Inclusion | It's time to rethink our throwaway approach to workplace language

It's time to rethink our throwaway approach to workplace languageIt's time to rethink our throwaway approach to workplace language
Whether it's the standard 'Hi Guys' on a meeting or thread, or someone talking about being 'a bit OCD'. We say so many things without thinking, using learned and inherited language. But accepted colloquialisms in the workplace need to shift, experts agree. It's about breaking habits and forming new ones - and awareness, too...

Chances are, you've heard something today, or this week, that grated in some way. Whether it's the standard 'Hi Guys' on a meeting or thread, or someone talking about being 'a bit OCD'. We say so many things without thinking, using learned and inherited language. But accepted colloquialisms in the workplace need to shift, experts agree. It's about breaking habits and forming new ones - and awareness, too.

Time was, no office was complete without a sign reading 'You don't have to be mad to work here... but it helps!'. Our attitude to language can be throwaway, and often the opposite of inclusive.

It's not a new thing, either. It might feel that, with the introduction of sharing pronouns, for example, there is a sudden attitude change towards language, but if you think back over the years in your career, you'll soon come up with plenty of examples.

And you are likely to remember some times when language was used that you found either uncomfortable or offensive.

'Mad', 'crazy', 'bonkers', for example, are all words we bandy about but that have a serious mental health connotation. And, beyond the connotation, they could alienate those who suffer and live with mental health conditions.

This week is non-binary awareness week (July 10-16), shining a spotlight in particular onto language around gender and the words we use that have impact on those who are LGBTQ+, too. Using the word 'gay' as a pejorative, for example, although quite rare these days in offices, might still be heard. See also 'mental', 'A bit OCD', or words alluding to gender such as 'guys', 'mate', or 'dude'.

Because language has the ability to empower someone, or tear them down, it’s important that we be mindful of our opinions, what they imply, and how we express them.

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