can I ask my employee to remove his pronouns from his email signature, stuck paying for a business hotel, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Can I ask my employee to remove his pronouns from his email signature?

My employee recently added pronouns to his signature line: (he/him). Can I ask him to remove this from his signature? It seems highly unprofessional, especially in our industry.

Please don’t. It’s not unprofessional.

There’s a growing movement to include pronouns in things like email signatures to create a more inclusive environment for trans and non-binary employees. Your employee may be signaling support and inclusivity and/or may have encountered people misgendering him.

If this feels out of sync with your company, the answer to that isn’t to tell your employee to stop doing something inclusive; it’s to push your company to evolve. If you’re not up for doing that, you at least shouldn’t stand in your employee’s way.

2. Stuck paying for my own hotel for business travel

I work sales for a mid-size company. I was sent on a sales trip, and the company booked a room at the hotel. Unfortunately, due to airline delays, I arrived at the hotel three hours too late and the room was no longer available. The hotel had no other rooms available. I went to another hotel and checked in with my own credit card.

When I got back, I had hoped to be reimbursed for my hotel stay. Instead I was informed that I stayed at a hotel that’s on the company’s excluded party list (a list of companies, agencies, people, etc. that the company does not do business with). I tried to explain that I was unaware that the hotel chain was on the list and this all happened at 2 in the morning when I didn’t have time to call the company and have them get me a room somewhere else or tell me what local hotel was okay. I’m am aware there’s a list, but I didn’t know about this chain and I was stuck. I think the company should at least reimburse me for 75%. Your thoughts?

Your company should reimburse you 100% unless you purposely chose something like the Ritz-Carlton when the Doubletree was available. And even if you did that, they should still reimburse you whatever amount they normally would have paid.

It’s not reasonable that you should have to pay for your own hotel on a business trip simply because you were stranded without lodging at 2 am and weren’t able to check their excluded list. Ideally, sure, you would have checked the list. In reality, that’s not always practical, and a decent company would recognize that and make sure you’re not penalized just because you encountered a travel snafu that was out of your hands.

I would go over the head of whoever told you no and push this further.

3. My company is investing in me, but I don’t plan to stay

Before Covid, I was a freelancer in a fast-paced, competitive, and highly creative field. Due to my state’s strict lockdown rules, it is impossible for me to do that work until all restrictions are lifted. Even then, the chatter in the field is it could be a while before everyone is fully employed. I found a great part-time job working from home with a startup that, while in my wheelhouse, is not in my field. I had trouble adjusting to the more corporate aspects of the job, but after six months I am thriving. I went from part-time to full-time (after aggressively lobbying for it because I needed the money). Going full-time has meant more responsibility and more to do. That is great, as I like to be busy.

But recently I have been getting more to do that signals that they are making an investment in me, in hopes that I will be a long-term employee who will move up and take on a more senior role. The problem is, I plan to go back to my previous career the moment it is an option. I do enjoy the work here, but this was a stop gap. I am worried that if I signal my intent to leave in the future when my previous career becomes an option again, they could cut my hours or just fire me. If it matters, I do think I will be in this job for at least another 8-12 months.

Is it wrong of me to continue to take on more responsibility, knowing I will eventually leave? My boyfriend says I shouldn’t say anything, that it will be their problem to replace me when the time comes. But that feels wrong to me, they gave me a job when no one else was hiring, and it’s the reason we were able to keep our heads above water, and I like and respect everyone there.

Is there a way signal my intent to eventually leave, without damaging the position I am in now? Most of my contracts in my previous job never lasted more than 6-8 weeks, so this is officially the longest job I have ever had in my adult life. I think that is making it harder for me. I just don’t know that the best practice is here. Am I overthinking this?

Nah, it makes sense to be concerned that your company is expecting something different from you than what you’re planning, and that they’re investing in you based on that assumption.

But I would not alert them that you plan to leave as soon as you can. They probably wouldn’t fire you, but you’d risk a whole range of other less-than-desirable consequences, from being stuck with boring work for the rest of your time there to being at the top of the list if they need to lay people off. A good company won’t do that in a punitive way, but it can be the natural result of knowing you’re planning to leave. On top of that, you don’t currently have firm plans for any kind of timeline. No one can say for sure when your old field will pick back up again or how long it will take for you to get hired when it does. And who knows, maybe something will change in the meantime that will make you decide to stay where you are.

It would be different if you had firm plans to leave in two months. But “I hope to leave in about a year, but the timing is really up in the air” is not something you need to share right now.

4. Can my employer make me take a lunch break when I’m working from home?

I’ve been working from home for 10 months now, and am hourly.

Currently, hourly workers must request to work from home via an HR app each week. No big deal — the vast majority of the organization is currently working from home, and the approval is just a formality. We recently received an HR notification stating that hourly employees will start having to clock in and out electronically, with details forthcoming.

When we were in the office, we were forced to take a half-hour lunch, unpaid. I have not been doing this during this period of working from home. Maybe it will be addressed when login instructions are communicated, but I wonder if an employer can compel you to take an unpaid lunch when you’re not on the premises.

Yep, they can require you to take a lunch break even when you’re not on their premises. Some state specifically require employees to ensure that non-exempt employees take a lunch break after a certain number of hours of work, even if said employees are working from home. But even if your state doesn’t mandate it, your employer can choose to require it.

But if it’s not required in your state, you could tell your manager you’ve found you prefer not to take lunch and ask if you could start or end early so can skip lunch without incurring overtime. Depending on schedules and workflow in your office, that might be fine. But ultimately it’s their call.

5. Should I tell my boss I’m dealing with a chronic pain issue?

Over the last month or two, I’ve developed chronic pain that has required me to miss several days of work. I never know how bad each day will be until I wake up. This pain is centralized on my uterus/ovaries. I am working with doctors to try and figure out the cause, but diagnosis and treatment can take time.

I dont want to being any of this up to my manager. When I’ve had to take a random day off every three or four weeks, I’ll simply say via email I have a migraine or a stomach bug. But the pain has only been getting worse and I might need more days off and more frequently.

My manager and I have a friendly relationship. I’ve been using my allotted sick time and she previously has said I’m exceeding expectations but I am still relatively new (nine months). I also worry as pain associated with menstruation is often just associated with “being a woman.” However, I worry if I don’t address this soon, it will become more problematic if I need to take off additional time off. When I am working, I’m working slower. I haven’t had any issues with projects as my role is relatively flexible in terms of deliverable dates, but I know I’m only working at about 25 to 50% of what I would normally be doing.

Should I not bring this up until it becomes more problematic, if it ever does? Should I simply mention that I am dealing with some health issues and my output may be lower? Should I provide more specifics? With Covid, we could only have this talk via phone or email (my company does not turn our cameras on for any work calls).

Since it’s ongoing, it’s useful to let your manager know the general situation so that if you keep needing days off or she has noticed you seeming slower, she has some context for what’s going on. That’s better than her jumping to any other conclusions.

But you don’t need to go into detail. You could just say something like this: “I wanted to let you know that I’ve been dealing with a health issue. It’s nothing to worry about and I’m working with doctors to figure out how to treat it, but when it flares up I will sometimes need a day off or might seem a bit off my usual game. I don’t need anything in particular right now; I just wanted you to know the situation in case I end up needing additional days off or you notice anything seeming different.”

{ 818 comments… read them below }

    1. Retail Not Retail*

      If coverage is part of the job expectations, you might not be able to shorten your day at either end.

      My grocery job obviously hated that but people did it on non-coverage shifts (stocking, tag change). I did it a few times when I had to carve out my own dang breaks – I get off at 11, I can’t get free for lunch until 10:30 (unless you want me taking it at 2:45 you idiots), i’m leaving. That and the unexpected overtime (I am entitled to an hour of breaks, give me coverage or pay up, i’m not sacrificing my paid 30 minutes!) finally got me some help.

      Anyway if you’re wfh, you’re not doing THAT, but it’s probably expected you’re there until 3:39 or whatever.

      They may also run into trouble depending on when lunches are mandated – we got paid for 8 hours regardless of whether we took it or left early, but a look at our books would be dicey. (Union (maybe state?) was 6)

      1. Retail Not Retail*

        Er, the shift was customer service desk and I got all my work done a few days by 10:30, I didn’t leave the back room a mess!

        And I meant 3:30, not 3:39, but who knows! Clock in at 7:09 people, not 7:08 not 7:10, 7:09! Those 9 minutes put us over our competition when people want widget advice at 3:39!

      2. Not So Super-visor*

        This was my exact thought as well. I’ve had a lot of people in my dept ask to skip lunch breaks and clock out early, but we’re coverage based (customer service on phones), so that just isn’t feasible.

    2. OP4*

      OP4, here.

      Thanks for responding. Maybe it was just a matter of putting the time entry into our own hands, as was suggested further below. Interestingly, nothing has been communicated, though we’ve started clocking in.

      There are no unions and no work where coverage is an issue, at least for what I do. Work hours are flexible, and the work is project-based, data-related/stats/science.

      I will abide by Alison’s suggestion, just wanted to ask about legality.

      1. Managing to Get By*

        We have similar work, mostly data analysis and cost projections. Hours are somewhat flexible, but the right out of college basically entry level staff are hourly so we have less flexibility with them.

        In my state we are required to give employees a minimum 30 minute lunch break, unpaid, and two 10-minute paid breaks. My company does 2 15-minute paid breaks instead, so employees get an hour of breaks, with 30 mins paid. The state law also requires that the lunch break be towards the middle of the shift, I think the law is they can’t work more than 5 hours in a row without the 30-minute break. I’ve had to explain this multiple times to each new hourly employee, and explain that they cannot shorten their day by delaying their break.

        The law applies even if they are WFH. It’s not optional. When they are in the office, we are required to allow them to leave the premises during the 30 minute lunch break, so when we have all-day company meetings where they feed us but we’re expected to stay in the room and watch a presentation during lunch, I find I have to remind the organizers that we need to give the hourly employees a minimum of 30 minutes without a scheduled presentation so they can leave if they want.

        1. Managing to Get By*

          detail – We’re required to give non-exempt hourly employees a 30 minute unpaid lunch. This law doesn’t apply to exempt employees. I try to make sure my exempt/salaried staff get time for a break though. As a manager, I’m usually scheduled in conference calls almost the entire day including noon which is difficult even when working from home, I’ve found the one thing that has the biggest impact on whether I have any energy in the evening is if I can get at least a 20 minute break meetings/sitting at the computer mid-day.

  1. A Poster Has No Name*

    LW1, Alison was much nicer to you than many would be. Please follow her advice and say nothing to your employee.

    And also, please educate yourself on issues facing transgender and non-binary people in the workplace.

    1. Mine Own Telemachus*

      As a nonbinary person who has to put they/them in my signature so I don’t get misgendered, yup.

      1. Safetykats*

        Yes! Incorrectly gendering your coworkers is impolite at best. Unfortunately, it’s also discriminatory and hurtful, and I’m sure OP doesn’t intend to be that. So just as it’s polite and helpful to sign your email (so that people who email you can avoid spelling your preferred name wrong – if your preferred name is not what is in the phone book) I feel that it’s polite and helpful to include your pronouns, so that I can address you correctly when I have the opportunity to do so. If only because in a polite and civilized society, people do address each other correctly, and in a way that is neither discriminatory nor hurtful.

    2. Chris (she/her)*

      Would love to know from OP 1 what they think is “unprofessional” about pronouns in an email signature? (It’s very common in my industry, people also put their pronouns on their Zoom/Teams/whatever name.)

      Thanks, Alison, for your work, as always.

      1. Don't believe everything you read*

        I think the reason that someone might consider pronouns unprofessional in an email signature is because it assumes interest on the part of the recipient. So it would very much depend on the industry. In other words, if I’m a customer, and I’m writing you because I didn’t get my widget, what I want is my widget. I don’t care what your gender identity is. I’m perfectly happy to write “to whom it may concern”. I am absolutely not interested in any personal information whatsoever about the customer service rep who’s helping me. I just want them to get me my widget. So I think it very much depends on circumstance. If you’re in a situation where you’re going to know the people who are writing you, and you’re going to be written by the same person repeatedly, then they have reason to want to know to whom they’re writing. And you have reason to want them to know to whom they’re writing. But if you’re in a customer facing role, where all the customer wants is for you to cut them their check, dispute the inappropriate charge on their credit card, get them their widget, provide their medical records, or whatever it is, to me, putting your pronouns in indicates that you think the person who’s writing should be interested in you. And they’re not. And in that role, the company doesn’t pay you to have a relationship with the customers. It pays you to get them their widget. Clearly it’s reasonable to want to be addressed properly, but when you’re in a situation where your job is to provide a service to a customer that you will never deal with again, putting your pronouns at the end of your email signature could be considered to be far too personal for the role. In fact, in plenty of these situations, companies don’t have customer service reps even put their name. Just that you were assisted by employee ID number such and such. In fact, given the hostile environment nowadays over everything, and I don’t mean hostile in terms of culture wars, I mean just generally hostile, companies often do not have employees identify themselves for their own safety. So some dissatisfied giant telephone company customer can’t find you and your address on the internet and come and stalk you or whatever. so in some circumstances for your own protection, it’s better that the person on the receiving end of your comunications not even know your full name. Let alone your gender identity.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think that’s reading a lot into it and also talking about something that doesn’t represent most people’s work lives. Most people who use work email aren’t using it just to communicate with customers who they’ll never speak with again; they’re talking to colleagues and others who they’ll talk with more than once.

          Not including even a name with an email is a real outlier practice, not typical of most written communication.

          Sharing your pronouns really isn’t sharing much more about yourself than what’s already typically conveyed in an initial conversation; it’s just ensuring that info is correct.

          1. Mr Jingles*

            I write Mails to people I’ll never speak to ever again and the simple truth is: they just don’t care either way. They never read the signature if all they want is a ‘widget’. So that’s a strawman argument if I’ve ever seen one.

              1. Mr Jingles*

                That’s the exact opposite of what I’ve said.
                Why are you so invested in getting your point across?

                1. Indigo a la mode*

                  Deplplte, Mr Jingles was saying Don’t Believe…’s argument is balderdash. The two of you are actually of similar minds here. A good reminder of why it’s so important to be civil in your replies in this comment section.

            1. lunchtime*

              That whole response had a strong whiff of “Why do they have to rub everyone’s noses in it??!” about it.

              1. Rose*

                Sure does. Whenever someone brings up a totally different scenario where something would be ok (but what if there were no names or signatures?!?) I can only roll my eyes.

              2. Observer*

                Totally. And it’s stupid, because in this kind of context it doesn’t even give that kind of information.

                If someone puts “he/him/his” in his signature, all the tells me is that I now have the correct pronouns to use. It doesn’t tell me about his relationship to his gender in any way shape or form.

                1. Kk*

                  Exactly! And think how helpful this could have been if it started years ago for gender neutral names like Jaime or Austin, or in my case when having to email people from other countries where I have no idea of the name is generally masculine or feminine.

                  I went to a college with a very diverse faculty/staff base, which is great until you need to email someone who doesn’t have a Ph.d. and whom you’ve never met.

              3. whatchamacallit*

                This person sounds horrendous to deal with from a customer service perspective. I’ve worked in retail and I never thought anyone was SUPER invested in my life but generally expected to be treated as, you know, a human? And vice versa – online and in-person customer service interactions, I’ve never felt so incredibly cold towards the person on the other side of the transaction helping me?! No I don’t NEED to know the name of the person in the automated chat log or whatever but I’ve never seen their name and thought “wow, that’s presumptuous!” Besides, if you’re in a position where having an email signature is the norm, it sure seems like you’re communicating with at least some of the same people on a regular enough basis that it’s reasonable to expect they get your pronouns correct.

            2. chewingle*

              If they don’t care, then I guess it doesn’t matter one way or another if the employee puts his pronouns in there. So Alison’s advice stands.

            3. Quill*

              If your customers don’t care then they won’t read it, if they do, they will. And to be frank, setting up the signature takes less than five minutes, so if people want to include their pronouns alongside their fax number, I don’t think it should bother you.

            4. Marissa*

              There are instances I can think of in customer service that you would need to know who emailed to possibly follow up on that email. If it’s an info@ address then obviously that’s non specific. But there have been times I’ve dealt with someone over email and had to follow up over the phone. ‘I was emailing with Stacey and she told me…’

              Also though, that doesn’t matter. Finding one example in which you don’t think an email signature is necessary doesn’t have anything to do with the larger idea of promoting inclusion in the workplace. You’re actually right that no one’s gender identity should have any bearing on the conversation. That’s actually kind of the point- to foster an environment in which your identity as a she, he, or they is matter of factly disclosed up front to prevent any future misunderstanding or hurt.

              1. Simonthegreywarden*

                Also, I transmit my gender when I sign my name to any email — I have a name that is exclusively feminine — first and middle — and the nickname I go by is also feminine. I use she/her pronouns and while I’m a little on the NB scale (in my head I feel agendered, but my public persona is female). If I did not include my pronouns, I would still be telling people my gender just by signing my name. I know that isn’t the case for plenty of people, but this idea that we’re somehow forcing our gender identities down someone’s throat by including pronouns is so ridiculous.

              2. Self Employed*

                In most of the groups where I volunteer, everyone puts their pronouns in their Zoom display name and gives them when they introduce themselves because we want to normalize using your pronouns. Putting them in an email sig is the same idea. As someone else mentioned, it’s helpful for people with names that aren’t obviously gendered, not just people whose preferred pronouns don’t match their physical appearance or who use nonbinary pronouns.

                I remember when using “Ms.” was controversial, but now nobody expects adult unmarried women in a business setting to call themselves “Miss” as though they are little girls.

            5. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              My name is female in some languages and male in others, so even without me being on the rainbow, it’s helpful to point people to the right pronouns when I’m “disembodied” by email. You’re right that most people don’t care, and won’t read as far as the signature. However if they do have to complain to my manager about my failure to send them their widget on time, they’ll probably pull up the email to check exactly what I promised them, and make a note of my name and any other identifying information, to be cited while making the complaint. Not at all a straw dog.

              1. KaciHall*

                I’ve got a gender neutral given name. (Not Kaci, though that’s also gender neutral and some people insist that I must be a guy, even though to me the spelling is very feminine!) I started putting my middle, non ambiguous name on my email signature at one job, a decade ago, because it was irritating to explain every single person who called me that i WAS the person they were trying to reach, yes I’m a girl in IT.

                If I had known about putting pronouns after my name, I would’ve done it in a heartbeat.

                1. Nanani*

                  I feel that – I wonder how many “Dear Sirs” to our all-she/her team could have been avoided if I’d known about the pronoun idea 10 years ago.

