexual orientations and more, you are making it clear that everyone is valued and included.

It is also important to remember that even if not everyone agrees with your decision to use inclusive language, in the long-term it will create a workplace environment where everyone feels respected and appreciated.

To learn more about the value of using inclusive language in the workforce read the full article here.