Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Exclusionary language, avoid them..........

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Avoid exclusionary language at work! 
Unknowingly, there are words or phrases that people use and they are not aware that those words can hurt someone’s sentiments. Perhaps no one uses them deliberately, perhaps, it was just a grammar error, perhaps, everyone has been using these words and hence the continuation till that. However, no matter what, by using these words/phrases, people end up pricking someone’s invisible wounds. 
For example, let us take the phrase ‘Cake Walk’. ‘Cake Walk’ means any kind of work that can be done easily. However, if we look at the etymology of this phrase, this phrase originates from the name of a pre-Civil War dance, pertaining to 19th century. This dance was performed by slaves on plantation grounds to entertain their owners. The best dancers were awarded with a decorated cake. Now, after knowing this, would you still like to use this phrase? 
Although language is a complex entity, it never means it shouldn’t or can’t change. Let us look at some job description examples: Recruitment in military sometimes use terms like ‘Veterans and their Wives’. It automatically assumes that all veterans are male. Not just that, this term also ignores same sex relationships. 
Talking about Database related jobs, there are terms like ‘master / slave’ when it comes to controlling one device over another. This is racially insensitive and inappropriate. Other examples are, ‘Stop crying like a girl’ , ‘My ideas fell on deaf ear’, ‘Your ideas are cripple’, ‘Moron you are….’, these are all hurting phrases, with a pricking insensitive touch. 
Here is what we can do to make our workplace a safe haven with compassion and understanding as its pillars. 
  1. Be self aware: While speaking, speak with an understanding so that you know which words to avoid. Learn what exclusionary words are. Erase them from your vocabulary. If you hear a colleague or friend using such words, make them also aware about how wrong it is to use those words. 
  2. Put Guidelines: If you are a leader, create guardrails for acceptable and unacceptable words and behavior. Check documentation thoroughly before rolling them out. 
  3. Call out bad behavior: Do call out someone who is making another person feel out of place. Let everyone know that bad behavior is never welcome. 

Sources: https://hbr.org/2022/10/how-to-identify-and-eliminate-exclusionary-language-at-work (Harvard Business Review)