Words Do Matter: Tips From The Manager’s Answer Book

We were at a museum recently which had a number of wartime planes on display. What struck me about one was its description. It included statements such as: She was built in [year], she flew [x number] of missions, she was taken out of service in [year].  “Why,” I asked no one in particular, although my husband was standing nearby “are inanimate objects referred to as she?” I didn't really expect an explanation, but where did this practice come from?

Language is powerful and we talk about this in The Manager's Answer Book. On page 123, this question is posed: Knowing that words matter, do you have any guidelines on using the correct words and language to avoid offending anyone?  

Manager’s tip:  Part of the answer we offer:  Language is symbolic, meaning there is an arbitrary connection between the symbols (words and phrases) and what they refer to. Stated another way, different words and phrases can have different meanings to other people, depending on their perspectives and experiences. In today’s diverse workplaces, communication can be complex and challenging!  Paying attention to what you say and how you say it is an excelled way to build positive relationships at work. 

Remember to use neutral words, be wary of slang and jargon, and don't use labels when referring to other people. 

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