              2. Malory Archer*

                I’m also a cis female with a gender neutral name. I used to get misgendered all. the. time. in college when I was emailing people I’d never met. I could laugh it off, but I can’t imagine how it would feel if I were trans or non-binary. I’m glad including pronouns in signatures is a thing now!

          2. the cat's ass*

            I REALLY appreciate pronoun inclusion; it’s progressive, thoughtful (you’re not misgendering anyone), and accurate.

            Thank you for everything you do, Alison.

            1. Lego Leia*

              I also find it SUPER helpful when dealing with an unknown person for the first time, period. Having worked witha female Jeff and a male Leslie, yeah, it would have be nice to know. Not to mention names that are simply not in my language, and I have zero idea if they are traditionally male or female.

            2. Ally McBeal*

              Yes! For me personally (a cis woman who was raised in a very conservative religious home) it’s incredibly helpful to have the reminder to reorient my speech/thought patterns to be more gender neutral. Every time I see questions like this one, I sit for a minute and imagine out a scenario, e.g. “If I am talking to a CSR on the phone and they give me a typically femme name/their voice sounds femme to me, that does NOT mean they are women and I should use they/them until they disclose their pronouns. Or just because someone’s name is Lacey, I should still use they/them until told otherwise.”

              I sometimes envy the many members of Gen Z who are raised with this understanding of gender, because it’s so much easier to be inclusive if you were raised in an inclusive environment.

          3. Museum Nerd*

            As someone who works in a customer-facing role, I absolutely have my pronouns listed in my signature. 90% of my day is fulfilling orders, registration for events, rote stuff. I have my pronouns listed so that the people who write in asking for a name update on their profile (or similar) know that they are communicating with someone who will take their request sensitively and in confidence. Also, I often deal with international customers. Pronouns help people address you correctly when your name doesn’t read as gendered. Its becoming a professional standard to have your pronouns listed, its just a helpful business practice.

            1. BigTenProfessor*

              One of the interesting things about this is how many cis people it helps. I’m a woman in a male-dominated field, and people assume I am a man via email ALL the time. The pronouns in my signature are useful information for my colleagues.

              1. SusanIvanova*

                The first half of my double-barrelled first name is a traditionally male spelling in English-speaking countries (the combo is traditionally female, which I am). I’ve been getting “Dear Mr Firsthalf” as far back as the 80s. Gosh no, I did not want to get car insurance from someone who knew I was under 25 but thought I was male.

              2. HQetc*

                Yeah, as with so many inclusion or accessibility things, they are vital for the folks they are meant for, but often very helpful for everyone else! (Think wheelchair ramps if you have a dolly of boxes, or captions if you hear just fine but are in an environment where you can’t turn sound on.)

              3. DarnTheMan*

                I used to have a field day with fielding requests from journalists and art critics at the museum I worked at; yes our head curator is a doctor and has a vaguely gender neutral name, no that does not mean you should default to assuming she’s a man, especially with the wealth of information available about her online. I swear there was one critic once who referred to her as ‘Mr [Surname]’ in no less than four emails, even though in all my responses I referred to her as ‘Dr’ and with she/her pronouns.

          4. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            I could have a lot of fun with this one.

            -Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est (ille, illum, illi).

            When I return to reality, I totally agree with Alison. I’ll also add that it’s not just about including the employees you have, it’s also about looking forward and evolving your environment so that the employees that join in the future always feel included from their first day.

              1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                Run “veni, vidi, vixi” through Google Translate if you want a good laugh.

              2. Jasper*

                I’d call it “the only good language is a dead language”, which can also be read two ways — there is one good language and they’re dead, or only dead languages can be good languages.

              3. Helenteds*

                I think in this case (ille, illum, illi) is just he, him, they/them (masculine plural), I don’t know how google translate got her from illi, illi is only feminine in the dative singular case (and it is the form for neuter and masculine dative singular as well).

                1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                  “Illi” should be “Illius,” if the format is nominative, accusative, genitive (cf. She/her/her, He/him/his). “Illi” is probably 25% attributable to a coffee deficiency and 75% attributable to a typing mistake.

                  Good catch!

        2. raktajino*

          I agree that for externally facing roles there’s a line between “I am a person not a robot I swear” and “here is my social security number please dox me.” Pronouns are…much further to the “not a robot” end of that scale than you’re making it sound. “he/him” is about 50% of the population and can be guessed by many first names, so it’s hardly a strong identifier.

          In any case, the letter writer didn’t indicate that personal safety was a factor in their discomfort, and Alison generally asks that we take the writer at their word. If the company had a policy of being super anonymous to the point that pronouns would be too revealing, then why would the first name even be allowed on the signature?

          Also I did a quick survey of my inbox: The vast majority of customer service emails in the first 100 had no name whatsoever. The ones that did have a first name were usually small companies that usually go for a personalized approach, a situation where a tone of reaching out and making clear you’re a human would be appreciated.

          1. Observer*

            I agree that for externally facing roles there’s a line between “I am a person not a robot I swear” and “here is my social security number please dox me.” Pronouns are…much further to the “not a robot” end of that scale than you’re making it sound.

            LOL. But very true.

        3. Septembergrrl*

          But by that logic, why sign emails in a customer-service role at all? I don’t get my widget any faster knowing the person I’m talking to is named Bob and they’re based in Wichita, either, so the same argument about relevance could be made. The safety issue is separate and not really germane to the issue at hand.

          1. Jasper*

            Many CS emails are indeed unsigned, or only signed generically (The Customer Service Team). But if you sign “Tom”, then it’s not less professional to include the pronouns.

        4. Forrest*

          I mean, it’s an email signature. I rarely care about your direct line telephone number, your full postal address, or the fact that your company won silver in the recent potato carving awards. It’s easy enough to ignore.

          But people like you who think any mention of queer and trans people’s existence is TOO MUCH INFORMATION are pretty hard to ignore, unfortunately.

          1. Observer*

            Does adding pronouns to signatures even do that, though? It wouldn’t change the answer of course.

            But I think a reality check is in order her. Someone putting “she/her/hers” in her signature is not telling you anything about her gender identity. I mean it’s not only trans people who put their pronouns in the signatures and queerness really doesn’t even come into play here.

            1. Edith Tita*

              They totally ARE telling you something about their gender identity. They’re telling you… their gender identity. (What they’re NOT telling you is the relationship b/w said identity & gender assigned at birth, which as you said doesn’t – or shouldn’t – come into play.)

              1. Lexica*

                They aren’t saying anything about their gender identity, they’re saying what their pronouns are. The two are not always directly related. Knowing that someone uses “he/him/his” doesn’t mean you know what his gender is. He could be male, genderfluid, nonbinary, agender but still using “he”, or a number of 0ther possibilities.

                1. JJ*

                  Thank you. I was starting to get stressed trying to work out how to phrase this. I do not personally have pronouns that reflect my gender identity. I do not mind people using she/her for me. Those are their words that they use to refer to me. I cannot currently think of any combination of words I would want to put in an email signature because that would imply there are pronouns that I consider mine for myself and there are not. Thinking about what I would choose if I was made to put pronouns in my signature makes me want to claw my own skin off. Partially because whatever I put would be interpreted as a definitive answer to my gender identity rather than ‘some words I am okay with you using to refer to me’. If I listed all the words I am ‘okay with’, people might assume I was being a jerk.

                  I generally think including pronouns is great and find it reassuring when I receive an email which includes them. I am not trying to discourage it. My own personal experience is just difficult.

                2. working through some things*

                  @JJ, thanks for saying this. I feel much the same way – casual pronoun disclosures are a great social norm! Just please don’t ask me, personally!

                  My office is starting to move towards a pronouns-in-signatures norm and I’ve been getting real anxious about it. Committing in this very public way to the pronouns people default to for me feels like locking up the closet and throwing away the key; I might be happier with they/them, but I have zero interest in having that conversation with my boss/co-workers when I still don’t really know how to describe myself. But I’m also worried about it getting common enough that not having them makes me look like a low-key transphobe.

                  I dunno. Like I said, I think it’s a good norm, I just hope it can stay optional, you know? But I’m not sure how that would work.

                3. DarnTheMan*

                  @JJ – ran out of nesting but I think this is totally valid and hopefully you will feel less stressed about it in the future. I do a lot of events with young people in minority communities so pronouns on name tags, in introductions, etc is quickly becoming the norm. There’s one young person who regularly attends our events who doesn’t have a particular set of chosen pronouns so they just make it clear that people can use whatever because they’re fine with it. It does throw some people but it seems like once people realize the young person in question genuinely won’t be offended by people just using whatever pronouns for them, they all adapt pretty quickly.

              2. BBA*

                Pronouns are gender-related, yes, but it’s not as straightforward as he=man, she=woman. In addition to,as Lexica pointed out, nonbinary, genderfluid, agender, or otherwise gender-nonconforming people possibly using he/him and/or she/her, there’s also a long history of women who are lesbians using he/him. And these are just a few examples.

                Pronouns and expression (“presenting” as, for example, a man or woman) may or may not line up with gender identity.

                Pronouns are really just pronouns.

            2. Koalafied*

              Transphobic people get their knickers in a bunch because even a cisgender person giving their pronouns is reminding them that trans people exist. They think if they refuse to acknowledge that trans people exist, they’ll just go away and nobody will be trans anymore, it’s only because cis gendered people who share pronouns are “encouraging them” that makes them refuse to go away. *vom*

              1. Let's Be Reasonable*

                Removed; there’s no name-calling in the reply you’re saying has name-calling in it. – Alison

                1. Let's Be Reasonable*

                  Okay, you could have just replied with that instead of deleting the comment. My comment did not violate any rules and it was much kinder than the one I responded to. This is a complicated issue, but any nuanced view that ever so slightly differs from the majority is deleted or dismissed. In a place where we’re supposed to be exchanging ideas, it’s just not helpful when only certain, narrow views can be expressed. It’s hypocritical and counterproductive to the idea of inclusion. My point was, many of us support the goal of inclusion and there are lots of ways to do so, but it’s not fair to be written off as transphobic just for not understanding or agreeing with the pronoun thing.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  There are lots of nuanced views on this page. But I don’t allow people to accuse other commenters of things they didn’t do, because that devolves quickly. (This doesn’t apply to you, but I also don’t allow transphobia, nor will I allow TERF or TERF-adjacent comments here because I’m not going to host that content in my space or on my dime. Moderation is about making choices about what you do and don’t want in your space, and I will always try to err on the side of not subjecting my readers to bigotry.)

            3. Lucy McGillicuddy*

              I think the LW thinking it’s unprofessional to include pronouns tells us that including pronouns isn’t yet normalized enough to trust that people are taking them for what they are.

              1. Womanaroundtown*

                It’s also so funny to me that they wouldn’t be “professional” because I’m in one of the more traditionally “professional” fields (attorney) and everyone has updated their email signatures to include pronouns with the exception only of our older and relatively technologically illiterate managing partners.

                1. NotAnotherManager!*

                  Our managing partner was first in line on pronouns in their signature – no idea of if they set it up or had IT do it for them. They wanted to establish it as normal, so they did their first and then announced the option to everyone else (sigs are locked down at my office so people can’t add their own inspirational quotes or other off-brand things, so the option to include them had to be added to the official block template).

                2. Joielle*

                  Same! It’s so normal here. A few years ago our HR sent around an email about adding pronouns to your email signature (instructions on how to do it, a website with more info about pronouns) and 99% of people did. Almost everyone I correspond with has pronouns in their email signature or Zoom/Webex/Teams display name.

                  I feel like our profession is usually the last to adopt new standards of professionalism, so once the lawyers are on board I think everyone is safe to assume it’s ok!

                3. JB*

                  Oh god, what a nightmare.

                  I do love enthusiastic allies but it seems like those of us who are pre-transition or closeted at work have been tossed in the trash. If the expectation at my job ever becomes that we ALL have to put pronouns in our signatures, I’m either going to have to out myself or misgender myself in every email.

              2. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

                In some parts of the US, including pronouns is absolutely seen as making a political statement.

            4. Forrest*

              Pronouns don’t necessarily tell you someone’s gender identity, but their inclusion in people’s bios, email signatures etc is absolutely because of the greater visibility of trans and non-binary people and their push for rights and liberation. So whilst all the benefits that other people have described are true (knowing how to address someone without having to guess based on their name), the pushback against including pronouns is absolutely about rejecting the proposition that trans people deserve rights, safety and liberation.

        5. Bagpuss*

          I think if the employer’s standard is to have people not identify themselves then the issue would be that this individual was giving his name and pronouns, not just that he is giving his pronouns.

          I don’t think that giving the pronouns ‘assumes interest’ any more than giving the name does. I mean, I don’t greatly care who deals with my widget order, but if I need to contact customer service again it’s useful to be able to say “I e-mailed last week and spoke to Frankie, he told me X”

          If the business choses to have e-mails etc. signed off by ‘Customer Service Department’ then that’s a business decision for them, but if they aren’t doing that then giving pronouns isn’t really significantly different to giving a name. After all, names ae often (but not always) indicators of gender, adding the pronouns just adds a bit of clarity to that.

        6. embertine*

          I disagree simply because pronouns will be assumed where they are not stated, and that’s precisely what people who put them in their sigs are trying to avoid. In most cultures we DO gender people automatically, based on name, voice, secondary sexual characteristics etc. The gendering is already happening, often wrongly for trans and enby people. Why not have a simple, neutral way to make sure it’s done right?

          1. Amethystmoon*

            An easy way would be for society to add new prefixes. For example, as a single woman, I often use Ms. + my name in forms when they ask. Maybe we need updated prefixes so people can just use those.

            1. The Other Victoria*

              There is a non-binary or non-gendered prefix: Mx (pronounced ‘mix’).

              That said, my prefix is Dr., so I need to keep she/her/hers in my signature.

              1. parsley*

                Mx also doesn’t actually tell you what a person’s pronouns are, just that they may not be he/him or she/her. Some nb people do use or are okay with binary pronouns, and others aren’t.

            2. embertine*

              Perhaps, although in my industry it would be considered very odd to refer to people as Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms/Mx, even in an email. Even to people considerably senior to me, we would only ever use first names.

          2. EPLawyer*


            Your comment is going to get lost in all the other comments on this subject but it is so SPOT ON.

            If you don’t put pronouns in your signature, ASSUMPTIONS will be made.

            1. embertine*

              Most cis people don’t think about it because we’re assumed to be the default. I like supporting my trans and enby friends by showing that I have thought about it, even if some dismiss it as virtue signalling.

          3. whingedrinking*

            There’s also the matter of working with people from other cultures and language backgrounds. A name may not be enough to infer someone’s gender if that name is unfamiliar to the reader. In my experience, people using their second language want very much to avoid making mistakes and giving offense; offering pronouns helps spare them embarrassment so they don’t have to guess.

        7. Darsynia*

          Some added context here: we as a society have gotten used to the idea that names and appearances signal gender identity. As such, we’re not ‘confronted’ by the information we’re assuming we’ve been given, because it’s typical of the world we’ve been living in the whole time.

          However, the truth is that names and appearances aren’t necessarily a good indicator of gender, and to those who find it dehumanizing for false assumptions to be made, this can hurt. There’s no reason why a small bit of information that helps inform the recipient and reassures the sender can’t be a new normal. To frame it as ‘you’re basically demanding I know this about you’ is missing that this is already a social norm to a certain extent.

          Many people who do not have concerns about how their own gender identity is presented by existing norms have taken it upon themselves to include pronouns in their lived spaces. This is to help normalize the practice, yes, but also helps to make the people for whom this is a huge help less noticeable, if that makes sense? Many people who find the inclusion of pronouns distasteful believe that because they think the only people who use them are the people who ‘need to,’ and seeing them is telling the viewer that they’re interacting with a trans or nonbinary person. This might be the source of an erroneous concern that preferred pronouns are ‘unprofessional.’

          Singling out people by gender identity is bad news for most workplaces, so if you can reframe the practice in your mind as the many protecting the few, and bringing the standard up for everyone else (as opposed to ‘forcing’ the viewer to think certain things about the sender), it might be less frustrating for you.

          1. bebemochi*

            I appreciate your reply because I was trying to decide whether, as a cis person, I should include my pronouns or if it would be seen as intrusive. I strive to be a good ally. I am adding them to my email signature now, thank you.

            1. Momma Bear*

              We have been encouraged to add our pronouns to Zoom meetings, the thought being that if it becomes normalized, then it will be easier for people who struggle with being misgendered. Cisgendered folk with unisex names being properly identified is just a side benefit.

              The real issue here is all the hue and cry about it being offensive…when it’s not. IMO if someone finds it offensive then the question that should be asked is why. If you find it more offensive for someone to specify how they want to be addressed because of their gender identity than someone changing their name/title due to marital/educational status then the problem is your discomfort with their gender identity and/or variations on gender identity. AAM has already addressed pronouns and new names and how to support an employee through a transition. OP should read through them.

              1. lazuli*

                Right. If you refer to your colleagues as “he” or “she” or “them” in normal conversation, rather than continually by their first names, then you’ve already accepted that using pronouns is acceptable and normal in business settings. So unless the OP is saying things like, “Chris wants to know when Chris’s order will be delivered to Chris,” then they’ve got no cause to complain here.

            2. LunaLena*

              I added them to mine just now. I didn’t add them before because my name makes my gender fairly obvious so I didn’t think I needed it, but it should absolutely be normalized.

            3. iglwif*

              I’m cis, and I started putting my pronouns in my email sig years ago after a trans coworker pointed out to me that when only people whose gender presentation is read as “confusing” (their word for other people’s attitude toward their appearance) are asked about their pronouns, the effect is the opposite of inclusive.

              Kind of the same reason that even though I’m a cis woman married to a straight cis dude, I use the words “husband” and “spouse” and “partner” interchangeably instead of always “husband”: I’ve been told by other queer people whose marriages/partnerships are less “straight-looking” than mine that the more “spouse” and “partner” are commonly used, the less singled out they feel.

              So yeah, go for it!

              1. Simonthegreywarden*

                RE: spouse/husband/partner — it does help; I use husband for the one I’m legally married to and partner for the one I’ve been with longer, but if people use them interchangeably, I often don’t have to go into A Whole Thing about why we are a 3-parent family.

          2. embertine*

            Excellent stuff Darnysia. The argument that using pronouns forces recipients to think about your gender identity is like saying that mentioning a same sex partner forces people to think about your sex life; if reading “they/them” makes someone imagine your genitals, the problem doesn’t lie with you.

          3. Edith Tita*

            One of the reasons I think we (cos people) should all include pronouns is also because if only trans people do it this wil basically be singling them out/identifying them as trans when they perhaps don’t want to be. We want to normalise inclusion of pronouns, yes, but we also -and more importantly IMO – we want to normalise being trans.

