lead by example
In 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 communications and conversations about members of this team, I now use these pronouns, but I’ve noticed that no one else has adjusted them. As the lead of this team, how can I resolve this situation?
I feel like the longer I wait to resolve it, the less respectful and complicit I become. I can’t monitor people’s language, but I will call someone out for other behavior that I consider disrespectful. (For what it’s worth, I don’t doubt anyone knowingly doesn’t use their colleague’s preferred pronoun.) Non-binary colleagues haven’t told me this is a problem, but I have to assume it feels dismissive. I feel like I owe them an apology, but what I really owe them is better leadership. what would you do?
Thank you for asking this question. Everyone deserves respect, and part of that is using people’s correct pronouns. By consistently using team members’ pronouns in all communications, you’ve done a lot of what you should. I would start by sending a memo to your entire team reminding them of the importance of using the correct pronouns to refer to people. Don’t single out your non-binary team members because frankly, this is a common courtesy question and it applies to everyone.
You can also meet privately with your team members to let them know that you are aware of the problem and are working to fix it. Ask if there is anything you can do to improve their work experience, but don’t ask them how to solve the overall problem you’re dealing with, because that’s not their problem. I trust that you will lead your team forward in a caring and thoughtful manner.
When you are here, you are family
For the past four years, I’ve been an executive at a small electronics company. While I’ve been treated well and liked my job most of the time, I wanted a change, so I’ve been applying and interviewing for new positions in confidence. The CEO has been very warm and open since I started at this company and has organized many events involving work colleagues and their families. My wife and I got to know the president’s wife and teenage kids, and I even took advantage of the vibe to arrange temporary jobs for some of my family members. Over the past year, the CEO has started referring to the company as “family,” even calling a recent employee in love with us.
The CEO told me the other day that he felt betrayed by a former employee who left after proper notice, without first telling him he was interviewing. He made it clear that he wanted “family” to tell him if they were being interviewed.
I do hope to be successful in finding a new job in the next few months, and since I don’t have an employment contract, I, like most American workers, can leave or be fired at any time. In the past, I have handled these transitions by giving proper notice after accepting a new offer, ending my duties, attending a send-off usually at a local bar or restaurant, and maintaining good conditions. I want to avoid any ugliness when I give notice, so I’m wondering how I should communicate with the CEO for the rest of my time at this company.
You can’t just because your CEO thinks your company is one big family. Your job is your job, and your family is your family. I love a college workplace where people feel valued and respected, and where people can socialize outside of work. This is ideal and should be the norm, although it is not. But professional collaboration is still not family, nor should it be. When employers see the company as a family, they try to get your emotional investment so that you ignore everything else. When it comes time for layoffs, I can assure you that the word “family” will disappear from the language of the company.
Your CEO’s behavior is very unprofessional. If he feels betrayed when an employee is given proper notice and moved to a new position, that’s a personal issue he should address with a therapist. This bizarre emotional shift he imposed on his staff was inappropriate. You don’t have to let your employer know you’re looking for a new job because unfortunately too many employers will retaliate when they hear about it. Now, communicate with the CEO as usual because you have nothing to report. Continue your job search, give adequate notice when you find a new position, be generous with any transition that needs to happen, and move on with a clear conscience.
Cases of misspelled names
My name is Alyssa. In my daily life, it is often misspelled and mispronounced. However, my name is in my work email address and some of my colleagues still can’t get it right. When I get an email that starts with “Hi Alicia”, I want to correct them, but I find it trivial, so I let it go. Is there a proper way to correct someone who keeps misspelling your name at work?
—Alyssa, Rhode Island
I can say that. My name is spelled with an n. It is often misspelled. It’s as aggravating as a little thing, which means I have the necessary point of view. When someone misspells my name in an email, I just sign my email Roxane (with an n) so the correction is there, but not the heart of the communication. When you receive an email with your name misspelled, simply sign your name correctly in brackets of your choice regarding the correct spelling. I find it easiest to stand up for myself and my name, while also recognizing that my constant misspelling of my name is, in general, a slight aggravation.
Roxane Gay is the most recent author of Hunger and a contributing commentary.write to her [email protected].