Tips to Use More Inclusive Language on Your Team

Posted by Kristin Arnold on February 19, 2024

Tips to Use More Inclusive Language on Your Team (1)

As a leader, we want to build and strengthen our team. But what if we are actually dividing our team – and we don’t even know it? You may consider using more inclusive language on your team.

We say, “Let’s go, guys. You can do it!” or “Do you know a guy who can do that?”

Last time I checked, I’m a gal; not a guy. Given my military background, I’m not offended when someone uses the term “guys” and I’ve been known to use the term every once in a while. I always considered “guys” to be gender-neutral.

But it isn’t.

You might be thinking, what’s the big deal?

Part of it is the fact that you want to be inclusive – and not all people identify as a guy or a gal. But it goes deeper than that – especially in male-dominated environments. When you say, “Do we have a guy who can do that” – the visual image that comes to mind is a man. So your brain will go in that direction before you consider other options.

Emily Nichols, a colleague who specializes in Human Skills for Technical People, highlighted the importance of choosing your words carefully in her recent TEDx talk

She says, “Changing our language can indeed change our world. My enthusiasm for less-gendered language reflects my desire for a less-gendered world. One where we aren’t held to feminine beauty standards every day, and don’t have to be ‘one of the guys’ to be seen, heard, and valued in the world of work.”

There are so many other (and more effective) terms you can use that are much more inclusive! Nichols suggests “You just drop it. Don’t say ‘guys’ – just leave it out!”

Nichols adds that “other terms are more inclusive – team members, colleagues, awesome people, beautiful humans – or just plain old everyone. Your choice probably depends on the situation (Email? Presentation? Team huddle?) and your personality.”

Professional EmCee Timothy Hyde shares several of his favorites for a group of people: “Colleagues,” “Associates,” and “My friends.” If you are looking for a phrase that has a harmonious cadence to it, try “One and all,” “Students and scholars,” “Family and friends,” or “You delightful people.”

Of course, there are plenty more. Just find the one or two that feels right for you and your audience, or invite your team to come up with their own moniker.

Related Articles:

Ensure Teamwork Among Multinational Teams

Improve Team Communication – As a Speaker and a Listener!

Should Leaders Tell Employees to Stop Using “Gender Inappropriate” Words?

KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CSP, CPF|Master has been facilitating meaningful conversations between executives and managers to make better decisions and achieve extraordinary results for 25+ years. She's a leading authority on moderating panel discussions and passionate about finding the perfect olive to complement a vodka martini.

Skip to content