          4. Womanaroundtown*

            Everyone at my company uses pronouns in their signature if they know how to change their signature (i.e. our 73 year old managing partner had difficulty and told his assistant to just let it go because he’s retiring so soon anyway). We’re attorneys.

        8. RyanA*

          I’m not sure where you’re getting the idea that it assumes intent on the part of the recipient. What if the intent was to just be inclusive and to communicate that they are accepting of all genders so people need not feel uncomfortable or feel like they have to hide that part of themselves when they talk to this person? What if it’s not any more overt than that? I also disagree very much that the professionalism of putting pronouns in your signature depends on the job; I feel like whether a job is customer facing or not, a person has a right to not be misgendered and to do what they need to in order to make that happen. Also, I don’t care whether a person interacts with someone one time ever, or 10 times a day – each person has a right to not be misgendered.

          (I also say this as a cisgender female named Ryan who is constantly misgendered and have been my entire life. There’s merit to letting someone know ahead of time so that they’re not mortified when they meet you because you’re going through a phase where you’re tired of telling people, or correcting people only to have them continue to misgender you, or do that ridiculous backpedal-apology-making-it-about-them-when-all-they-have-to-do-is-correctly-gender-me thing that trans and non-binary people get all the time that’s totally effing exhausting and I don’t know how they just don’t totally wig out on people. By the way, an email signature fixes all of that.)

          1. Chinook*

            I think that, if it is framed as even CIS gender folk get misgendered and this will help everyone, then there will be less pushback. Since this was not even considered as option for the Jordans and Taylors of the world previously, I can understand that it feels like someone trying to push an issue rather than make clear conversation easier.

            As for the OP’s concern, it makes sense if it is a company that has a standardized signature block that must be used by all employees. In that case, the man with the pronouns is defying company policy to push an issue. If Margaret doen the hall can’t use her preferred name of Maggie in her address block, then it is understandable that pronouns are a no go.

            So, how to take AAM’s advice? Appoach the people who approved the signature blockprotocal (either IT or branding manager, who knows) and make the case for it being standardized across the company for pronouns to be required in addressblocks not just for inclusion but also to avoid the embarrassment of finding out Jordan looks nothing like you expected.

            As for those who wonder why she shouldn’t just demand it for inclusion purpose – you get better buy in if you don’t make people feel judged or that this is about following a trend and instead present it as was a way to solve an existing problem that helps everyone.

            1. Koalafied*

              Seriously, re: Jordans and Taylors – and not just for their own benefit! It’s embarrassing to realize you’ve been misgendering someone accidentally because you assumed Ashley was a girl’s name, and I suspect even these gender essentialists would be embarrassed up accidentally misgender a cisgender person. They just want to preserve their ability to intentionally misgender trans persons more than they want to spare themselves the embarrassment of accidentally misgendering a cis person, which… really says something.

            2. Roci*

              I agree with your main point. Others have pointed out that not everyone wants to share their pronouns, including trans and nonbinary and agender people, so it’s probably not best to make the field required.

              Also I dislike the idea that we should use the rhetorical argument “this even helps cis people with gender neutral names.” There probably would be less pushback against that, because bigots value cisgender people and their opinions, but not trans/nonbinary/agender people’s feelings. I don’t think it’s effective to argue for minority rights by showing how it would benefit the majority; that just further entrenches stigma against the minority. Maybe it could be a last-ditch effort towards an unapologetic bigot whom you can’t convince to care about minorities’ feelings, but at that point you might as well fire them/remove them from your social circle.

        9. Molly Coddler*

          well you may not care about the human behind the email, but i do. and even if i didn’t they’re not existing for you and your judgement here is unwelcome. i bet many people are unhappy after every interaction with you and it has nothing to do with their or your pronouns or emails.

            1. Don't believe everything you read*

              You know, all I did was prose 2 scenarios in which a company might legitimately believe it was unprofessional, or even unsafe to include pronouns. In response to commenters who asked point blank why anyone would ever think it was unprofessional. I did not say I agreed with these scenarios, but that they might be reasonable possibilities in certain industries. In construction, in which I work, it is common to hear “We hired you from the neck down, now go and work and don’t make any more suggestions!” Which has nothing to do with pronouns, but a general attitude difference between industries.

              I find it amazing that the commentariat here, which prides itself on being civil, has found it necessary to make so may ad hominem attacks on me for this post. I am going back to enjoying Alison’s answers, and skipping the comments. For “woke” people, many of you sure are nasty.

              1. Don't believe you*

                All you did was play devil’s advocate, because it pleased you to attack the practice. Don’t play the innocent here. You might want to do some reflecting on why that was your immediate response and why you felt the need to share it here when it was not helpful, relevant or meaningful.

                1. Simonthegreywarden*

                  And as I have heard/read before — You don’t need to play devil’s advocate, he’s got enough of them as is.

              2. kt*

                In all the industries I know in which it’s unsafe to use a name you just pick a fake name for work, so why wouldn’t I just assume the pronouns are fake for work too? I understand you’re upset because you feel attacked, but it’s just an odd hill to stand on or die on, given the number of friends I have who were always “Staci” at their waitress jobs whatever their real name. If you’ve got to fake an identity does it really matter what identity?

              3. tinyhipsterboy*

                You were dismissive and repeated tired talking points that end up further marginalizing trans people. Queer people are often told to hide their identities no matter what, whether for legitimate safety (potentially violent family members or communities), supposed safety (“I don’t want you to get hurt”/”You got hurt, why didn’t you just act more normal?”), or discomfort (“I don’t mind gay people, I just don’t like it when they shove it in my face”). That’s before we get into the specifics of pronouns helping trans people or even cis people.

                We could talk about the merits of playing devil’s advocate, but if you’re going to point out theoretical reasons, you need to be pretty clear that you’re just spitballing, not agreeing with them. Furthermore, when so much bad faith attacks on minorities look similar to your post, it’s not unreasonable to get pushback. Characterizing “don’t be transphobic” as somehow nasty is nasty in and of itself.

        10. SW*

          This is kind of a wild response to read as someone who has actually done the work you’re describing; for a number of years my job was to be the person you emailed about your order and with whom you might only have one or two interactions with. People often get really embarrassed when they misgender the people they’re writing to, especially when English is not their first language. Many white Americans might be rude to the people who help them, but that’s by no means a worldwide standard.
          I’ve been out as a they/them user for 5 years now at work; the people who will care will care, and the people who don’t will ignore it. This is concern trolling and is not actually helpful.

          1. Observer*

            Many white Americans might be rude to the people who help them, but that’s by no means a worldwide standard.

            I realize that you’ve probably dealt with a LOT of rude people in the job. But I’ll point out that this has nothing to do with “white Americans”. This is NOT standard among white Americans, and it’s FAR from unheard of in other cultures either, to say the least.

          2. Maggie*

            Lol I work with customers throughout the entire world and I can absolutely assure you that treater customer service people rudely is not exclusive to white Americans

        11. doreen*

          I get emails all the time from people I will speak to again but whose pronouns I don’t need to know.* That doesn’t mean that no one they email needs to know their pronouns and it certainly doesn’t mean I get offended or think it’s unprofessional for them to be included in the signature.

          *in speaking to them , the pronouns are ” you, your, yours” and speaking about them is pretty much restricted to ” As per the below email from X”

        12. lailaaaaah*

          Lots of info in a signature assumes interest- and some recipients will be interested! For instance, a colleague or someone looking to build a relationship might be glad to know that someone with an ambiguously gendered name (say, Sam or Alex) uses a certain set of pronouns so they don’t embarrass themselves by calling them something else later, whether the person is trans or no. It’s hardly overshare, and is definitely part of a professional signature. If you don’t like it, just ignore it and move on!

          1. Momma Bear*

            There were two Terrys in a previous organization and I was very glad that someone clued me in which was a man and which was a woman. People mixed them up all the time, which is terrible if you are asking someone for program approval. Having pronouns in the sig block would have been very helpful. I ended up putting a post it note with their last names on my computer so I would remember.

        13. JT*

          This perspective, that all the widget-wanted cares about is getting their widget, is steeped in privilege. As a non-binary person, if I want my widget and I receive and email from a nameless/de-personalized customer service rep, fine, that’s cool. BUT. If I receive an email from a person who has their pronouns in their email, then I’m happy about getting my widget AND I think way more highly of the company because they are progressive and inclusive, and I’m much more likely to recommend the organization and shop there first in the future.

          And to the cis allies who have thought that adding their pronouns to their signature might be overstepping: PLEASE DO NOT THINK THAT. If only trans/queer folks add their pronouns, it’s still an out-of-the-ordinary act – there’s just not enough of us to make it a normal thing. But when our cis allies do it, too, the process becomes normalized AND shows trans/queer folks that you are a safe person. Everyone should add their pronouns to their signatures.

          1. HM*

            Re: “everyone should add their pronouns to their signatures” – I’ve heard the statement from people who know/suspect that they are trans/NB but are not currently ready to be out at work, or who only recently came out at work, that the requirement to announce your pronouns/put them in your signature can be hurtful. The idea being, it’s one thing if people are misgendering you because they’re making an assumption based on your name, appearance, etc; it’s another thing if your only options are “actively instruct others to misgender you every time you send an email” or “come out immediately to everyone you work with regardless of whether you feel safe”.

            I (cis) personally do put pronouns in my work email signature and want it to be common and normalized, but I’d be concerned, because of the above, about making it mandatory.

            1. Working*

              Thanks for posting this, HM. I don’t currently include pronouns on emails etc because of a friend who had this difficulty. My friend’s organisation introduced a policy that required everyone to state their pronouns, but at the time, my friend wasn’t ready to do so.
              My friend was (and is) having some changes in gender identity, and my friend is not ready to declare pronouns.

              1. HM*

                Right?! Like, let’s say you’re nonbinary, they/them pronouns, and use a name that’d be unremarkable for a cis man or woman (Jordan, Kris, Sky, Sam…). Saying you HAVE to put your pronouns in your signature means you HAVE to announce that you’re nonbinary to everyone you email. Just not feeling like outing yourself to THAT customer (or THAT distant coworker in a remote office) at THAT moment? Sorry, it’s mandatory!

                1. PIU she/her/hers*

                  Absolutely should not be mandatory, but that is why it is “pronouns in use” and not “preferred pronouns.” One can use one set of pronouns in this environment (i.e., at work) and a different set of pronouns in a different environment (among friends) and still a different set in a third environment (with grandparents). Whatever one is comfortable with in that situation are the “pronouns in use.”

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Where are you getting that it’s mandatory? No one (that I’ve seen) in this discussion has argued for that; to the contrary, people have explained it’s optional.

        14. PIU she/her/hers*

          I appreciate the effort you put into your well constructed argument. The reality is, the more places people state their pronouns, the more your normalize the concept of Pronouns in Use, the safer it is in every environment for people to be specific. Even where it “makes no sense,” state your Pronouns in Use, and ask for others. Anything that makes it part of daily life is a great thing.

        15. LimeJello*

          For what it’s worth, I agree with you. To me, adding pronouns to your email signature would come across as navel-gazing. Admittedly, though, I work in a notoriously cut throat industry – I’ve had bosses call me by the wrong name for MONTHS because I was junior enough that they just couldn’t find the time to care what my name is. At least in my industry, the presumption that anyone would care about your gender identity would be out of sync with the culture. It’s not even that identity itself is an issue; most people are very socially liberal and wouldn’t bat an eye if they knew you were, e.g., trans. It would just come across oddly, because in my industry, nobody really cares about who you are or how you feel, just get the work done.

          However, I’m willing to accept that I’m am outlier, because finding this blog has been eye opening for me (I had never heard of PIPs! In my industry, you’re just summarily fired). It seems that most industries have a much softer touch than what I’m used to.

          1. pancakes*

            Putting pronouns in signatures isn’t strictly about announcing one’s gender identity, though – it’s also about reducing the number of times people unintentionally misgender one another. Surely you can understand that even if you don’t care to think about your own gender identity for even a moment, people who correspond with you might be uncomfortable to realize they’d been misgendering you? Sparing other people needless embarrassment underlies a lot of behavior broadly considered good manners.

            1. Observer*

              You are right. But it sounds like LimeJello has worked in places where basic good manners are considered a waste of time.

          2. fhqwhgads*

            Here’s an example of cis people who may find it useful to put their pronouns in their signature, having nothing to do with allyship (not that I’m opposed to the ally reason, but for anyone who finds it “too personal” or whatever other argument might be made)

            Taylor, Jordan, Alex, Chris, Madison, Dallas, Dakota, Brooklyn, Terry, DJ, MJ, PJ, Les, Pat, Ash, Mackenzie, Dara, Kelly, Lee, Sam, Benny, Frankie, Mickey, Angel, Cam, Rory, Joey, and countless others would also prefer not to be misgendered. Finding it unpleasant to be misgendered is not a problem limited to trans and nonbinary folk. It’s universal. So why shouldn’t everyone state their pronouns?

            If you don’t care to get it right for anyone, then you’re not treating anyone like a human. People who do intend to treat others like humans have useful information for doing so. “My industry doesn’t treat people like humans” isn’t really a great starting point.

            1. Observer*

              “My industry doesn’t treat people like humans” isn’t really a great starting point.


              But very, very true.

            2. LimeJello*

              I don’t disagree that it can be useful! I’m just pointing out that if you’re a relatively junior person in an industry that refuses to treat people like humans (which is a succinct and accurate way of stating what I was trying to say, so thank you for that), you should be aware that including pronouns in your signature would come across oddly and would likely not work in your favor. I’m not defending the industry, and if someone is willing to take the personal risk involved in being a trailblazer, I think that’s admirable, but I don’t think a manager would be out of line to at least point out the possibility.

              1. pancakes*

                That’s quite a departure from, “To me, adding pronouns to your email signature would come across as navel-gazing.”

            3. CookieWookiee*

              Amen. I have a similar issue, My office is in the US, and we deal with a lot of international companies. Many contact people do not have first names which are, to English speakers, obviously (traditionally) masculine or feminine. This makes the salutation part of related correspondence tricky. (I’ve repeatedly asked my office to at least include a “preferred honorific” space on the forms submitted to our office from said companies, but alas.)

              If I don’t know offhand, I try to Google the name to see if it’s usually masculine or feminine. It often doesn’t help, because many seem to be gender neutral. So yes, I am all for including pronouns and/or honorifics wherever applicable.

          3. Elle by the sea*

            Yep. In tech, unless you work for big corporations where there is a lot of hype about social justice, the majority of people still think of it as navel gazing. But it’s changing and this change shouldn’t be discouraged.

            But honestly, apart from expressing your solidarity to transgender and nonbinary people, including your pronouns can be very practical. Especially if you have a name that is not obviously male or female or if the perception of that name differs across cultures.

            One of my native languages doesn’t express gender and only a gender-neutral pronoun is used to describe everyone. That’s the language I always use to talk to my parents. So, I used to have a lot of trouble with pronouns as a child and often mixed them up (and still do). I always find it fascinating how much it matters in English.

          4. char*

            Okay, but I assume that even in your industry, they “care” enough about people’s gender identity that they aren’t regularly calling cis people by the wrong pronouns. People might mistakenly call David “Daniel”, but they probably won’t be calling him “she”.

            If your industry does indeed just call everyone by random pronouns all the time willy-nilly, then okay, I guess wanting to be called by the right pronoun really would be out of sync with the culture. But I doubt that’s what’s happening.

        16. Tisiphone*

          Once upon a long time ago, women writing letters, especially business letters, would sign their name and put in parentheses (Mrs.) or (Miss) so that the responder knows which one to use for the reply. Today, with Ms. available to us and more use of Dear Joan Smith formats, we don’t see that anymore.

          The format is useful for pronouns, and now the responder knows how to address the reply. Pat Smith (they/them) isn’t going to be Mr. or Ms. Smith.

          Whether a company includes a name or not is up to the company, but if a name is provided, I see no issue with including pronouns. It’s very much like signing off as

          Manager of Widgets Inc, Centerville Office
          Joan Smith (Miss)

          1. OyHiOh*

            Oh yes, flashback to 9th grade Keyboarding class, of which half the semester was learning how to format business and academic documents. This was early 90’s, with a typing textbook that was probably 10 or 15 years old by then. I’d forgotten about the First Last (Ms) convention until you mentioned it.

            I’ve been considering how include pronouns in my email signature and other work communications.
            Short version basically that my org has a governing board that is conservative and rooted in good ole boys privilage but we work in a sector that is increasingly populated by women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ people. Old school business communication format is probably the way to go.

          2. Anon4This*

            So I’m old enough that I was taught Ms. is for unmarried adult women only, so when writing to strangers I still struggle over whether I should uses Mrs. or Ms. Either way I have a 50/50 chance of offending the person if I guess wrong on whether they are married or not. And even though it’s totally irrational I personally get a *tiny* bit offended if someone refers to me as Ms- even though I know they are playing the same guessing game.

                1. Simonthegreywarden*

                  It has changed, though I can’t point exactly to when — I was taught as you were, but by the time I was sending out cover letters in college, they taught us to use Ms. as the counterpoint to Mr.

            1. Observer*

              Well, you can stop getting offended. The prefix doe unmarried women is MISS. Ms is the term used for ANY adult woman, married or not.

              1. TardyTardis*

                Although it makes reading “The Curious Case of M. Valdemar” by Poe (I believe) a little different, what’s wrong with the abbreviation M. as a non-gendered honorific? Honestly asking.

                1. Indigo a la mode*

                  I’ve only ever seen M. used to abbreviate Monsieur, but I’m definitely a fan of the idea of a completely non-gendered honorific!

            2. SwishyFins*

              My bank/insurance company always calls me “Mrs SwishyFins” whenever I call them. It drives me bonkers because, although I’m married, I didn’t take my husband’s name. Mrs SwishyFins is my stepmom; I’m either Ms SwishyFins or Dr SwishyFins (I have my PhD). I am definitely not Miss, as I am married (and I hated Miss when I was single—it just feels so old-fashioned to me). I don’t know why they don’t have that as an option in their customer service platform or whatever they use. And I don’t want to make a fuss to the customer service agent, as they are just doing their job (and besides this one issue, they provide amazing customer service).

              1. iglwif*

                Are they, by any chance, French?

                Because French (still) does not have a marriage-neutral honorific for women, so francophones tend to use “Mme” for adult women as the default (and to translate it as “Mrs” rather than “Ms” when they are speaking English).

                At least, that’s been my experience with francophone customer service folks here in Canada!

