Here at IMD we are big advocates of an open environment. We can share our thoughts, observations, and personalities without prejudice.
Language is one of the most powerful tools we have as humans. We use it to explain and train, share events, bounce ideas, and share common understanding. Therefore, it will come as no surprise that the language we use is essential for creating a working environment where everyone feels welcome and included.
Non-inclusive language has the power to make individuals or groups feel marginalised, perhaps due to their culture, race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, appearance, age, or socioeconomic status, among others.
For National Inclusion Week 2021, we put together a list of positive outcomes of using inclusive language.
- Seeing everyone as they want to be seen. This is especially important in relation to gender identity. Having an open and safe environment where staff use pronouns for general communication regarding themselves, everyone in the workplace is likely to follow this and there is less stigma as a result.
- Moving with the times. Language changes and evolves faster than we may realise. Being aware and open to shifting language means that the whole organisation can evolve in an agile fashion.
- Using inclusive language. This challenges both conscious and unconscious biases. Language is powerful, so adjusting words and phrases shifts mindsets too.
- Inclusive language supports disclosure and declaration by creating a safe space making people feel valued.
- Positive language. It facilitates a collective no blame culture as everyone makes mistakes and that is ok!
Inclusive language seeks to treat all people with respect, dignity, and impartiality. The fact is, we all must try to consider the implications of words and phrases that may have before gone unchallenged. We need to make the effort to empathise with and imagine an experience that is not our own. And if we do make mistakes, as we are only human, apologise for not understanding what the word meant to the other person and promise that we will work on this and try to get better.