Leading by Example
For the past six months, my organization has approved the optional inclusion of pronouns in email signatures. I learned that one of my team members uses non-binary pronouns. In my written communication and conversation about that team member, I now use those pronouns, but I notice that no one else has made the adjustment. As the supervisor of this team, how can I fix this situation?
I feel that the longer I wait to tackle it, the more respectful and complicit I am. I can not police people’s language, but I would call someone for other types of behavior that I interpreted as respectful. (For what it’s worth it, I do not suspect anyone of intent disrespectfully by not using their colleague’s preferred pronouns.) The nonbinary colleague did not say to me that this is a problem, but I must assume that it feels dismissive. I feel I owe her an apology, but what I really owe her is better leadership. What would you do?
Thanks for asking this question. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and part of that is using people’s proper pronouns. You already do a lot of what you need to do by always using your team member’s pronouns in every communication. I would start by sending a memo to your entire team reminding them of the importance of referring to people who use the right pronouns. Do not exclude your non-binary team member, because, frankly, this is a matter of common courtesy and it applies to everyone.
You can also meet your team member in private to let them know you are aware of the issue and work to address it. Ask if there is anything you can do to improve their work experience, but do not ask them how you can solve the general problem you are having, as it is not their problem to solve it. loose. I am sure you will lead your team forward in a caring and caring way.
If you’re here, you’re your family
For the past four years I have been a director at a small electronics company. While I treat well and mostly enjoy my work, I would love a change, so I have confidentially applied and interviewed for new positions. From the beginning of my time at this company, the CEO has been very warm and open socially, and has organized many events involving work colleagues and their families. My wife and I got to know the CEO’s wife and children, and I even took advantage of this atmosphere to arrange temporary employment for some of my family members. In the past year, the CEO has begun to refer to the company as a “family”, even referring to a recent lease as in love with us.
The other day, the CEO told me that he felt betrayed by a former employee who left after giving appropriate notice, but without first telling him that he was being interviewed. He made it very clear that he expected “family” members to tell him when they interviewed.
I expect the next few months to be successful in my search for a new job, and because I do not have an employment contract, I, like most American workers, am free to leave or be terminated at any time. In the past, I have handled these transitions by giving appropriate notice after accepting a new offer, wrapping up my responsibilities, typically attending a shipment at a local bar or restaurant, and staying on good terms. I want to avoid any annoyance when I give a message, so I wonder how I should communicate with the CEO for the rest of my time at this company.
Just because your CEO thinks your business is a family, does not make it so. Your job is your job and your family is your family. I love a collegiate workplace where people feel valued and respected and where people can socialize outside of work. That is ideal and should be the norm, even if it is not. But professional collegiality is still not a family, nor should it be. When employers suggest that the company is a family, they try to garner your emotional investment so that you can oversee everything else. When it’s time for dismissal, I can assure you that the word “family” will disappear from the business language.
Your CEO behaves very unprofessionally. If he feels betrayed when an employee gives a good message and moves on to a new position, then that is a personal problem that he needs to work out with a therapist. This bizarre emotional transfer he throws at his staff is inappropriate. You do not have to tell your employer that you are looking for a new job, because unfortunately, far too many employers will take revenge on hearing such news. For now, communicate with the CEO as you normally would, because you have nothing to report. Continue your job search, and if you secure a new position, give enough notice, participate generously in any transition work that needs to happen, and move on with a clear conscience.
The case of the misspelled name
My name is Alisha. It is often misspelled and mispronounced in my daily life. However, my name appears in my email address at work and some of my colleagues still can not get it right. I want to correct them when I receive an email that starts with “Hi Alicia”, but I feel small, so I just let it go. Is there a good way to correct someone who is constantly spelling your name incorrectly at work?
– Alisha, Rhode Island
I can relate so much. My name is spelled with one n. It is constantly misspelled. It’s annoying in the way small things are annoying, which means I have the necessary perspective. If someone spells my name in an email, I just sign my email Roxane (with one n) so that the correction is there, but not the center of the correspondence. If you receive an email with your name misspelled, just draw your name correctly with a parenthetical of your choice about the correct spelling. I find it easiest to run the line to stand up for myself and my name, while I also find it easiest for that constant spelling of my name is, in the grand scheme of things, a little disgusting.
Roxane Gay is the author, most recently, of “Hunger” and a contributing opinion writer. Join her [email protected],