            3. NotAnotherManager!*

              I cringe a little bit when I am addressed as “Mrs.” because whether or not I’m married should not dictate how I’m addressed, particularly in a professional context. (I’ve been married nearly 20 years and have always preferred Ms. to Miss or Mrs., though I am also Southern, and we’re big on the Mr. FirstName and Miss FirstName for unrelated adults, married or not.)

              Honestly, the kids’ schools are the only places that routinely use Mrs. (and refer to me by my spouse’s name instead of mine, despite me coming first on all the registration paperwork and my signing my actual name to emails). One of my older child’s teachers told them a few years ago it was “disrespectful” to her husband to call her Ms. LastName rather than Mrs. LastName, and I’m still annoyed about that.

          3. Roci*

            This is what I did when I worked overseas with customers and clients whose titles were important to get right. Often we couldn’t guess the gender from their name nor they ours, so we would include (Mr.) or (Ms.) in our own signature.

        17. Observer*

          I think the reason that someone might consider pronouns unprofessional in an email signature is because it assumes interest on the part of the recipient.
          But if you’re in a customer facing role, where all the customer wants is for you to cut them their check, dispute the inappropriate charge on their credit card, get them their widget, provide their medical records, or whatever it is, to me, putting your pronouns in indicates that you think the person who’s writing should be interested in you.

          I don’t know who you have been interacting with, but this idea is fairly nonsensical. It’s true that when I talk to a customer service rep, I have no more interest in forming a relationship with them than they have in forming one with me. But I *DO* want to know enough to be able to identify them and to refer to them correctly!

          So say I get an email from Jan saying “I’m so sorry, this is not something my department handles. Please reach out to the Bloopies department and tell them Blah, bloo.” I want to be able to the Bloopies department and say “I got this email from Jan and ???? said that you need to process the order”. Nothing to do with “personal relationships” or caring about someone’s gender identity and everything to do with being able to refer back to a transaction or interaction CORRECTLY and POLITELY.

          Or does politeness not matter in transactional situations?

          In fact, in plenty of these situations, companies don’t have customer service reps even put their name. Just that you were assisted by employee ID number such and such.

          That’s a total outlier. Even there, it could be useful to know a person’s pronouns, but I can see that if you are going to refer to people as though they are robots, it might not matter so much.

          1. disconnect*

            “I got this email from Jan and ???? said that you need to process the order”

            “they” works fine in this context. If it sounds grammatically awkward, keep doing it until it starts to blend a bit. All language is made up, which means those grammar rules are also made up, and you can help to reprogram them.

            1. Observer*

              That assumes that Jan’s gender pronoun is actually they. If it’s not, that’s misgendering.

              What I really don’t understand is why it is SUCH a big deal to acknowledge that there is actually a PERSON at the other end of the transaction. So much so that it’s better to misgender people than to dare put a pronoun into a signature block. Because doing THAT is “demanding personal attention” and “interest” on the part of your correspondent.

              Put the pronoun in, or don’t. But stop pretending that doing so presents a huge amount of highly personal information that is inappropriate to share in the workplace.

              1. Simonthegreywarden*

                Warning: Pedant approaching.

                While ‘they’ is a gender pronoun, it is also the closest that English has to a gender neutral singular pronoun and has been used throughout history as such (you can Google ‘Shakespeare use of singular they’). Plenty of people have been taught that the singular they is incorrect, but if you do not know gender, why default to ‘he’ when you could just go with ‘they’ and have a wider umbrella?

            2. Simonthegreywarden*

              Or “I got this email from Jan, who said you need to process the order” if singular-they is just too foreign (though it shouldn’t be).

          2. tinyhipsterboy*

            This! It takes no effort to be kind, and it helps customer service reps have a way better day. Besides, if you’re not going to interface with the rep again or reference them at all, you can easily just ignore the pronouns (or the signature as a whole).

        18. Anon For Today*

          A person’s gender identity or preferred pronouns don’t matter to me one bit, but I find nothing wrong or unprofessional about a person supplying them to me. If anything, it saves me from accidentally misgendering that person, which is actually more important to me than that person’s gender identity.

        19. tamarack and fireweed*

          If that’s your attitude, then their name would be “inappropriate” information as well, or their exact job title.

          You may be preferring to have customer service issues handled by automata rather than human beings, but given they are human beings, they come with a very minimum of information about themselves. This is simply so that if you get handed over from an initial contact with Pat to an escalation with Sam, you can with confidence write to Sam “when I described to Pat that my muwomble deformiated, she recommended remauling the rufflecop. However…”.

        20. Tara*

          This feels like a bit of a strawman arguement to me to be quite honest. I don’t see how including one’s pronouns at the end of an email harms a customer service interaction. Its just a matter of good manners like including one’s full name and job title. The addition of pronouns is relatively new, but codes of conducts and ideas of what constitutes good manners evolve as society changes. If you don’t think its appropriate or necessary on your part, no one is forcing you to sign off in that manner – but conversly neither do you have the moral authority to decide this is an inappropriate action for others to take.

        21. Alf*

          I so agree with this response. I recently received an email from an employee of a top-tier accounting firm on the other side of the world regarding an audit they were conducting of a customer. He included his personal pronouns at the end of the email. I have not met the person, nor will I ever meet the person, and I have no issue with what people chose to identify as. But by specifically outlining his pronouns it told me something personal about him that I didn’t need to know in the course of a business relationship. By including the pronouns at the end, it turned a business email into a personal email.

      2. MK*

        Apart from the inclusion aspect, pronouns can be useful when communicating with people from other cultures, when a name might not give you a clue about the other person’s gender. About 10 years ago I spent days trying to figure out whether an email from a Virpi X was from a man or woman, and ended up writing a carefully worded response without any reference to gender.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Very much this. My field is quite old-fashioned in many ways, so I’m always grateful to see pronouns when I’m doing international work.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            I’ve also started to put a ‘pronounced XYZ’ on the bottom of my email signatures after noticing that several of our overseas staff were doing the same for their names. And to be fair if you try to pronounce my surname phonetically you’ll get it massively wrong.

            (It’s been enlightening how wrong I’ve been saying certain Chinese names)

            I wonder if making the pronouns bit as commonplace as ‘here’s how to pronounce X’ is a future goal? Then there’s no ‘political’ slant to it, it’s just how things are said.

            1. Anon4This*

              I would love it if people would put how to pronounce their names in their email signatures or in meetings. If I don’t know how to pronounce someone’s name (generally in a meeting where I’ve never met the person before) I’ll ask, but I also worry that stopping and asking is patronizing? Like, I’ve never heard a BIPOC person ask “How do you pronounce Beth?” even though it may be just as foreign to them as “Baanke” is to me.

              1. Indigo a la mode*

                I think asking is respectful. You certainly won’t be the first person to ask, if they have a name that’s unfamiliar to people from different cultures or heritages. Better to ask and get it right than awkwardly work around it or get it wrong forever. One way you could solve this in meetings is to have everyone introduce themselves (or their team) at the beginning of the agenda.

                I think some of this awkwardness you’re feeling might come from feeling like you’d only ever be asking BIPOC, but to be fair, lots of “white” names are difficult to anyone not from that heritage. That’s why Saoirse Ronan introduces herself as “Saoirse, like inertia.” That’s definitely how I (a white American) learned to pronounce her name, haha.

                1. Simonthegreywarden*

                  I teach a lot of Bosnian students, either adults returning for education or their children. The adults are all refugees, their children may have been born in the States but have traditional Bosnian names. I always ask and try to remember the pronunciation ‘keys’ such as how j is used etc. While ‘white’, those names are often as tricky for me since I don’t have all the phonemes as the names of some of my students from Liberia or Nigeria.

        2. Whyblue*

          In my country, “Dana” would be a female, so when the customer service rep at our vendor was a “Dana” with a rather male voice, I didn’t think much of it and pictured a chain-smoking, middle-aged lady. Two years later I happened to see a team picture and “Dana” turned out to be a 6-foot-something guy. Still cringing at the memory and hoping I didn’t call him “her” in any of our many emails and conversations. I really would have appreciated a pronoun in the signature.

          1. Darsynia*

            I’m in what is essentially a book study group with both a male and a female ‘Dana,’ even though it’s only 12-18 people at any given time!

            You’ve got me wondering if the rep was unbothered, or if their workplace culture found correcting such innocent mistakes ‘unprofessional,’ though.

          2. Quill*

            Had a similar mistake with a “Laverne” and several others like “Shirley” and “Laurel” and “Chris”

          3. Tisiphone*

            For extra fun and games, I’ve seen emails sent by others with unambiguous female names (think Mary and Charlotte) in the TO line using “Gentlemen” as a salutation.

          4. Justme, The OG*

            My kiddo has a gender neutral name. I love her doctor, but the office staff sucks. “What is he coming in for?” “SHE just needs a checkup” and it happens every year.

            1. Momma Bear*

              We have a gender neutral named child as well who is often misgendered, not just by doctors. It partially goes back to respect – it is respectful to know how to address someone.

            2. Observer*

              That’s just ridiculous! I mean these people KNOW this kid’s gender. What on earth is wrong with them?!

              1. PIU she/her/hers*

                I understand what you are saying.

                Please remember that pronouns in use are not tied to gender (or gender presentation). Is there frequently a correlation? Yes. Does it have to be? Absolutely not.

          5. Bookwyrm*

            I discovered Dana could also be a male name when someone from Congressman Dana Rohrabacher’s office called me and I mistakenly used “The Congresswoman.” Whoops. I did not typically work with the Hill, I was managing a large guest list where all members were listed as “The Honorable so-and-so” and I didn’t have an immediate indication either way…

          6. NotAnotherManager!*

            We had a male Shannon, Dana, Kelly, and Stacey in my high school class. Dana was the chain-smoking, leather jacket and death metal type; Kelly looked like he walked out of a country club brochure. We actually had two Stacey Joneses – one was male, the other was female.

        3. Kathlynn (Canada)*

          I’ve known people of both genders named Manpreet, as well as Kelly among other gender neutral names. (I also had a relative who dated someone with the same name as they had. I’m pretty sure I was not mature enough at 5? Not to say “isn’t that weird”)

          1. Christmas Carol*

            I knew a Patrick Smith in high school who married a Patricia. We call them Pat Smith Squared.

            1. pancakes*

              The male writer Evelyn Waugh’s first wife was a woman also named Evelyn. Their friends referred to them as He-Evelyn and She-Evelyn.

              1. ErinWV*

                My husband knows two people named Cory/Corey who married each other. Friends call them Boy Cory and Girl Corey.

              2. Junior Assistant Peon*

                I always assumed Evelyn Waugh was a woman! I never knew that name could sometimes be male like Ashley, Leslie, Lindsay, etc.

              3. NotAnotherManager!*

                My family has a set of friends who are both Kim Taylor. (She’s Kimberly, but I can’t recall what his Kim is short for.) We call them Mr. Kim and Ms. Kim.

              1. Code Monkey, the SQL*

                My husband worked with a married couple : Chris and Kris, and worse, both of them coached, so they couldn’t be Coach [lastname] and Mr/Mrs [lastname]

                I got it wrong a couple times.

              2. EchoGirl*

                I had a coworker who was one of a couple like that and they married while I was working there. For awhile, it was a running joke in the office (started by her, so we knew it was okay with her) that instead of changing her last name after she got married, she was changing her FIRST name and would thereafter be known as “Chris”, i.e. the name she already went by.

        4. Bagpuss*

          And it goes both ways – my name is one which is *to an English speaker* pretty obviously female, but I wouldn’t assume that that is immediately obvious to someone who speaks English as a second language, whether or not they are living in the same country as me (I don’t routinely deal with overseas contacts, in my professional capacity) especially as my name is one which is fairly uncommon, particularly among people of my own generation or younger.

          1. EvilQueenRegina*

            My SO has a name that, in his country of origin, is pronounced one way and usually used as a male name, but in my country of origin is more commonly pronounced a different way and used as a female name. There have been times when people have only ever seen the name written down and assumed he was a woman.

            1. londonedit*

              My mother’s name is one that’s spelt with one combination of letters at the end for the traditionally female version, and with a different combination of those letters for the traditionally male version. In the UK, it’s one way round, but in the USA, it’s the other way round. So when she lived in the US for a few years, she suddenly found that people were addressing her as ‘Mr’ on the phone, or commenting that she had a ‘man’s name’ or they were ‘expecting a man’. Even between English-speaking countries, there are differences in names that can make knowing someone’s pronouns useful.

              1. Zephy*

                Sometimes it’s the exact same name that’s more popular among one gender or the other on either side of the pond – like Robin, for instance. Most Robins in the US are women; most Robins in the UK are men.

                1. many bells down*

                  I named my daughter Rowan, and although we’re in the US where it isn’t a common name for either gender, she gets called “he” all the time.

                2. Jasper*

                  The only Rowan people tend to have heard of is Atkinson, I suspect. Totally ignoring The Rowan off of Anne McCaffrey.

            2. allathian*

              Yeah, there are names like Andrea, which is a male name in Italy but a female name in many other countries, including the Nordics and German-speaking countries. Kari is a male name in Finland but a female one in Norway. I’m in Finland, and at a former job I had a male coworker whose name was Kari and his wife was Norwegian and also called Kari. They’re pronounced differently, though.

        5. Buttercup*

          I have a gender-neutral name that reads as male, but I’m a cis woman and use she/her pronouns. The number of people who have used he/him or called me Mr. Buttercup in work emails before meeting me in person, and teachers who corrected me when I responded to my own name during role call, and even junk mail addressed to Mr. Buttercup, is astronomical. Pronouns in my email signature would save me no end of grief! Also, side note, I tend to refuse to do business with any company that can’t be bothered to figure out it should be Ms. Buttercup, or even that honorifics are absolutely unnecessary on their junk mail.

          1. Esmeralda*

            Put “Dr.” in front of your name and you will be he/him/his even with a stereotypically female name often enough to be amused / annoyed.

              1. Aphra*

                It would be a much more courageous (or foolhardy) person than I who dared assume anything about Esme Granny) Weatherwax. Nope, not me!

          2. GemmaBeth*

            This actually seems quite useful, I’ve often considered putting my initials + last name in my email so that people might not automatically know I’m a woman, and therefore make my life a little easier.

            1. DataGirl*

              I have a name that is commonly shortened to something traditionally masculine- I’ve always gone by my full name but it just occurs to me that going by the nickname might serve my tech career better. Maybe next time I’m job hunting I’ll put the nickname on my resume and see if I get more calls.

          3. Keymaster of Gozer*

            My husband changed his surname upon marrying me. Apparently there’s a lot of companies out there that determined a person taking a hypenated surname upon marriage MUST be a woman. To this day we get mail for him addressed to ‘Mrs (his first name) (last name)’.

            Usually a sign of a company running some antiquated punchcard database software..

            1. Suzanne*

              I have a friend with a PhD, and she and her husband both kept their names when they got married. So she is Dr A Smith, and he is Mr B Jones. This must really confuses their bank’s mailing software, because it sends them letters addressed to “Dr & Mr A & B Smith & Jones”.

              1. Keymaster of Gozer*

                Not gonna lie, I genuinely laughed at that! I bet I know what they’ve got running their systems too, that’s a common error.

                (Additionally because I loved Smith and Jones. Older Brit comedy duo)

            2. EchoGirl*

              I’m a cis woman, but I’ve had a hyphenated last name since birth, and I can’t tell you the number of people who’ve assumed I was married because hyphenated name. Now I actually am married but I kept my name, so the fact that I have a hyphenated last name that doesn’t correspond to my husband’s name confuses people to no end.

          4. Justme, The OG*

            I remember a girl I went to elementary school with name Ryann. Teachers assumed male, so she was always but on the “boy roster” in class (I am that old). Substitutes were especially confused.

            1. EvilQueenRegina*

              At the school where my dad used to teach someone called Niall was wrongly put on the girl roster because someone had never heard the name before and assumed he was a girl.

            2. nonegiven*

              I went to a summer program for high school students at a university. They assigned dorm rooms on different floors for boys and girls. There was a hurried reshuffling when Stacy showed up and turned out to be a boy.

            3. Zephy*

              I went to high school with a girl whose first, middle, and last names were all masculine-leaning – the middle name was a family name, the first was a technically-unisex-but-more-common-for-boys name, think something like “Jamie Allen Thomas.” The first day of every year and every time there was a sub it was the same song and dance – teacher calls out “Jamie Thomas,” expects a boy, confused when very female student pipes up with “here.”

          5. Observer*

            and teachers who corrected me when I responded to my own name during role call

            That is just GROSS! What is it with teachers who think they can tell a kid what their name is!!!

                1. EvilQueenRegina*

                  One at my school definitely accused one kid of that and persisted in calling him Colin. What had actually happened was that she’d misheard his last name which wasn’t far off that, and when he tried to explain that he was really called James she was having none of it until she looked at the register and realised that there was no Colin in that class but there was a James.

                  His friend HAD been trying to mess with her and introduced himself as John Lennon, so she thought James was trying the same trick.

            1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

              There’s a long list of all the things…

              One sub yelled when I answered my (somewhat gender ambiguous) first name.
              She then yelled at someone else who politely corrected her that her first name was “commonly shortened version of long name but was actually her legal name” and said it wasn’t correct. Pretty sure that “Kate” knew she wasn’t named “Katherine”, but I guess the sub knew all.

            2. NotAnotherManager!*

              Not just teachers – one of my siblings has a very straightforward, traditionally female name (like Ann) and is constantly asked if she’s sure her name is not Anna. Um, yeah, have been “Ann” for 30+ years and am confident it’s not “Anna”.

        6. WinterMouse*

          My understanding is that the “traditional business” way to solve is this to put Mr. or Ms. in front of the name in the signature?

          Mr. Dana Smith
          Ms. Dana Smith

          It does come across a bit formally though, which might not be the right feel for some workplaces.

            1. ErinWV*

              Or for any people who use Dr., which in health services and academic settings is going to be a not-insignificant amount of people.

              1. MissCoco*

                Coming from academia, I would like a return to the norm of putting titles behind names (in addition to pronouns), because it’s awkward either way, to refer to someone as Dr. or to be incorrectly referred to as Dr.

                The more I’m reading these comments the more I feel a long email signature is harmless, and for people who care to, can go a long way to prevent awkwardness.

            2. WinterMouse*

              True, but it would be a viable alternative for both the ambiguously-gendered first name situation I was replying about, or for the letter writer’s situation (if the letter writer’s employee wanted to use it, which I suspect he doesn’t).

        7. lailaaaaah*

          Or even from the same culture! There was a lovely lady called Alex at my old office, and I totally thought she was a man until we met in person. Put my foot very thoroughly in my mouth before I found out.

