How to Ask Someone’s Gender Pronoun
If you’re new to the idea of sharing gender pronouns, then asking someone what pronouns they use can feel awkward. That’s why it’s always easiest to take the first step yourself, and create a level playing field.
The best way to ask in a one-on-one conversation is to make it seem casual, and keep it direct.
- “What gender pronouns do you use?” or “Can you remind me which pronouns you use?”
In a group environment, introducing yourself with your name, role, and pronoun makes it par for course.
- “Hi, I’m Blaise, a copywriter, and I use he/him pronouns. Let’s each introduce ourselves with our job roles, and our pronouns—but only if you feel comfortable!”
What if I Use the Wrong Gender Pronoun?
A common fear, particularly in a professional environment, is using the wrong pronoun. While the steps above should help minimize the possibility of such a situation, sometimes it can still happen. What’s important is how you handle it.
If you catch the mistake quickly, and it’s one-off, make sure to correct yourself, but don’t cause more fuss than is necessary—this in itself can exacerbate an issue. The best thing to do here is not repeat the mistake again.
- “Her work this quarter has been excellent—I’m sorry, his work.”
In an instance where you only catch the mistake after the fact, approach the person you misgendered and apologize directly. Whether or not they want to enter into a dialogue on the matter should be left up to them.
- “I’m sorry I used the wrong pronouns for you earlier. I know you use ‘she/her’—I’ll make sure not to repeat that mistake.”
If you realize you’ve been misgendering someone repeatedly, the situation is more complicated, but empathy and openness is still the key. An apology similar to the above works best.
Everyone makes mistakes—the most important step is acknowledging them, and ensuring those mistakes are not repeated. More than that, recognize that it’s not the responsibility of the transgender or gender-non-confirming person to address any upset you may feel for making the mistake in the first place.
Making Your Staff Feel Heard
The above steps are a great foundation in normalizing the use of gender pronouns amongst your staff, but they’re only half of the battle. To create a truly inclusive workspace, you have to listen to your staff and visibly respond to their needs.
That’s where an active listening platform can be useful.
With Workday Peakon Employee Voice, employees can provide direct, confidential feedback on belonging and diversity initiatives, as well as more directly discussing pronoun usage. Those survey responses, in turn, have oversight from the leaders who can enact change.