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Apr 09
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Fostering Inclusivity: The Power of Inclusive Language in the Workplace

In today’s diverse and dynamic workplaces, fostering inclusivity isn’t just a buzzword—it’s a fundamental aspect of creating a supportive and productive environment for all employees. One powerful tool in achieving this goal is the use of inclusive language. By consciously choosing our words and expressions, we can create a workplace culture where everyone feels valued, respected, and empowered to contribute their best. In this blog, we’ll delve into why inclusive language matters and how employees can become advocates to each other in this journey.

Welcoming Diversity

Inclusive language acknowledges and respects diversity in all its forms—race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, ability, or any other characteristic. By using neutral and affirming language, we avoid unintentionally marginalizing or excluding certain groups of people. For instance, instead of using gender-specific terms like “he” or “she,” opting for gender-neutral pronouns like “they” can ensure that individuals of all genders feel seen and respected.

Promoting a Sense of Belonging

In addition, inclusive language promotes a sense of belonging among employees. When individuals hear their identities reflected positively in the language used within the workplace, they feel more valued and accepted. This, in turn, leads to increased morale, engagement, and productivity. Inclusive language also helps to break down stereotypes and biases by challenging assumptions and promoting a more open-minded perspective.

How can employees be advocates to each other in promoting inclusive language and fostering an inclusive workplace culture?

1. Educate Yourself: Take the initiative to educate yourself about different identities, experiences, and perspectives. This could involve attending workshops, reading relevant literature, or conversing with colleagues from diverse backgrounds. The more you understand, the better equipped you’ll be to use inclusive language and support your peers.

2. Speak Up: Don’t stay silent if you hear someone using exclusionary or offensive language. Politely educate them about the impact of their words and suggest alternative, more inclusive language. Sometimes, people may not be aware of the harm caused by their language, so your intervention can help raise awareness and promote positive change.

3. Lead by Example: Be mindful of your language in everyday interactions. Use inclusive language in meetings, emails, presentations, and informal conversations. By demonstrating a commitment to inclusivity in your own words and actions, you inspire others to do the same.

4. Support Diversity Initiatives: Advocate for diversity and inclusion initiatives within your organization. This could involve participating in diversity training programs, joining employee resource groups, or supporting diversity-focused recruitment efforts. By actively championing diversity, you create a more inclusive workplace culture for everyone.

The power of inclusive language in the workplace cannot be overstated. It’s a simple yet profound way to show respect, build trust, and foster a sense of belonging among employees. Together, let’s commit to making inclusivity a goal and a reality in our workplaces and beyond.

You Belong Here Image

How We Created This Guide

The journey towards creating an inclusive language guide began with recognizing the importance of diversity and inclusion within our company culture at Choozle. We worked alongside employees who shared their experiences and perspectives, highlighting the impact of language on fostering inclusivity. Internal discussions and external influences, such as societal shifts towards greater awareness of diversity issues, spurred our commitment to address language usage comprehensively.

Formal initiatives were initiated, including forming a committee dedicated to diversity and inclusion. We conducted employee surveys and held focus groups to gather input on language preferences and concerns. Collaborating closely with team members, we developed best practices through iterative processes. Employees at all levels participated, offering valuable insights and feedback. This collaborative effort led to creating a comprehensive guide that serves as a reference for all communication within the organization, reflecting our collective commitment to inclusivity at Choozle.

How You Can Use This Guide 

The following guidelines reflect the principles of inclusive language: utilize gender-neutral terms; refrain from using ableist language; prioritize individuals over their disabilities or circumstances; avoid making sweeping generalizations about people, regions, cultures, and countries; and steer clear of slang, idioms, metaphors, and other words with potentially negative connotations or histories. While this list isn’t exhaustive, it highlights the types of language to be mindful of.

This guide will be a valuable resource for auditing language across various mediums, including websites, software applications, documentation, and verbal communication.

Problematic Words and Phrases

This is not meant to be an all-inclusive list; please do your own research to continue to build your awareness. 