          1. Kathlynn (Canada)*

            My cousin’s best friend in childhood had a very male coded nickname (I didn’t know it was a nickname. Think Daniella called Dan, or). I only learned after they graduated HS that “Dan” was “Daniella” . And I was like “ohhh that makes a lot scenes” (think sleepovers and things that are usually only done with the same gender, due to parental concern)

        8. The Rafters*

          I actually called someone’s office to find out if an individual was male or female so I could properly address correspondence. This was years ago, long before being non-binary was accepted – even before the internet. The staff person who answered was hugely offended that I had to ask. I’m quite pleased now when I see pronouns used.

        9. it's-a-me*

          I have a female coworker with an Asian name, don’t want to give anything away so let’s imagine it’s ‘Waun’ pronounced like ‘Warn’.
          The number of people who call in and say ‘I have been emailing a Mr. Waa-uun’ is astonishing.

      3. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        People’s sense of what is ‘professional’ seems to have a bias against any change or cultural evolution.

        It’s like many think: professional = doing things the way they’ve always been done.

      4. Rin*

        I work at a bank and they were concerned about alienating customers. My argument that our blantant bigotry(customers have been told they can’t access certain features for “reasons” those reasons being the account opener is racist and assumed a Black woman was automatically a higher risk) and xtian paraphernalia (our front lobby has at least one nativity in it in Nov/Dec and loan processing has catholic iconography up year round) is doing far more harm considering we’re in a liberal college town. I was ignored, though also never spoken to directly about it, but we did suddenly have a new policy explicitly dictating don’t and content of our signatures. It’s one of the many reasons I want out of both this specific bank and banking as a whole.

        1. Snow Globe*

          Progress: I work for a bank, and last year our HR sent out information to all employees that they should consider including their gender pronouns in their email signatures (our company has very specific rules for email signatures so this was quite a change.)

      5. Observer*

        Would love to know from OP 1 what they think is “unprofessional” about pronouns in an email signature?

        That was the first thought that popped into my mind.

    3. Sarah*

      Yes. Putting pronouns in email signatures is not unprofessional at all. It’s an act of solidarity and inclusion at minimum, and depending on the person’s situation, a way of heading off awkward moments. Granted I’m in Seattle and have worked for employees known for being progressive, but I genuinely cringed at the idea that pronouns in a signature could be considered unprofessional. Oy.f

      1. Sparrow*

        Yeah, I work in a field that’s fairly socially progressive, overall, and it’s definitely the norm here. Initially it was just the folks who worked in more public-facing, social service-type work, but it’s expanded to other, internally-faced positions. At the moment, I don’t actually have mine in my email signature because my current position deals with a pretty limited number of internal folks, so it’s rare for me to email anyone who doesn’t already know my pronouns. But absolutely no one would blink if I added them today.

    4. Np*

      I should also say that I work in what is a traditionally very conservative field (Law), and many massive, international law firms have their preferred pronouns in their email signature. So I struggle to think of an industry where this would be considered unprofessional.

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        I think this is less a case of the industry being traditional and more a case of LW feeling uncomfortable with a shift towards this type of inclusivity. I’ve come across a lot of people who really don’t see the point and who have an immediate negative reaction to pronouns in signatures because it’s a deviation from the norm.

        1. Darsynia*

          Yep, I have mine on my Twitter (I do know this is completely different, but writers looking to break into publishing do use Twitter to network) as she/her/yinz because I both want to normalize using the pronouns but I also love the idea that the ‘collective you’ which is different in various parts of the country could be also included, as a personal flair.

          Every so often, someone will dislike something I’ve said and drill into my inclusion of pronouns on my profile as if it’s a personal failing. Honestly, the reaction reminds me of the time when we were struggling to remove the word starting with R that refers to disabled people–and during *that* time, it was far more ‘in your face’ than simply putting pronouns in a visible place! To squash that word use, oftentimes we’d have to reply to someone using the word to gently explain that it’s offensive. To have similar reactions to pronoun inclusion has been eye-opening, to say the least. It’s far more passive.

          1. Stacy*

            So nice to find a fellow “yinz” user! It’s what I grew up with, but y’all seems to have taken over where I live.

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              There we go. Let’s do second-person pronouns instead of third.

              -Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est (you, ye, y’all, y’inz)

          2. Jasper*

            If you have pronouns in your Twitter bio, you’re automatically a “libtard” and they feel that is enough rebuttal to any argument you could care to make.

            I feel that anybody doing that is showing their own ass more than that they’re showing the subject up.

      2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        Honestly, I think the word ‘conservative’ hits at why people might interpret it as unprofessional. I think the word conservative gets thrown around a lot when definining professionalism (in terms of dress, or language use, for example).

        But that word has a lot of connotations and one of those is ‘averse to change or innovation*’, which leads people to feel that professional means changing as little about your culture/behaviour as possible. There’s also a connotation to professional about not distinguishing yourself for anything other than your work. So if a behaviour isn’t common at your company, then you shouldn’t do it unless you can justify it reasonably.

        But I think this is conflating something we associate with professionalism with the meaning itself. Professionalism, to me, is about approaching the work you do with vigor, skill and dedication. That’s going to mean many different things in different fields — and it’s certainly not prohibitive to strategic change.

      3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I’m also wondering. What is the industry, so I can avoid it in the future? I’m a cis woman, but if this is something the whole industry really chooses to dig its heels in on, it makes me wonder what else they will take a similar stand on.

        1. Autumnheart*

          It’s definitely not retail. I work for Household Name and plenty of people added pronouns to their signature, including the executives. If it’s professional at a Fortune 50 company, it’s probably safe for LW’s industry.

        2. Not Me*

          I could picture any of the traditionally male-dominated blue-collar industries having an issue with this. Similarly, any religious organization or those closely connected to them (like education).

          1. many bells down*

            I actually work for a religious organization and pronouns are SOP for our emails and Zooms. But then we’re Unitarians, we’re used to being the odd ones ;)

            1. Momma Bear*

              We attend another mainstream denomination and there is a faction that would be offended and another (ours) that would not. We actually had a discussion about pronouns in Zoom this Sunday. But, yes, I could see how OP could be in a religious org or adjacent.

            2. Sparrow*

              It’s not that odd! There are plenty of progressive religious people out there. At my synagogue (and many others I know of), pronouns in email are pretty standard, too.

            3. CEO and Founder, Alexis Rose Communications*

              At my Jesuit parish, I once overheard an older woman asking why the church bulletin introducing a new batch of interns included their pronouns.

              The priest just grinned at her and said, “Isn’t it wonderful?”

            4. CoveredInBees*

              Not so odd in my experience either. My synagogue and a religiously-affiliated org I used to work for all use them.

        3. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Had a think, I reckon one of the railway firms I once worked for would have discouraged pronouns, but they were very much a boy’s club/male dominated/everyone is a number in the system not a person culture so anything would have annoyed them at some point.

      4. Gan Ainm*

        I work in defense and pronouns in your email is not the done thing here (yet?), perhaps that will change as the demographics of the industry change. Our healthcare, policies, etc are actually quite inclusive, healthcare covers sex change, if you want to change your email, etc it’s done without fuss, we have lgbt alliance groups… There’s a culture of not calling attention to yourself (you or your company) in the industry which I think contributes.

        1. Ana Gram*

          Same here. I’m in law enforcement and I’ve never seen this done (although it would be nice). That said, it’s a pretty inclusive workplace. Our healthcare has covered same sex partners for at least a decade, tons of command staff are LGBT, there’s an established protocol for employees who come out as trans and need to change emails, etc. But I suspect this is going to take a while to catch on. Maybe if the local government we work for starts adding pronouns, we might also?

    5. Sylvan*


      Also consider that, if your employee has a feminine or neutral name, he probably arrived at this as the best way to avoid misunderstandings.

    6. Zoe*

      LOL that question made me think of “the future is now, old man!!” meme. Like, it’s completely professional.

    7. SG*

      Saying “Alison was much nicer to you than many would be” is neither helpful nor productive — there is no good reason to say that. Alison is direct and candid without being condescending or unkind — she pulls no punches and makes it clear that it is the company, not the OP’s employee, who needs to change and evolve.
      I agree with the rest of your comment, but your tone is unnecessarily condescending, and if you expect people like the OP to heed your suggestion and “educate [themselves],” you may want to consider checking your tone.

      1. Finland*

        I agree with the tone of the original comment. The OP has no idea whether or not the person they are referring to is a member of the transgender community, to whom pronouns would be essential. Norms of professionalism have been used to exclude people for ages. Conservative industry or not, employers need to learn that they work in the real world and are dealing with real people who may deviate from what is considered “professional”. Especially if the definition of professionalism isn’t about the work that’s being produced and about how others are being treated, but is about some nebulous standard that enforces privilege. I’ve been told countless times that my name is not professional, my hair is not professional, etc. None of these things have absolutely anything to do with the quality of my work and my ability to treat others with respect. Changing a signature line to reflect pronouns should be at the very bottom of things to worry about and should be as innocuous as is whether or not to include a middle initial.

        1. TheLinguistManager*

          You’ve been told your *name* isn’t professional?! (The hair thing is BS, too.) What an arrogant thing to say. That sucks, I’m sorry.

              1. Indigo a la mode*

                Or, as least in the US, perceived as too Black. Precious, Princess, Shaquonda, LaKeesha, all the ones white folks throw out when they’re making racist caricatures. As if the name Amy doesn’t mean “precious” or the name Sadie doesn’t mean “princess.”

        2. allathian*

          I’m so sorry. I guess they want you to unkink your hair and pick a new Anglo-sounding name, am I right?

      2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        I disagree? I think there’s value in knowing that a lot of people would interpret OP’s request very negatively.

      3. Darsynia*

        I think there are two readings of ‘Alison was much nicer to you than many would be.’

        One is as a rebuke, which I think you read it to be. I read it this way as well, if I’m honest, but I didn’t take it to be as bad a thing as you did.

        Another is a home truth; sometimes we gripe about things at work when we’re unhappy, and it could be a way of gently pointing out that this is something colleagues might judge the letter writer on.

        I do need to remind myself sometimes that people aren’t exactly like me, so they don’t know the same things I know. It would never occur to me to write a letter like this, because I would assume I’d be thought of negatively. Perhaps the commenter who said the phrase in dispute wanted to express that, perhaps they wanted to write a meticulously polite smack-down.

      4. PolarVortex*

        I agree with the original comment. It’s a hill I’ll die upon because I and many of my peers are mis-gendered. It’s also much easier than announcing to a company of X amount of people that “no I may look vaguely female but I don’t like those pronouns” without having to announce it to every darn person you meet. (Which, is like coming out as gay but to every stranger in the cubicle farm. Awkward as heck)

        Years and years of discrimination means people are rightfully angry, and it means that they may react in anger. I’m not saying that it is beneficial to communicate in that way, I prefer myself to communicate from a position of education. But you always see people in a place of privilege/in a life where they don’t fall into a minority stating that people need to communicate nicely and in some magical form everyone will understand and behave accordingly. Look to the world today and you can see it’s not true. So there’s no more Mx. Nice Person and we act in anger because we’re sick of educating to no avail.

        Honest to the gods, my first thought reading L1 was be to tell them “stop living under a rock and open your eyes up to the struggles of your fellow human beings. If it makes you uncomfortable it’s likely because you have some underlying issue with non-cisgendered people and that is not my g-d problem.” Now, I likely wouldn’t have put that out there, but it doesn’t mean if I wasn’t having a day where everyone was mis-gendering and mis-naming me that I wouldn’t lash out. And LW1 may not deserve it but they could’ve gotten some basic education from any number of foundations out there about non-cisgendered discrimination in the workforce from a basic google search instead of asking if they can tell someone to stop being either a) an ally to their non-cisgendered brethren or b) announcing to all and sundry that they’d like people to stop mispronouncing them as they have the right to do.

      5. mreasy*

        I can confirm that if someone at my company told me not to put pronouns in my email signature because they find it “unprofessional,” I would not be as nice to them about it as Alison was here. That’s all I took from the comment.

        1. fan*

          As a trans person, if someone told me “putting pronouns in your email signature is unprofessional” and I had any power to fire people, they’d be gone.

    8. Jane*

      I have a name that is fairly common in my country and matches my female gender, but I get a lot of emails from new correspondants addressed to “dear sir”. It always feels awkward to correct this (do you say “actually it’s ma’am”?!!!!) and the correspondant can sometimes be deeply apologetic and clearly embarrassed.

      Conversely, I often have to send emails about students from different cultures and without knowing their gender I have to write convoluted emails refering to the “the student”, rather than he/she/they.

      The trend to including gender pronouns in email signatures is hugely helpful for this. As well as showing inclusivity, perhaps the employee is also simply trying to help people who aren’t familiar with his name?

      1. Hazel*

        A friend who has a non-English name that reads as “male” in English has Ms. in front of her name in her email signature. I don’t remember if her pronouns are also in her signature, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were. Either or both are entirely professional. And I agree with Alison – if it’s not seen as professional in an industry or at a company, the industry/company needs to change to be inclusive.

    9. John Smith*

      I’ve never really come across this before and I’m finding it rather perplexing. I’ve used “they” for many years when referring to a person I know nothing about, but not out of sensitivity for a person’s self identity. I think an easy way, if you are unsure what pronoun to use, is simply use the person’s name. So instead of “she said X”, “Jane said X”. Happy to be corrected! :)

      1. Deplplte*

        None of this is in opposition to what you said, just some general info: “They” is good to use when you don’t know someone’s pronouns of course. If you do know the person’s pronouns and it’s not “they” then using “they” is misgendering. If the person’s pronouns *are* “they” and someone uses their name all the time to avoid using “they”, that’s a form of misgendering too.

        1. Tired of Covid-and People*

          Genuine confusion here, how can using someone’s actual name ever be misgendering if you are trying not to gender at all? Sorry, this is a bridge too far and maybe in this situation a bit of grace is warranted.

          1. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

            It’s really, really obvious when someone is using your name to avoid using your pronouns.

            What sounds more natural? “I have MJ’s file here, so can you go tell them it’s ready so they can pick it up before close of business”?

            Or: “I have MJ’s file here, so can you go tell MJ it’s ready so MJ can pick it up before close of business”?

            People will absolutely do this to trans people — use their name, but will claim that because they fundamentally disagree that their gender is what it is, will refuse to use pronouns completely.

            1. John Smith*

              A very good example of how two usages work. I am naturally inclined to use the first example (the second is plain silly), but using the word “them” (they) is exactly the point I am trying to make. I have absolutely no objection to people choosing their own pronouns and if a preference is expressed, I will use that pronoun and am happy to do so. But I see nothing wrong in using they/them in the absence of information otherwise. For some reason, for the past 30 odd years, I have generally not used pronouns at all (Miss, Mrs, Ms Mr – aaargh!), it’s just how I speak and think, and nothing to do with a person’s identity (which wasn’t a “thing” 30 years ago anyway, at least in the UK)

      2. iliketoknit*

        But wouldn’t it be nice to avoid the confusion and be able to use the pronouns that they provide for you?

      3. Marissa*

        You might make an incorrect assumption not knowing either way. But honestly, it’s more about the practical use for people that are trans or non-binary. Everyone doing it as a matter of course just helps remove the stigma and prevents those folks from being spotlighted as ‘other.’

        1. Tired of Covid-and People*

          My name is unisex and I always hated it for that reason as I have been misgendered for my entire life. While not the end of the world, it is certainly annoying and for this reason I like everyone using pronouns, or just say (Bob) if you want to be just called by your name. Wish this had been around in my younger years.

      4. many bells down*

        I know someone who disdains all pronouns and is only referred to by name. I will call this person “Dax” (this is not the name Dax actually uses). Attempting to construct a sentence to talk about Dax with a third person is an exercise in linguistic flexibility that is definitely NOT easy.

        “Dax came in today and Dax was wondering if you could put together a new Llama Price List for Dax. Dax doesn’t have the most recent one and Dax needs it for ordering this week.”

        I don’t think we realize how much we rely on pronouns until they’re not an option. Which might be the point Dax wants to make, I don’t know.

        1. Dahlia*

          I feel like you could way edit that down.
          “Dax came in today and was wondering if you could put together a new Llama Price List. Dax doesn’t have the most recent one and needs it for ordering this week.”

          1. Observer*

            Still awkward, and by the time you get a bit further in, you’re back the all the linguistic pretzels.

      5. Observer*

        I think an easy way, if you are unsure what pronoun to use, is simply use the person’s name. So instead of “she said X”, “Jane said X”.

        That works a lot of the time. But very often that winds up creating some REALLY awkward use of language. Pronouns exist for a reason.

    10. sky*

      And it’s not just trangender and non-binary people! My boss hired a big group of people last year, over a very short period of time. Most of them were female, and all of them were from Brazil (so had names that were not familiar to me). I was deeply embarrased when one of them sent me a LinkedIn invite 6 months in – I had been referring to him as “her”, and he was, well, a “him”.

      So now, I ask new hires about their pronouns!

    11. NYC Taxi*

      Seriously. What’s it to OP if someone includes their pronouns as part of their signature? I don’t notice them any more than the rest of their sig, and as I deal with a global workforce it’s really helpful for unfamiliar names where google isn’t helpful.

      I started including mine for the purpose to hopefully support other people who may struggle with including theirs that they have an ally in me.

    12. Fashionable Pumpkin*

      As a cis woman with an unusual, masculine sounding name AND head of household, (also, my ex with whom co-parent my son is a cis man with a name considered typically feminine), I get a lot of emails and letters adressing me as “Mr. Fashionable Pumpkin.” To which I make sure I respond with “Ms. Fashionable Pumpkin.”
      However, my “Ms” is often overlooked, so I’m glad for the normalization of adding pronouns to signatures, because it gives me one more place to clarify my gender. And, more importantly, I want to make sure I address everyone else with their proper pronoun (which is whatever they tell me it is).

    13. Feotakahari*

      Huh. My social sphere is actually against the “pronouns in signature” thing, because they don’t trust their employers not to fire them for being trans, and stating “my pronouns are he/him” when your actual pronouns are she/her is even less pleasant than just being misaddressed as he/him.

      1. JB*

        Yes, most of us trans people who work typical office jobs are against it or cautious of it, because either we are closeted or were once closeted at work.

        I think most people in favor are younger folk who don’t have as much job experience, or who are specifically working in very liberal environments where they have a lot of social support.

    14. mairona*

      It’s also practical for a lot of cisgendered folks, too. There are a lot of gender-neutral names and that can cause mixups via email. For example, I once had a male coworker named Dakota and because of the nature of our roles, we often received emails addressed to the both of us. There were several times when we’d get emails from people at other locations who’d never met us that started with “Hey, ladies!” or the like. My own name is more common with women these days but it started as a masculine name, so I’ve been on the receiving end of a “sir” a few times. There are just so many more reasons to include the pronouns than omit them.

