Your colleague’s political beliefs are not your problem
Lead by example
For the past six months, my organization has approved the optional inclusion of pronouns in electronic signatures. I learned that one of my team members uses non-binary pronouns. In my written communication and conversation about this team member, I now use these pronouns, but notice that no one else has made the adjustment. As the supervisor of this team, how can I resolve this situation?
I feel like the longer I wait to answer it, the more disrespectful and complicit I am. I can’t control people’s language, but I would call someone for other types of behavior that I would interpret as disrespectful. (For what it’s worth, I don’t suspect anyone is being intentionally disrespectful by not using their co-worker’s preferred pronouns.) The non-binary co-worker didn’t tell me anything about this issue, but I have to assume that it is disdainful. 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 to be treated with respect and part of that is using people’s correct pronouns. You’re already doing a lot of what you should be doing by always using your team members’ pronouns in all your communications. I would start by sending a memo to your entire team reminding them of the importance of referring to people using the correct pronouns. Don’t target your non-binary team member because, frankly, it’s a matter of common courtesy and it applies to everyone.
You can also meet privately with your team member to let them know you are aware of the issue and are working to resolve 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 facing, because it’s not their problem to solve. I am confident that you will lead your team in a caring and considerate manner.
When you are here you are family
For the past four years, I’ve been an executive in a small electronics company. Although I am well treated and mostly enjoy my job, I would like a change, so I applied and interviewed confidentially for new positions. Since the beginning of my stay in this company, the CEO has been very warm and socially open, and has organized many events involving co-workers and their families. My wife and I got to know the CEO’s wife and teenage children, and I even took advantage of this atmosphere to find temporary employment 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 recruit as having fallen in love with us.
The other day the CEO told me that he felt betrayed by a former employee who left after giving proper notice but without telling him first that he was in an interview. He made it very clear that he expected “family” members to tell him if they were interviewing.
I expect to be successful in the coming months in my search for a new job, and since I don’t have an employment contract, I am, like most American workers, free to leave or be made redundant. at any time. In the past, I’ve handled these transitions by giving proper notice after accepting a new offer, wrapping up my responsibilities, generally attending a send-off at a local bar or restaurant, and remaining on good terms. I want to avoid any ugliness when giving notice, so I’m wondering how I should communicate with the CEO during the rest of my time at this company.
Just because your CEO thinks your company is a family doesn’t mean it is. Your job is your job and your family is your family. I like a collegial work environment where people feel valued and respected and where people can socialize outside of work. This is ideal and should be the norm, even if it is not. But professional collegiality is still not familial and should not be. When employers suggest that the company is a family, they are trying to entice your emotional investment so that you overlook everything else. When the time comes for layoffs, I can assure you that the word “family” will disappear from the vernacular of the company.
Your CEO is behaving very unprofessionally. If he feels betrayed when an employee gives proper notice and moves to a new position, that’s a personal issue he should address with a therapist. This bizarre emotional transfer he imposes on his staff is inappropriate. You don’t have to tell your employer that you are looking for a new job because, unfortunately, far too many employers will react to such news. For now, communicate with the CEO as you normally do as you have nothing to report. Continue your job search and, when you land a new position, give ample notice, participate generously in any transition work that needs to take place, and move forward with a clear conscience.
The case of the misspelled name
My name is Alisha. It’s often misspelled and mispronounced in my everyday life. However, my name is in my email address at work and some of my co-workers still can’t. I want to correct them when I get an email that starts with “Hi Alicia”, but I feel petty, so I give up. Is there a good way to correct someone who continually misspells your name at work?
—Alisha, Rhode Island
I can understand so much. My name is written with an n. It is constantly misspelled. It’s annoying how little things get worse, that is to say that I have the necessary perspective. When someone misspells my name in an email, I simply sign my email Roxane (with an n) so that the correction is there but not the centerpiece of the correspondence. When you receive an email with your name misspelled, simply sign your name correctly with a parenthesis of your choice on the correct spelling. I find it easier to walk the line of defending myself and my name while recognizing that the constant misspelling of my name is, in the grand scheme of things, a minor aggravation.
Roxane Gay is the most recent author of “Hunger” and an opinion writer. Write to him at email@example.com.