Problem WordsAlternatives
Blackout Days/Dates Black/Gray DaysBlocked days, restricted days, make no changes
Black & WhiteContrasting concepts, simplicity, clarity, clear distinction,
Black Listdeny/denied list/block list
White ListAllow list/preferred list
BlackboxClosed box, closed system, opaque glassbox, unknown origin
WhiteboxKnown, open system, clear box testing
Blackbox/Whiteboxclear/opaque, viewed/hidden, visible/invisible, clarify
MasterPrimary, main, template, active, primary
Dummy PixelPlaceholder, test
Story Grooming, HardeningRefinement, planning, finalizing, securing, sure-up
Pow-wowMeeting, sync
Long Time No SeeIt’s been a while, it’s been forever
Gyp or GyppedRobbed, cheated, defrauded
Rule of ThumbBenchmark, guideline, standard, specification, protocol
Low-hanging Fruit, Easy-jobFact-based, quick wins, most attainable
Circle the WagonsCircling back, follow-up
Low Man on the TotemNeed to get approvals from others
Hold Down the FortKeep up to date on, being point of contact, taking the lead, get together as a team
“My Spirit Animal”That person inspires me, I identify w/, very relatable, that’s my vibe
Mission CriticalHigh importance, urgency
Being on the Front LinesClient facing
In the TrenchesWorking together/alongside, still working through
Dancing Around the FireOn the same page, alignment
Drinking the Kool-Aid, Lions Kool-Aid Groupthink
Age CommentsCompliment facts, don’t make generalizations/assumptions/grouping
Drinkers vs NonCoffee or drink
Anti-CountryRedirect conversation back to purpose
Political ReferencesRedirect conversation back to purpose
Name PronunciationAsk them, make an effort
Mental Health, Crazy, OCD, Bipolar, ADHDFeeling different/off/focused

Fostering Inclusivity

In addition to creating an inclusive language guide, fostering a truly inclusive workplace involves actively supporting one another as advocates by standing in solidarity. Advocates play a crucial role in advocating for and supporting marginalized colleagues. This can include amplifying their voices in meetings, challenging biased language or behavior, and actively seeking opportunities to include them in conversations and decision-making processes. By standing up against discrimination and inequality, advocates contribute significantly to creating a more inclusive environment where everyone feels valued and respected.

A diverse group of people sitting around a conference table.

Solidarity transcends mere sympathy; it demands active engagement, education, and unwavering commitment to dismantling oppressive structures and fostering social justice. It’s about leveraging privilege and influence to challenge systemic inequalities, biases, and discrimination.

At its core, solidarity involves listening to marginalized voices, amplifying their experiences, advocating for their rights, and taking tangible steps toward creating an inclusive and equitable society where everyone can thrive. But solidarity doesn’t end there. It’s also about acknowledging mistakes and having the humility to apologize and learn from them.

Don’t forget that self-advocacy is equally important. Employees should feel empowered to speak up for themselves, assert their needs, and seek support when necessary. This may involve communicating preferences regarding language or accommodations, addressing instances of discrimination or microaggressions, and actively participating in initiatives to promote diversity and inclusion within the company. By advocating for themselves, employees ensure that their voices are heard and contribute to shaping a workplace culture that embraces and celebrates diversity in all its forms.

Self-advocacy is knowing one’s worth, setting clear goals, and communicating assertively, which are just a few key strategies in the arsenal of self-advocacy. By actively seeking feedback, documenting achievements, and building supportive relationships, individuals can empower themselves to navigate their professional and personal journeys with confidence and resilience.

Celebrating personal victories and fostering a culture of cross-departmental success can further bolster self-esteem and morale. And when it comes to feedback, let’s not confine ourselves to the limitations of yearly reviews. Embracing tools for continuous feedback ensures that growth and improvement remain ongoing processes.

In essence, solidarity and advocacy are intertwined pathways to empowerment and inclusivity. By embracing these principles, we not only uplift ourselves but also contribute to a more just and equitable world for all.

Final Thoughts

By fostering a culture of solidarity and advocacy alongside creating an inclusive language guide, we can continue to move forward on our journey toward building a workplace where every individual feels valued, respected, and empowered to succeed.

Christine Jones

About the author:

Christine Jones is a seasoned People Operations professional with more than 15 years of diverse experience in the field. Serving as the Senior People Operations at Choozle, Christine leads all aspects of People Operations functions, playing a critical role in shaping the company’s organizational culture and enhancing employee engagement. Christine’s expertise encompasses talent acquisition, performance management, employee relations, training and development, benefits administration, key initiatives, and compliance. Committed to fostering inclusive workplaces, Christine strives to ensure every employee feels valued, respected, and empowered to thrive.

About The Author