  2. writerbecc*

    My company has a standard email signature we all modify with our info. I noticed a couple people had included their pronouns in their signatures so did so as well. Nobody has commented, but I feel better knowing they’re in my signature.

    1. ....*

      Yeah our company is the same. There’s a standard template but sometimes people add pronouns, some don’t and it works fine

    2. Sylvan*

      Yep, same at my company.

      (I left mine out. I don’t really identify as anything and all pronouns except for “it” are fine.)

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Likewise as well. I once got a rebuke from someone high up with infinitely more authority than work to do for converting our address to a Google Maps link.

        1. Sacred Ground*

          “…infinitely more authority than work to do…”

          I’m totally swiping this phrase, it describes a certain boss type so perfectly.

    3. Jay*

      Same here, and I got a couple of appreciative notes when I first added my pronouns. I’m a cisgender woman with a name that is only female. I didn’t put them in to reduce confusion about my gender. I put them in because I was in a non-work-related meeting on Zoom and realized the only person who had their pronouns in their display name was the person who used they/them, and that not using my pronouns was an act of privilege. So now I use them in my Email sig and on my Zoom display name. That’s the culture I want to live in and I want to help create it.

      I wish I had a way in my Email signature to get people to stop misspelling my name. I have a common name with an uncommon spelling, and I expect it to be misspelled, but when you’re replying to my Email MY NAME IS RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU. Sigh.

      1. Cat Tree*

        My company is now encouraging us to specify our pronouns on Zoom, as part of inclusion. I’m glad to see a lot of my bosses doing it. They’re leading by example, not making it mandatory. And as frustrating as it is that basically all the bosses in my reporting chain are middle aged white men, at least they are using their privilege to normalize this.

      2. Bear Shark*

        If you ever find that way to get people to stop misspelling your name let me know. Maybe if I put my pronouns in my signature people would at least quit using the male form of my name instead of the female and I could at least narrow down the misspellings to the female versions. I’m not counting on it though.

        Not Bare Shark

      3. Dezzi*

        OMG this drives me BONKERS. People spell my name in all kinds of ridiculously wrong ways (which is weird, because it’s only five letters and is spelled pretty much exactly how it sounds) (and no, it’s not the one I use here :P), and I’m used to it. But it’s right there!!! You can see it!! All you have to do is copy what you see!!

        1. Dezzi*

          I know flashy GIFs are inappropriate for workplace email signatures, but some days I realllllly want to use a nice sparkly one with my name and “this is how you spell it”

      4. writerbecc*

        I’m a cis woman with a very female name. But my wife is trans. So I declare my pronouns in my email signature and on social media. It’s a small thing, but it’s a thing.

      1. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

        Tangina Warbleworth (she/her) or (they/them)

        Short and sweet.

        Some ppl add a third: she/her/hers or he/him/his

        This is relatively new. The first time I was in a meeting where we introduced ourselves with names and pronouns was only about two years ago and around that time at work, the pronouns were starting to appear in email signatures. This was completely new to me but I went with the flow because there was no reason not to in a workplace that was already regularly aiming to be inclusive.

      2. Zephy*

        My email signature looks like this:

        Zephy Lastname

        Title, Company
        Mailing Address
        Phone/Fax Numbers
        Appointment Link
        Social Media Buttons

    4. JelloStapler*

      Same here- it has actually become more common in the signatures of student-facing positions than not.

      1. ErinWV*

        Yes, at the liberal arts school where I work, everyone includes pronouns in their email signatures. Many will include a link (“Why pronouns?”) to one of the many pages online which explain why this is a positive and respectful gesture to make, even when your personal gender identity is fairly straightforward.

    5. Corporate Lawyer*

      This thread is so helpful – thank you, everyone! I had my pronouns on Zoom and Slack, but for some reason it hadn’t occurred to me to put them in my email signature as well. I just did so using one of the examples here.

    6. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      At a lot of larger companies, including an old place of mine, they have a system (I don’t know the name of it, but it’s something you buy from a 3rd party vendor) which extracts the relevant info from Active Directory every night and “re-generates” the email signature with the extracted info, pushing it to the person’s Outlook profile. The idea of course is to have it standardised so that Display Name, Job Title, Department and whatever other fields it uses are put in the standard places for everybody. If you changed the email signature yourself during the day, it would get changed back overnight / at next login.

      There wasn’t anywhere to put info like “she/her” (in my case) although I don’t recall hearing of this coming up. What we did have, and I’m not saying the situations are in any way ‘alike’ but just comparable, was people who had various post-nominal letters relating to specific professional body membership / certifications that qualify them for the role (such as accountancy post-nominals for a qualified accountant) and some of these people were quite vocal about this. In some cases it was professional pride but in others more of a legalistic thing, in that they were writing their emails in their capacity as a “professional with those letters”.

      There wasn’t a “good” solution to this; the workaround IT came up with was to put the ‘letters’ either by overriding the Display Name, or adding it into the surname so that the first name would be (e.g.) “John” and the surname “Doe, CPA”. I suppose if the pronouns issue had come up at that point they would have had to do something similar, or find another way round it like using a custom field (can AD do that?) and pulling from that.

      1. pancakes*

        Seems to me like there’s a pretty straightforward good solution to this: Find a vendor that can handle professional certifications and pronouns.

    7. iglwif*

      Yep, same at my company.

      Sometime last year there was a slack thread where someone asked, basically, “are we allowed to put pronouns in our email sigs?” and dozens of people replied to say “I have no idea, but I’ve been doing it this whole time and nobody’s told me to stop”.

  3. PollyQ*

    LW#1 — If you do stop by, I’m very curious to know what industry you’re in and why including pronouns in a signature seems “highly unprofessional” to you. Even if you don’t answer here, I hope you’ll ask yourself why this small action bothers you so much.

    1. Hi*

      I know I recently (within the last 18 months) had to explain that putting pronouns in the email signature was a normal thing in some industries to my aunt (who is an accountant in New England). She saw it in an email and was weirded out by it until I explained that it’s industry/location dependent.

        1. Not Alison*

          As a 60+ woman (which the aunt probably is), I totally understand why she was weirded out. In our entire 20s and 30s, we spent alot of effort to hide being different from men – – i.e. wearing grayish business suits, skinny scarves that looked similar to ties, following sports to be able to join in the men’s conversations, etc. So it feels very weird to me to publicly proclaim the use of she/her and for me I have resisted the effort to do so as part of my signature (just for myself, I applaud others if they choose to identify a pronoun).
          One other thing I’ll say is that I’m quite tall and prefer to wear darker-colored clothing and no make-up and have often been referred to by salespeople in retail stores as “sir”. I just chalk it up to being tall and not dressing as girly and it doesn’t bother me being misgendered. I understand it does bother some other people and I say – “to each one’s own”. Whatever you are comfortable with, you should do and I won’t complain, but please don’t force me do something to make yourself comfortable.

          1. Trillian*

            Exactly. Similar age, worked in science all my career. A woman who drew attention to her womanhood, much less showed signs of activism, was simply painting a target in her own back. Anything from being quietly sidelined as not committed or difficult, to stereotype threat (women can’t be any good), to active harassment, sexual or otherwise, meant to push her out or at least shut her up.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              Ohhh, that is a good point. Remember the story in the news a couple of years ago, about a man and a woman who used each other’s email accounts for a week to interact with customers, and her performance suddenly shot way up, while his tanked; all because she now presented as a man and he, as a woman? I now wonder if putting “she/her” in your signature can backfire in that way.

              1. Starbuck*

                Well, that story demonstrates that it definitely can “backfire”, especially if you’re a woman with a gender-neutral name, since many people still assume male as the default. So I imagine some women will see negative impacts. I hope the number is small. I had that thought as well back when my workplace started adding pronouns to our signatures as the norm, but my name is pretty obviously feminine and I’m in a majority-female field so I figured I didn’t have anything to lose. So it’s great pronoun inclusion is becoming more and more normalized but I can see why women in certain fields/industries/workplaces wouldn’t necessarily want to be the first in line for this, sadly.

              2. DataGirl*

                There was also a story recently about a video game designer from I think Australia- she is intersex and had huge success in her career when male presenting, then after transitioning couldn’t get a comparable job as a woman, even though her resume was basically the same except for her new (feminine) name. Google ‘Delaney King intersex’ for some articles about her experiences.

            2. KHB*

              Stereotype threat is such a tricky beast. (For those unfamiliar: Simply asking women about their sex before they take a math/science test is enough to significantly lower their performance. Even though they already knew that they’re part of a group that isn’t supposed to be any good at this, the reminder of that fact is enough to do harm to their own self-perception.) I wouldn’t be at all surprised if presenting oneself as “FemaleName (she/her)” instead of just “FemaleName” had a similar effect on willingness to speak up, confidence in one’s ideas, etc.

              My employer doesn’t have any official policy on presenting pronouns, and a small number of people (less than 10%) include them in their email signatures and Zoom handles. And yet, during virtual staff meetings, the conversation always seems to be absolutely dominated by the he/hims.

            3. NRG*

              This is the source of the involuntary frown for me. My cynical self fears that included pronouns will just help the bigots exclude or dismiss any non “he/him” s. My group at work skews very heavily male, and both of the other women in it have ambiguously gendered names (think pat or jo). In one case I am absolutely certain that the name allowed them to get an interview. I would love to have my gender acknowledged, but I fear there is a price that I can’t afford. As it is now, I use only my first initial in my signature.

          2. KHB*

            Thank you for this. I’m a 40-something woman who also spent a lot of my younger years insisting that I be treated exactly the same as the men – and a lot of my nascent middle age realizing that that was a fool’s errand that was never going to happen, because sexism is just that pervasive in the world. I’m uncomfortable with the trend of sharing preferred pronouns because it seems to support the fictitious idea that I get to choose whether my very-obviously-female body is perceived as female. Being born female was not my preference (I didn’t have a say in the matter), and it’s not like if I declared myself to be a he/him or a they/them I’d suddenly be immune from sexism, because that’s not how sexism works.

            I understand the conventional wisdom for why sharing preferred pronouns is more inclusive, but I also think there are a lot of reasons to be uncomfortable with it that aren’t pure bigotry and fear of the unknown.

            1. Gan Ainm*

              +1 I’m only 35 but in a very conservative, male-dominated industry, and while it’s improving I still face “minor” sexism frequently – people assume the men who work for me are my superiors, my VP asked if I was dating a colleague just because I knew how to spell his name (apparently didn’t cross his mind I might just… work with him? Send emails to him?), as well as more serious things, which are thankfully becoming much rarer – getting paid less then my male peers, having to prove myself doing the role first, while men are promoted on potential, sexual harassment… I didn’t chose this nor do I get to opt out of these consequences of being a woman.

            2. JT*

              I am in a body that is read as female everyday – a “very obviously female body”, as you said. And yet I am non-binary. Gender expression and gender identity are two very different things. Non-binary folks can have bodies that run the gamut of appearances; they are not just androgynous, please don’t make that assumption.

              As well, they are not “preferred” pronouns. They/them are my pronouns, full stop. Not a preference.

              Your concern about women adding their “she/her” pronouns and experiencing more sexism is an interesting viewpoint, and one I hadn’t thought of before. However, I think the issue here is the sexism itself. Not adding one’s pronouns to one’s signature due to fear of repercussions is valid – but almost emphasizes the reasons why one *should*. Fear-based inaction just underscores that there are injustices to be fixed, and they won’t be fixed by cowering from action.

              1. Observer*

                However, I think the issue here is the sexism itself. Not adding one’s pronouns to one’s signature due to fear of repercussions is valid – but almost emphasizes the reasons why one *should*. Fear-based inaction just underscores that there are injustices to be fixed, and they won’t be fixed by cowering from action.

                The problem here is that the people who are being pressed to take action are the people with the least power to change it. For women, there are often too many situations where making their gender clear creates real harm. Telling people that the harms they face are A REASON to actually invite that harm is not a winning argument.

                Of course, this does highlight that there are multiple problems at play. And of course all of those problems should be fought. But that doesn’t make it wrong for women to be concerned about the problem. Nor does it make them uniquely culpable when they act in ways that protect themselves.

                1. NRG*

                  Exactly. I pressed on this issue when I was significantly younger, and my career suffered significant setback. I was able to reset by getting an additional degree, which would not be possible for many people. Reminding people that I am a woman costs, I and I have to be strategic. I know how much capital I have, and I’m spending almost all of it influencing hiring decisions.

              2. Juniper*

                While I can’t speak for KHB, I don’t believe that her comment is actually at odds with your point. She says that no matter what pronouns she might use, it doesn’t negate the fictitious idea that she gets to choose whether her very-obviously-female body is perceived as female. If I’m reading you correctly, that’s also what you are saying? That you are non-binary, but would be perceived as female by the outside world? In your case, sharing your pronouns is one of the best tools you have to avoid having people misgendering you. That should be supported, full-stop. For a woman who is already (accurately) viewed as female, sharing her pronouns may be an uncomfortable exercise in drawing even more unwelcome attention to her gender, especially if she’s faced issues with discrimination and harassment in the past.

              3. kt*

                Agree with other commenters that I don’t think you’re totally at odds with the previous poster. I too am old enough that the whole idea of non-binariness only came up later in my life. I spent a lot of the rest of my life trying to expand the idea of what it is to be female so that I could be myself. The idea of retrenching myself into femaleness as defined by others is distasteful to me. The idea of spending a lot of time or thought examining my gender identity is also distasteful to me; cool for anyone who wants to, but… I want to spend my time thinking about other things, like math. And don’t get on me for “fear-based inaction”: I spend plenty of time mentoring, managing, and supporting others and have done so at considerable cost to my own career progression at times. I simply don’t want to talk to anyone about my gender identity or have anyone think about it at all.

                So go for it wrt your pronouns! I’ll support you and I have the track record to prove it! But no, I don’t see why I have to sacrifice myself for the cause in this particular way. I’ll give thousands of dollars to shelters supporting youth kicked out of their homes by bigoted parents, no problem, but I have real concerns about myself “choosing” pronouns. I just dislike so much about it. I guess the point is that for you, “they/them are [your] pronouns, and not a preference,” and that’s just not true for me. Speaking entirely for myself, I’m female because that’s how I’m treated by others, and that’s as far as I really want to go with it.

            3. Tinker*

              Outside of the matter of your own particular body, though, there are people with bodies who are very strongly conventionally coded as female and who may be perceived as female, who are not actually female — that concept is not fictitious, correct?

              And while declaring oneself to be a user of he/him or they/them pronouns would not make a person immune from sexism any more than it would cause a cotton candy dispenser to suddenly pop into existence in their living room, and doing that for those reasons would probably be a bad idea considering it would not produce the desired result, that’s not why trans men and DFAB nonbinary people use those pronouns, correct?

            4. Juniper*

              I can kind of see where you’re coming from. I have always had very stereotypically female roles, one where it can be a challenge to feel like I am being taken seriously. In meetings I am often the only woman in the room. I fully support anyone who wishes to offer their pronouns, and will do my utmost to avoid misgendering. But at work I want to focus on being known as Juniper — my personal preference is to not highlight my gender further.

          3. TJ*

            I think there’s a significant difference between “weirded out” and “confused/didn’t understand”. I can totally understand that someone may not be familiar with the concepts of pronouns in your bio! But I’m not sure why someone else’s choice would make you feel weird.

                1. Chinook*

                  She had experienced the resukts of sexism which were eased onky when she had to make herself less feminine. Being told now that it is expected for her to present herself as explicitly female literally goes against how she was taught to present herself professionally in order to succed.

                  Those who are pushing for the inclusion of pronouns need to understand that, not to long ago, that presenting as female could harm your career. Those same women are now being told they must do the exact opposite to be cknsidered professional. Please tell me that someone put there understands the cultural whiplash this is causing for many of us who remember a time when women were legally allowed to be treated differently from men.

                2. pancakes*

                  I can’t reply directly to Chinook, but: That may or may not be Hi’s aunt’s rationale for thinking pronouns are inappropriate. In any case, there are still industries where presenting as a woman can harm one’s career. There are a number of commenters here saying they work in such industries, and more broadly speaking, gendered income inequality is still a big problem. Hardly anyone is saying that using pronouns in signatures should be mandatory, though, and on the rare occasion someone does, people have been pointing out reasons why they probably shouldn’t be. So it’s not accurate to say that “women are now being told they must do the exact opposite to be considered professional.”

        2. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

          Because, when you’re in a position of (cis)privilege (that you may not even be aware of) where you take it 100% for granted that when you see what you perceive to be a man or a woman and their commonly used names, the pronouns to use are obvious because that’s the way it’s been your whole life.

          It never occurs to you that someone, inside their hearts, simply don’t feel like a she or a he despite what they look like or are called.

          If you’re open to change though, the initial “weirded out” part, which is normal when your privilege is challenged, can evolve and change to acceptance.

          1. KHB*

            Consider that members of older generations may be more familiar with the incongruence between one’s outward appearance and what’s inside one’s heart than you’re giving them credit for. Today’s young people are not the first to discover the idea of gender nonconformity, nor is their approach to it necessarily superior to those that have come before.

            1. Minerva*

              People who have a trans identity they are comfortable with, or an explicit non binary identity, are not the only people who can suffer from gender dysphoria. It’s not new. A retirement aged friend of mine had a male alter ego to play boys’ hockey, and she’s

              I don’t do pronouns in my signature because I don’t find any fit well enough to announce them. But I don’t want to defend that choice at work because it’s a lot to share.

            2. NaN*

              Not sure I’m understanding this comment – are you saying being trans or non-binary is the equivalent of being a cis gnc person?

              1. New Jack Karyn*

                I read it more as, Generation Z didn’t invent the concept. Older folks might very well have known someone back in the day who was trans. Billy Tipton was popular in the 50s and 60s.

            3. R*

              Oh, this! Thank you for your take on this. People have been dealing with gender nonconformity for as long as there have been people.

              Sometimes it feels like people are just bandwagoning to show how progressive they are. Instead of being inclusive, it reads as smugness. As seen in many of these comments, the result of suggesting that there is room for nuance when it comes to discussions of gender identity and perception (especially in the workplace) results in snap judgments about your character and vapid calls to “check your privilege” without giving any thought to what was actually said.

