Lead by example
In the past six months, my organization has approved the optional inclusion of pronouns in email signatures. I learned that a member of my team uses non-binary pronouns. In my written post and conversations about this team member, I’m using these pronouns now, but I’ve noticed that no one else has edited. As a supervisor on this team, how can I fix this situation?
I feel that the longer I wait to address it, the more disrespect and complicity will be. I can’t monitor people’s language, but I would have required other types of behavior that I interpreted as disrespectful. (For what it’s worth, I don’t suspect anyone is willfully disrespectful by not using their classmates’ preferred pronouns.) The non-binary fellow didn’t say anything to me about this being a problem, but I must assume she feels rejected. I feel I owe them an apology, but what I really owe them 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 correct pronouns. You are already doing a lot of what you should be doing by always using the pronouns of your team members in all communications. I’d like to start by sending a note to your entire team reminding them of the importance of referring to people who use the appropriate pronouns. Don’t single out your non-binary team member because, frankly, this is a matter of common courtesy and it applies to everyone.
You can also meet with your team member privately to let them know that you are aware of the issue and are working to address it. Ask them if there’s anything you can do to improve their work experience but don’t ask them how to solve the overall problem you’re dealing with, as it’s not their problem to solve. I am confident that you will lead your team forward in a caring and thoughtful manner.
When you’re here, you’re family
For the past four years, I’ve been an executive at a small electronics company. Although I am being treated well and mostly enjoying my job, I would like a change, so I have been applying and discreetly to interviews for new positions. From the very beginning of my work in this company, the CEO was very warm and outgoing sociable, and he organized many events in which co-workers and their families participated. My wife and I got to know the CEO’s wife and teenage children, and I even took advantage of this atmosphere to arrange temporary work for a few members of my family. Over the past year, the CEO has started referring to the company as “family,” even referring to a recent employee as having fallen in love with us.
The other day, the CEO told me he felt betrayed by a former employee who left after giving proper notice but without first telling him he was interviewing. He’s made it clear that he expects “family” members to tell him if they’re having an interview.
I expect to be successful in the coming months in my search for a new job, and since I do not have a contract of employment, I, like most workers in the United States, am free to leave or terminate at any time. In the past, I have dealt with these shifts by giving proper notice after accepting a new offer, ending my responsibilities, attending a farewell party at a local pub or restaurant and staying in good conditions. I want to avoid any ugliness when I give notice, so I’m wondering how I can communicate with the CEO during the remainder of my time at this company.
Just because your CEO thinks your company is family doesn’t make it so. Your job is your job and your family is your family. I like a teamwork place 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 a professional fellowship is still not a family, nor should it be. When employers suggest that the company is a family, they try to muster your emotional investment so that you ignore everything else. When it’s time for layoffs, I can assure you that the word “family” will disappear from company slang.
Your CEO is behaving very unprofessional. If he feels betrayed when an employee gives proper notice and moves on to a new job, it’s a personal issue that he has to deal with with a therapist. This strange emotional shift he exerts on his employees is inappropriate. You do not have to tell your employer that you are looking for a new job because, unfortunately, many employers will retaliate upon hearing this news. For now, reach out to the CEO as you normally would because you have nothing to report. Keep looking for a job, and when you get a new one, give ample notice, share generously in whatever transitional work should occur and move forward with a clear conscience.
Case of a misspelled name
My name is Alisha. It is often misspelled and mispronounced in my daily life. However, my name is in my work email address and some of my co-workers still can’t understand it properly. I want to correct it when I get an email that starts with “Hi Alicia”, but I’m getting upset, so I let it go. Is there a correct way to correct someone who constantly misspells your name at work?
– Alisha, Rhode Island
I can talk quite a lot. My name is written in one n. It is constantly misspelled. It exacerbates the way trivial things get aggravated, and that means I have the necessary perspective. When someone mistypes my name in an email, I simply sign my Roxane email (with one n token) so the correction is there but not the focus of the correspondence. When you receive an email with your name spelled incorrectly, simply sign your name correctly with a parent of your choice regarding the correct spelling. I find it easier to walk in line defending myself and my name with the realization that the constant misspelling of my name is, in the grand scheme of things, a slight aggravation.
Roxanne Jay He is the recent author of Hunger and a contributing opinion writer. write her on firstname.lastname@example.org.