              For my 2c, I can 100% understand why a nonbinary person might want or need to make sure that they are identified correctly by others. At the same time, this feels a ton like assigning unnecessary value to gender. I get misgendered all the time, mostly because people who spend a few minutes in my life aren’t paying that much attention. If someone sends me a piece of mail addressed “Dear Sir” (which is incorrect), it just.. doesn’t matter. There’s nothing wrong with being a man. It doesn’t change the information in the content of the letter. And, perhaps more importantly, there shouldn’t be anything wrong with a man being perceived as a woman. I’ve done this in e-mailing a “Terry” who was very much not the soccer mom I envisioned. He never corrected me, but when we spoke on the phone I realized my mistake. I wasn’t embarrassed and he neither was he. Because we both understood that I wasn’t using “Ms.” as an insult.

              1. pancakes*

                No one is suggesting that accidentally misgendering someone is a horror, though – just that it’s nicer to avoid doing so, and that adding pronouns to email signatures helps avoid doing so. It also helps some nonbinary people from being misgendered, and can help avoid othering them, which otherwise might tend to happen in an environment where only nonbinary people have pronouns in their signatures.

                1. R*

                  I get what your saying, although I find it a little ironic that the comment directly under yours states that “misgendering can lead to things like suicidal ideation” so there is clearly some room for dispute as to whether accidentally misgendering someone is a “horror.” To some it obviously is. E-mail signatures probably aren’t going to be cure for that problem. I’m all for basic manners, and using someone’s preferred pronouns easily fall into that catgeory.

                  But what I have also seen throughout these comments, and in real life, is that many people can’t or don’t want to specify a gender. Some people are uncomfortable having to make that distinction. As KHB pointed out, the role of gender in the workplace is especially complex and there are many reasons why one may not want to emphasize their femaleness, as I believe was her example.

                  If we meet one day, and I say hello Mr. Pancakes and you say actually it’s Ms. Pancakes, it would be impermissibly rude and potentially cruel of me to continue to call you Mr. Pancakes. That doesn’t mean I should be compelled to identify my gender in return. But the current woke thinking is that not immediately identifying my gender to people I will never meet in person and will only know via e-mail in a strictly business context, conveys that I’m not willing to be an ally for trans people.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  R – I’m sure you don’t intend it to be, but I think you’ve set up a straw man! I haven’t seen anyone here say offering your pronouns should be required; to the contrary, people keep pointing out that it should be optional.

              2. lazuli*

                Sure, but for other people dealing with dysphoria or more difficult circumstances, misgendering can lead to things like suicidal ideation. Just because you feel secure enough, or indifferent enough, about your gender identity and presentation doesn’t mean that everyone else does.

                1. R*

                  I hope everyone who feels that way has access to the help that they need. People dealing with dysphoria and suicidal ideation need medical treatment. Saying e-mail signatures will solve this problem is a bit like saying using metal straws and reusable lunch bags will reverse global warming. Not to mention, I can’t be responsible for the mental health of everyone I come into contact with. I can do my best to be a decent person. But it is pretty manipulative to suggest that my e-mail signature could compel someone to self harm.

                  But more to the point, forcing people to chose a pronoun, especially when we’re talking about declaring pronouns in a business signature, has its own problems and can make people extremely uncomfortable for various reasons.

                  I’m not saying no one should ever include their pronouns online. Just that there can be many reasons why people choose not to. Gender is a tricky thing. If Terry had responded to one of my e-mails with some iteration of “Don’t call me Ms. I’m a MAN” it would have come across as more than a little sexist, IMO.

                2. pancakes*

                  I get that, but I was trying to respond to R’s comment that “There’s nothing wrong with being a man,” etc.

                3. lazuli*

                  I did not say that not including pronouns in one’s signature would trigger someone’s dysphoria. I said that misgendering someone can. And people with gender dysphoria deserve to, you know, live life, not be locked in a treatment room at all times. I was directly responding to the comment saying that being misgendered was no big deal.

              3. Hamish*

                Yeah. Gotta say, as a trans person, when I see pronouns in someone’s signature I take note of it, but I don’t automatically assume they’re really an ally.

                1. R*

                  I haven’t seen it too much in my industry, but I get the sense it would come across as performative rather than actually supportive. If my boss put his pronouns in his e-mail, it would be because it is an expedient business decision to appear supportive of the trans community. It would have nothing to do with whether he is actually supportive of the trans community. It must be very tiring, trying to figure out whether people actually have your back or just want to look like they do because its “woke.”

            4. TJ*

              No one mentioned age? Simply that cisgender people might not understand the experience of misgendering as that is something we don’t usually experience. I consider myself something of a gender non conforming cis woman but I am rarely misgendered these days (as a teen/young twenties I was) so that is a privilege I have- I don’t have to constantly correct people’s assumptions or suffer dysphoria and discomfort from someone using pronouns and gender signifiers I don’t identify with.

      1. Antilles*

        Not at all surprised about your aunt because it really does seem to be industry/location dependent how much this happens and hasn’t permeated everywhere yet.
        I’m in my mid-30’s and have worked for a decade and a half in a major city in the South, in a fairly conservative industry (construction). In all that time, I don’t ever remember seeing pronouns attached to a work email. Legal disclaimers, endless company slogans, nicknames, positive affirmations, Bible verses, and so on…but not pronouns. Wouldn’t bother me one bit if someone did, but it’s just something that doesn’t seem to be really done in my industry (yet anyways, presumably this’ll change over time).

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          I would consider positive affirmations and Bible verses several orders of magnitude more unprofessional than pronouns in a work email signature (obvious exceptions for a life coach or minister respectively). I am staggered that either is a thing!

          1. Kimmybear*

            Yup. I had a health insurance rep tell me to have a blessed day last week. Completely unprofessional.

            1. hamburke*

              The number of professional people at non-religous organizations that tell me to have a blessed day is significant and has hugely increased since my move from northern Virginia (near DC) to central Virginia (near Richmond). It’s been almost 9 years and I still get flustered when that’s how a phone call or transaction ends. Uh, you too, I guess, since nothing is hurt by sending positivity into the universe and that’s the general theory of a blessed day, I suppose…

              1. Safetykats*

                That’s funny, because I don’t necessarily associate “blessed” with traditional Christian religion – but that might be because I’ve lived in places where people were as likely to greet you or sign off with “Blessed be.” (And mostly those people weren’t Christians.)

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            We had a middle manager, who I was on a project with and so was getting emails from them all day every day; whose signature was, in bold italics, “Every problem has more than one solution and we solution better as a team!” Can you imagine having this pop up on your screen 10, 20 times a day? It set my teeth on edge.

          3. Risha*

            Yes, when I worked in the South, I had a number of coworkers who signed off of phone calls and emails with “have a blessed day,” and it always made me cringe (internally).

          4. Salsa Verde*

            Ugh. Our HEAD OF HR has a Tyler Perry inspirational quote as her email signature, and it drives me up the wall. We are an award-winning workplace! Why not put that, or something else actually work-related?
            And sales people tell me to have a blessed day on the regular. Sigh.

          5. JelloStapler*

            We have standard form signatures we all have to use because this got out if hand.

            What’s included and encouraged? Pronouns.

          6. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Part of why I coded the standard signature template at our place. Got really tired of massive images, blinking gifs, coloured backdrops, half pages of ‘inspirational quotes’ that were plaguing the poor email server. Those look way more unprofessional than anything else!

            (Bonus points to the person who tried to defend their 100 meg sig file)

            1. Antilles*

              That’s certainly one way to always use the excuse of “maybe you just didn’t see my email which I totally sent on time, yeah definitely I did”.

          7. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            Actually, I take this back. My conversational arithmetic is faulty. You can’t divide by zero.

            I can’t think of a professional context in which putting your pronouns in your signature would be unprofessional. Unconventional, maybe, but unprofessional? Nope.

        2. Name Required*

          I’d bet the ranch that the LW is someone who works in construction, manufacturing, or some similar industry in a fairly religious or conservative area where having pronouns in your email and showing support for LGBTQ folks is considered alientating to colleagues and customers, who are fundamentally opposed to those “lifestyles”.

          It is “unprofessional” in the context of a bigoted employer serving bigoted customers … but it’s also illegal to discriminate against sexual or gender identity, so of course they can’t explain why it’s so “unprofessional”.

        3. Queer Earthling*

          I live in the rural South and honestly things vary somewhat. My spouse went for a surgery consult recently and mentioned that they were nonbinary, and the physicians assistant immediately asked for pronouns, gave her own pronouns, apologized if she had accidentally misgendered them, and also apologized that a lot of the hospital would be misgendering them. (My spouse isn’t hugely bothered by any pronoun but it was still nice.) Yeah, it didn’t happen until after my spouse put themselves out there, but…it was a really good response, and the PA made sure to inform the surgeon etc.

          So yes, even in the South, people can be progressive.

        4. Observer*

          ” but it’s just something that doesn’t seem to be really done in my industry” does not come close to being “unprofessional” though. And although I understand about being weirded out, that is also separate for “not commonly done.”

      2. Hamish*

        Accounting is definitely a dinosaur of an industry, but there are still quite a lot of accountants/firms who would find the inclusion of pronouns totally normal.

        Signed, a trans accountant.

      3. many bells down*

        How funny, I just recently explained it to MY aunt who is also in New England. She jokingly asked if it was on my Zoom name because I forgot, so I explained it to her. She’d never thought of it and my own brother/her nephew is trans!

    2. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

      Count me in on the curiosity train. I’d say roughly half our organisation has their pronouns on their email signature, and I haven’t heard anyone comment on it, let alone claim that it’s unprofessional. And really, it’s such a small thing to do to support inclusion.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Not the LW but I wonder if they’re thinking along the lines of a former employer:

      “Pronouns in emails is a LGBTQ thing. LGBTQ is all about sex. Sex isn’t an appropriate topic of conversation for the workplace here. Therefore it’s not professional to make any mention of LGBTQ stuff because sex shouldn’t be discussed at work”

      (They were, and are, wrong of course. But their thinking was really really hard to counter)

      1. Dete*

        Yeah, I mean when I call straight cis people he and she I’m definitely thinking about how they’re having straight sex with their straight partners /sarcasm

        is how I’d counter it

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Believe me, we tried that. Wasn’t at that firm long, they had really bigoted views about anyone who wasn’t white, straight and cis male.

          1. Deplplte*

            Oh! I thought you meant “hard to counter” as in “I didn’t know how to counter it” , not “he was stubbornly bigoted”, sorry about that!

        2. Mallory Janis Ian*

          It’s like when I was in Boy Scouts and the hetero parents didn’t want any gay parents in the group because they would be “flaunting their sexuality”. Meanwhile, all the straight parents are coming in as couples with the actual fruit of their sexual endeavors in tow . . . So that’s the mindset in my conservative area of the south (at least 10 years ago when I was in Scouts).

      2. Mr Jingles*

        I’d counter much earlier:
        “Its an LGBTQ thing…”
        “No it’s not. Its a globalisation thing. Foreign namescan ne hard to categorize. Its good to know to whom you’re speaking and how to adress people.”
        “We don’t have people eit indiscernible names…”
        “Yet! But why wait till we have and risking offending people or even a lawsuit for racism!”
        “That’s exaggeration!”
        “Yes it is, its still true though that it’s a minor change that’s not worth the risk and even less this discussion so lets just do it!”

        1. Deplplte*

          And that wouldn’t be my personal focus because bigotry like this needs to be countered specifically as bigotry.

          1. Mr Jingles*

            I prefer to counter bigotry to point out how silly it is. Not being laughed at is a very basic need of people and even bigots don’t like the perception of being silly. So even if they don’t change their view the right argument can change their behaviour and my goal isn’t to foght bigotry. That’s a fight I can never win and the energy wasted on the efford will help exactly no one. My goal is to promote pragmatism and reach an endurable climate for everyone. Thus for I prefer arguments that change behaviour so people of all kinds can live in peace. I don’t care what my ‘opponent’ thinks or what believes they harbour. All I care about is how they treat others. If their behaviour is ok, thats enough for me. I have accepted that it is impossible to ever get more.

        2. TurkeyLurkey*

          It doesn’t even have to be either of those things. It *is* important for supporting trans, gender-nonconforming, and nonbinary people, but pronouns in emails use useful for all kinds of people.

          My grandfather’s name was Jean and, because of the spelling, folks would assume he was a woman. When talking to folks who don’t “get” including pronouns in email sigs. intros, etc, that’s my go-to example. This helps me illustrate that misgendering has always been a problem and that LGBTQ+ folks have given us a model that helps everybody.

          1. JelloStapler*

            We have standard form signatures we all have to use because this got out of hand.

            What’s included and encouraged? Pronouns.

      3. Tidewater 4-1009*

        Hmm. I’m used to it now, but when people being open about LGBT was becoming more common it did make my mind go to “oh they’re having sex with…” when if it had not been mentioned I wouldn’t have thought about their relationships or personal life at all.
        But as it got more common I got used to it and don’t notice anymore.

        1. Dahlia*

          That’s… odd. Did you think about everyone’s sex lives when they mentioned a spouse like that? What about children?

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Sometimes, “highly unprofessional” can mean, “I don’t see anyone else doing this, so it must be wrong to do.”

      OP, I am not sure what you gain by telling them to stop with the pronouns. Okay, let’s say they stop. You are going to find that more and more people are putting their pronouns in their signature. Now what will you do? Will you go around and tell everyone under your watch to stop?(yikes) Or will you go back to the employee and tell them it’s okay to resume? (AWKWARD)

    5. Lora*

      The only thing I can guess, and I’m totally guessing here: several of the places I’ve worked dictated email signatures down to the detail that they would actually make everyone’s for them, with the Company Branded color palette, which piece of the Official Branded Company Motto / Message Of The Day would appear, titles, etc. – at least on all outside-the-company emails.

      Yes, these sigfiles are HUGE, which to me screams Unprofessional, just a step below an animated unicorn Blingee complete with autoplaying midi of Pachelbel and Inspirational Quote. But, that is how they like to do it. Everyone’s sigfile exactly, precisely as bad as everyone else’s with giant War And Peace-size legal disclaimer at the bottom.

      Mine is currently about 16 lines of name / title / division / location / giant high-definition logo / LI and Twitter links / Important Safety Message Of The Day. The legal “this email will self-destruct if received by a Bad Person” part is a similar length. I have no way to change it, and I hate it. Best of all, they only migrated our storage limits last year – we used to not only have to go through and save emails and delete old ones manually, we would literally run out of storage space on a regular basis and then the actual lawyers had to go through our old emails to determine what could be discarded or whether we needed new hardware. Can you imagine paying a lawyer $300/hour to look at 10,000 employees’ worth of old “can you have this by Friday?” crap, just to avoid paying for about $1000 worth of hardware?? Of course, every stupid “thanks” email was 500kb due to the sigfile…

      1. doreen*

        I have one of those branded email signatures, and it’s mandatory to the point where I can either have that signature or no signature at all. I cannot use different fonts or colors. But there is still a little bit of choice – I can choose whether or not to include more than one phone number , and I can choose whether or not to include my pronouns.

      2. Juniper*

        Out of curiosity, is your objection to the general unwieldiness of the signature template itself, or the fact that employees can’t customize?

        1. Lora*

          Both, really. If people want to put their favorite song lyric / Bible verse / talk radio DJ quote in plaintext, more power to them. If the end result is that people put terrible nonsense in their sigfiles, well, at least I know who to avoid if I want to reduce my stress level, and they haven’t crapped up too much of my inbox storage to tell me that they are awful.

          1. Juniper*

            Ok, got it. Sometimes I’m surprised by the resistance to signature templates. It’s one of the easiest ways for a company to appear professional and in lock-step, which is why I would argue that quotes and lyrics don’t belong there. At my last company we had 6000 people on the same signature without issue, but now at my new company it’s a struggle to get people to replace a logo that hasn’t been used for 3 years. The end result is unnecessarily messy and can send mixed messages.

      3. PT*

        This is my thought, I worked somewhere where the HR manual specified email signatures. You had to set it up with specific information, in specific order, in specific fonts, with specific parts in all caps or bolded or italicized. You had to have a motto tagline at the end. There were rules regarding JPEG attachments or additional quotes (not permitted except for special promotions.) These branding standards were nationwide, and we could fail a branding compliance audit for having the wrong email signature. There were threats of writeups and termination for breaking the rules.

        Of course people broke the rules, sometimes by mistake, sometimes because the sample format didn’t account for all the information you might need in a signature, and sometimes because they didn’t know or care about the format. But technically, you were bound to the format, and breaking the format was not allowed.

    6. ErinWV*

      I’m in academia, where it is widespread, normal, and unquestioned. Stuff like this makes me never want to leave academia (even though everyone is low-paid and no one can honor deadlines).

      1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        OTOH, in my experience non-academic staff in higher ed can be surprisingly conservative and squeamish about these kinds of things. At the last college I worked at, most people on the academic/student services side of the house included pronouns in their email signatures without too much fuss, but people in units like finance were often either actually or performatively confused by it.

    7. Qwerty*

      It’s probably just the first person they know who includes pronouns in their signature. A lot of companies have a signature standard to follow where you just fill in the relevant fields. So to someone with no context, it seems like a weird thing to add, because they are viewing it through a different lens. It is pretty common for humans to respond negatively to the unknown.

      Part of the reason I read this site is to stay up to date on new norms like this. Most people I encounter professionally don’t know about this. I used to work in a very LBBTQ+ friendly area with a strong student population, and the first time someone started including pronouns at work, it really confused a lot of people. From their perspective, our coworker was obviously female, with a female name, appearance, interests, etc so they were wondering why she needed to remind them that she was female. No matter how negative the original response, it always flipped to positive once I explained it to them.

      Also the moment we updated our signature standard to have an optional slot for pronouns, the questions went away, though occasionally you’d find new hires looking up the practice on Google. Some started including their pronouns without even understanding the broader context, under the mindset of “not sure why this info is needed, but I’m going to fill out every field”

    8. Observer*

      Even if you don’t answer here, I hope you’ll ask yourself why this small action bothers you so much.

      This. Completely.

      You’ve been getting bopped over the head for your question, so I understand why you might not want to engage. But you really should seriously ask yourself why you consider this so unprofessional, and why you are so bothered by it?

  4. Turanga Leela*

    OP #1, not only is there a growing movement to use pronouns for inclusivity reasons, it’s also been a boon for people with unusual names who otherwise get misgendered over email. I know a guy named Krys, which people assume is a girl’s name, so he puts his pronouns in his signature to make everyone’s life easier.

    1. allathian*

      Yes, this. I would hope that this practice spreads internationally as well. When you’re unfamiliar with a language, it’s often hard to tell if a name is feminine or masculine.

      When I was an intern in Spain, my coworkers were amused when I told them that in Finland, Pirkko is a woman’s name but Pirkka is a man’s name.

      1. MistOrMister*

        I find myself googling names when I need to address a letter and have no idea which title to use based on the name. It sucks because I can usually mever be sure I got it correct. I always appreciate when people put their preferred gender in their signature. Makes things a lot easier.

        1. Super Admin*

          This is the reason I was so glad in my last job 95% of people I dealt with were ‘Dr. LastName’ and so I didn’t have to worry about guessing the Mr/Mrs/Ms when faced with an unfamiliar name!

      2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        Yes! And having worked with people internationally there’s not only the “masculine/feminine nature of name” issue but also (especially when they are totally unfamiliar with the names, of course) people being unclear which is the first name and which the ‘family’ name, resulting in me receiving emails addressed to “Dear Smith” (instead of Dear Jane or Dear Ms. Smith) …

        …I wasn’t sure whether to correct them or not, especially for one particular group we dealt with which was in a country where ‘face’ and ‘how to address people correctly’ are treated as extremely important (e.g. there are several different forms of address for the same person depending on their social status in relation to you, age in relation to you, level of familiarity, etc). On the one hand they would probably have been upset to know they make a ‘mistake’ in addressing someone correctly, but on the other hand is it worse to have it pointed out? In the end I took to using first names in emails and hoping they followed suit, e.g. “Following on from the email my colleague Steve sent last week… blah blah Kind regards, Jane.” (I am still not sure if that’s the right approach!)

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

          [Oh and I meant to add – I’m sure I made my share of mistakes in addressing them also – not on purpose of course! (We even had a “cross-cultural communication” document to download and refer to which was somewhat helpful but of course didn’t deal with all the situations). e.g. is “Dear Takahashi-san” correct when sending an email to Mr/Ms Takahashi who is a bit ‘above’ me in the org chart but not in my chain of command?]

    2. Kimmybear*

      Yup. This is another example of everyone benefiting from inclusion. It is a show of solidarity for non-binary and transgender colleagues. Additionally, when working internationally, not everyone is familiar with the gender typically associated with all names. This avoids confusion.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Some of the big law firms and international companies I work with have preferred pronouns in people’s email addresses. Funnily enough, I haven’t seen it so much in countries with unfamiliar names, meaning I have to ask if X is Dear Mr or Dear Ms!

      2. FridayNights*

        I have a what may be a naive question. Please forgive me and correct if I’m off topic or in left field.
        I teach a class online, I include my pronouns and this year I specifically asked (not required, but asked everyone and sent out one non-targeted general reminder) my students to indicate their pronouns.
        I have 2 x 2 students of opposite gender, with the same preferred name, and a couple of other students that my brain didn’t automatically gender. So, to some extent this wasn’t about inclusivity, and more about asking them to help me out.

        That said, I worry that by asking for pronouns from a position of relative power, I might be pressuring someone who isn’t ready to out themselves, or misgender themselves.

        What id like to hear is that I’m being silly with the worry, but does anyone have thoughts or suggestions?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Encourage people to do it, make clear it’s welcome, but don’t require it — because, as you note, someone may prefer not to out themselves or may be in the midst of working out identity issues.

          1. FridayNights*

            I may have missed the mark by making it an explicit request this term, but I will work on my tone to go for welcoming for the next go round.

          2. Jolie*

            One thing I heard from a trans person on Twitter who was semi-not out to the world:

            Phrase the question not as “What are your pronouns?” but rather “What pronouns shall I use for you?”. That way, someone who requests pronouns that aren’t their real ones because they’re not ready to come out won’t feel like they are lying so much.

              1. Blackcat*

                It’s similar to what I’ve been told to use in teaching:
                “What should I call you in this class?”
                “What pronouns would you like me to use for you in this class?”

                Similarly, the idea is that people can pick what they want for this particular setting rather than saying “this is my preferred name” or “these are my pronouns”

          3. coffee cup*

            And also not everyone wants to give that info, for whatever reason. I have no interest in telling anyone what pronoun to use for me.

          4. NRG*

            I generally use “How would you like to be addressed?” This allows pronouns, name variants, pronunciation, and level of formality or titles ( Dr., rank, etc).

        2. Chc34*

          One suggestion I’ve seen is to phrase it as “what pronouns would you like me to use for you?” instead of “what are your pronouns?” This gives someone the space to not out themselves while also not having to claim pronouns are theirs when they really aren’t

        3. AnotherLibrarian*

          Yeah, I ask, but I don’t require this. I ask everyone to reply to a “message” and the language I’ve used is, “Please help me make sure I address you properly. This is 100% optional, but if you’re comfortable, please let me know your preferred name and pronouns. If you’d rather not, just don’t reply and I’ll use the name from the University Records and default to they/them.” This helps with both nicknames, pronouns, people who go by their middle name, newly married folks with new last names, whatever. I confess I’m not 100% happy with the language, but it is the best I’ve been able to come up with.

          1. anone*

            One change I would recommend to this is instead of asking for “preferred pronouns”, ask, “What pronouns do you want me to use for you?”

            Unfortunately “preferred pronouns” has become a problematic usage because of the way the word “preferred” was used by TERFs to imply that trans and nonbinary people’s identities are a preference rather than a reality. It’s not inherently bad wording, but in context it has become an issue.

            Some people switched to “What are your pronouns?” but people don’t always want to be called by their pronouns depending on who is asking (e.g., someone might not want to out themselves), so that wording is too personal. “What pronouns do you want me to use for you?” gets right to what you need to know and no more.

            Otherwise I think your wording is pretty solid! Good consent-based practice.

            1. c-*

              Eh, there’s no need to go the extra mile to appease TERFs, they’ll just make up something else to harass people about. If you want to go with “how would you like to be adressed? I go by [name] and [pronouns]”, do it for any other reason (not asking people to out themselves, it flows better…) but appeasing violent bigots. TERFs don’t deserve your consideration.

              1. mlem*

                I took anone as saying the TERFs had poisoned the well, not that they deserved accommodation. There was a time when sexual orientation was often phrased as “sexual preference”, and it got the same treatment.

              2. anone*

                It’s more that it now functions as a red flag/point of discomfort to people. It has nothing to do with appeasing TERFs.

          2. Hamish*

            Blergh. I think this kind of makes clear that it’s an area where there isn’t a solution that’s going to make everyone happy. It’s just a hard thing to deal with.

            Your message here is great. But, being a binary trans person who is out in my personal life but not my work life, I would both be uncomfortable giving you my pronouns, and uncomfortable with “they/them” being used by default for me. No good solutions.

        4. ThePear8*

          One thing some of my professors have done this semester is have a little get-to-know-you form/survey at the start of the course where they basically suggest sharing preferred pronouns along with other relevant information for the form. Eg “Share some fun facts about yourself/your interests in this course/any relevant info I should know, preferred pronouns, learning style, etc” basically including it as a suggestion in part of a larger question, if that makes sense? That way it’s 100% optional for anyone to share it if they want to or not.

          1. Super Admin*

            Love this, and if I were still teaching it’s what I’d go with. There’s more to individual students than a preferred name or pronouns, so phrasing it as a ‘help me tailor this class to how it will work for you’ question is really nice.

        5. Ash*

          This is why you can say “what pronouns do you use” rather than “preferred pronouns.” That way if the person actually prefers another set of pronouns but doesn’t feel safe doing so, they can just say whichever pronoun they wish others to use for them in the moment.

        6. JT*

          One thing you can do instead to be more inclusive and not viewed as pressuring is to write an email that says something to the extent of “Please let me know if you have a different name than you registered with or you have specific pronouns I should use or if there is anything else I can do to support you in achieving success this term”.

          Friends of mine use something to that extent and it allows for students to address any number of needs/accommodations that can help them feel more comfortable or make the class more accessible.

        7. Qwerty*

          Maybe revisit the assumption that you need to gender your students? Can you just have default that you use for anyone if the answer isn’t obvious (like they/them)?

          When I was a student, being pressured to declare my gender to my professor and classmates would have made me really uncomfortable. I’m in a male dominated field, so usually there are negative side effects once people figure out who “the girls” are. Being in an online class where I have some anonymity would have been delightful. Academia was the worst for me on being seen as female first and a person second – rather than being an engineer, leader, student I was referred to as female engineer, female leader, female student, etc. I wouldn’t have explicitly put down the wrong gender for myself, but I often found myself leaning in whenever I was misgendered as a male because it eliminated gender from the conversation and allowed me to focus more on the subject.

          Bringing it up as an option once is fine, but the follow up email definitely would have felt like pressure. I would have been caught between being an overacheiver that would do anything a professor asked for and feeling uncomfortable. And probably would have given the information since being a good student trumped personal comfort.

          1. Observer*

            Maybe revisit the assumption that you need to gender your students? Can you just have default that you use for anyone if the answer isn’t obvious (like they/them)?

            Except that for a lot of people that IS misgendering them.

        8. Tidewater 4-1009*

          This reminds me in my high school class there were two people named Jackie. One was a man, one was a woman, and they were in a relationship. :)

    3. Allonge*

      Exactly, it also helps when you have a diverse workforce in the sense of people from different countries/cultures of origin, or just unusual names for your locale. Can anyone tell, at first sight, whether the names ‘Özséb’, ‘Ger’ or ‘Filio’ are originally supposed to be for male or female people? Pronouns help in more than one way, and… yeah, unprofessional they are not.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        There are plenty of common-in-English names that are often used for more than one gender, too. Parker, Casey, Morgan, Taylor, Alex, Lee…

        1. Allonge*

          That, too. By the way, my examples are not all that diverse either, they are all European origin names, just not hte classic Mary, Elizabeth and Joseph. And I wished a million times that I had either pronouns or an indication of appellation (Ms/Mr/Mx/Dr etc) so that I can call somebody something reasonably close to what they wanted to be called.

      2. Urt*

        I find it detracts from the important part about me, people are so busy with making sure that they get their pronouns when talking about me right, that now even more often than before they get my name wrong.

        1. Safetykats*

          Urt – I’m not sure what your name is, but my name is Susan, and people get it wrong. I think it’s because I have a complicated last name, and that flusters them. So yes, people could to totally be getting your name wrong because they are concentrating so hard on your pronouns, but there could be other reasons too. Eventually, smart people who care will manage to get both right.

    4. Not Australian*

      Yup, just yesterday I was listening to a podcast featuring a man whose given name was ‘Joy-To-The-World’, known as ‘Joy’ for short. This is very much the sort of name that could trip someone up if they weren’t aware of the context, i.e. in written form, and it’s easy to see how anyone in that situation would want to add their pronouns to their signature.

    5. zozzle76*

      Yes! I have an unusual first name, in addition to a commonly misspelt surname, both of which are given in full in all emails. But I deal with complaints, so I often don’t know if a correspondent simply isn’t paying attention or is being deliberately passive aggressive in misgendering me, making assumptions about my marital status or misspelling my name. I may well be overthinking! But I am going to add my pronouns as that’s the element in my situation which is in my gift.

    6. OtterB*

      True. And a reminder that things done in support of inclusion often make lives easier for other people in unanticipated ways (e.g. curb cuts for people in wheelchairs making it easier for those with strollers/roller bags, course or conference content presented in multiple modes making it easier for lots of people and not just those with learning disabilities or hearing/vision issues).

    7. JelloStapler*

      Such a good point!!
      I have this issue with many of my students when names make a switch from typically one gender to another (i.e. Taylor) or the nickname could be short for either (i.e. “Alex” for Alexander, Alexandra or Alexis, etc). Plus as you say, names from other nationalities not giving the traditional “cues” of gender to other cultures.

    8. CS*

      I come here the say the same. I’ve met men who are Ashley, Shannon and Kelly, which have been common girls name. In the Kelly case, his name *always* was “Mr Kelly ” but no other names with Mr/Mrs/Ms attached. These days he could just say Kelly (He/His).

  5. MBK*

    LW3, the company’s return on their investment in you is the quality of work you do for them right now, and the goodwill that *might* entice you to stick around. You don’t owe them a glimpse into your plans, and it’s probably best for both of you if you don’t speculate about anything that might change their view of that investment.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, I agree. Besides which, a lot can happen in 8-12 months in the global economy as a whole, and in specific industries, not to mention that the LW’s priorities could change. I seriously doubt that, say, the events industry will be back up to speed with in-person events at any time this year.

    2. What's in a name?*

      The only thing LW might do is say “I see you are giving me more responsibilities and varied tasks. I am actually happy with the role as it is. Is there any way we can preserve my responsibilities as I currently perform them?” but be prepared if the company says they want more.

      1. Moving On*

        OP here, Thank you or this language, It makes me feel better to have something in my back pocket to use if I need to, and this works for me.

    3. Moving On*

      OP here, this is an excellent way of thinking of it. I have never been in an job where employee investment was even part of the deal, so I don’t have a way of thinking about it. This helps me put it all into perspective.

      1. twocents*

        If it helps, if the investment includes some sort of expectation that you will be around, good companies will make that explicit.

        For example, two of my coworkers received a specific system training with the obligation that they remain in their role for two years or have to pay it back.

        Unless you’ve made that kind of agreement, then everything is just business as usual for you working today to get your paycheck tomorrow. They won’t give you any heads up if they decide to lay you off, so if you start feeling guilty, remind yourself of that.

      2. EPLawyer*

        Look at it this way. Even if this WAS your chosen field/career, there is no guarantee you would stick around forever. People change jobs, have a life change that means a move across country, have kids, whatever. A good company HOPES people stick around until retirement, but they KNOW that is unlikely and plan accordingly.

        After all you could win the lottery tomorrow and then what? they shouldn’t have invested you in because you left?

        You noted in your letter about adjusting to the corporate world. this is one of those things you probably didn’t realize when you joined this company. It’s just another adjustment to realize that you CAN leave on your own terms if you want. You didn’t sign a blood oath to this company forever.

      3. Uranus Wars*

        Yes! Just chiming in to say I have no expectations that my employees will stay for ever. But I will pay for certifications and education that will benefit me NOW. I will even add to their duties if it is in their skill set, not expecting it to entice loyalty but because it helps my department function well NOW.

        One of my employees has evolved her position so that her tasks/duties are in line with what her long-term goals are. She does exceptional work and I am able to give her that latitude. I hope she stays for a long time, but if she doesn’t I will understand. My goal is to support her, but also keep her happy and get her best work while she is here.

        Hopefully you work for a boss that has expectations of good work but not loyalty because of opportunity. Or if an opportunity did require agreement of work for a certain window of time you would sign and agree to something stating that. Until that happens I would take advantage of the investment, continue to do good work, and leave when the time is right for you. But don’t announce it in advance of anything being set in stone.

      4. Safetykats*

        I think it’s awesome that you work for a place that even thinks about employee development during a pandemic. Interestingly, at my employer, we are finding it difficult to retain people working from home, and we worry a lot about the people who we hired while working from home. If you’re interested at all in the opportunities they are offering, even in the near term (the next year or so) I recommend accepting. Who knows – maybe you will find you like this job (or this employer) better than you think, and maybe you will stay. Or maybe you will just do excellent work for a year or more, and leave, but recommend them to other potential employees. Either way, it’s to their benefit overall, and also perhaps to yours.

        Believe me, every good manager knows that we don’t retain everyone we try to retain. That’s okay. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

  6. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

    I have to admit I am wildly curious about LW#1’s logic as to why this is “highly unprofessional”.

      1. allathian*

        Some industries are more conservative than others. Some are more diverse and trans-friendly than others. If it’s an industry where natural hair on a POC is considered unprofessional, I can easily see that including pronouns in an email signature could be an issue.

          1. HD*

            What I was actually getting at was I’m curious what the letter writer thinks is unprofessional about using pronouns in a signature and exactly what they think that has to do with their industry. I want to know how they explain it to themselves.

            1. Asenath*

              I strongly suspect it has to do with, as someone mentioned above, not adding any personal information to a business communication. Names are sometimes, but not always, added – one new branch of a former employer used office names instead of personal ones, at least for all the more junior personnel who frequently dealt with other departments. I was always either completing online forms with no personal names, or getting follow-up emails from Llama Grooming Office. I never bothered to ask if it was to ensure all emails went to the right place even if the staff moved on (but other departments did this by using office emails from staff who signed their names using the rather clumsy official format) or if they wanted to emphasize that they had several staff all of whom worked on all requests at different times, or if they wanted to appear formal and professional or if they didn’t want their staffs’ names on the emails for privacy reasons. There are lots of possible reasons, and although I thought it a little unusual for our employer (there are thousands out there who sign their correspondence “Customer Service” or some first name that might or might not be real) I wasn’t interested enough to enquire.

        1. Eye roll*

          IDK. I work in law and I can’t see even the stuffiest practitioner finding this “unprofessional.” Perhaps eye rolling for a few weeks until their assistance adds it to their signature as well, but I’m not sure what brand of conservative would have a problem with this. Perhaps their industry is political.

          1. Dete*

            I’m not sure about industry, but to specifically respond to “what brand of conservative would have a problem with this” –

            A lot of people want to not have to think that anyone but cis people even exist. Like, nothing that hints at the existence of any of the rest of us would be okay to them.

      2. aarti*

        Actually it’s shocked me at how fast this is becoming a thing. Five years ago, I worked for a very liberal company in Portland, OR, that encouraged us to put pronouns in our email signature. At that time, I got a lot of questions about it from people in other industries. A few weeks ago, my cousin who lives in Kansas forwarded me an email from her contractor that included pronouns in the email signature! So I’m skeptical of a whole industry where it is unprofessional.

        I think in the not too distant future, most companies will encourage this. Especially as more professional introductions are happening over email/phone and not in person! It’s such a small thing that makes life so much easier for so many people (including people with unusual names as is mentioned below).

    1. Aspie_Anything*

      I’m as liberal as it gets and I can think of several times in my own career this would have been unprofessional – and in those circumstances, it would have been a kindness for a manager to let me know

        1. Aspie_Anything*

          Hmmmm…. That’s a very good question.

          It was a construction labor group and I would personally say out of sync with the culture. However, the board of directors and general membership would have insisted, vehemently, that it’s unprofessional. Since they’re the ones I worked for and so few employees means virtually none of the usual protections…

          Talk about a job that had me torn. I really loved what I did and the people I did it for. But I was at least 20 years younger than everyone I worked with, the only one with a graduate degree, the only woman, and the only liberal. Being a “culture fit” had taken on a whole new importance to me

          1. AnotherLibrarian*

            A few years ago, I worked for a small private religious college in the deep South. As a secular non-Christian, it was a weird place to work, though my colleagues were lovely, the benefits were generous and the students were great. It is a place where it would have been deeply out of sync when I left to put pronouns in an email signature. However, I got an email from an old colleague and she had them, so I think it’s evolving quickly. I do understand the conflicted feelings about a work place.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yeah, I’d say that’s out of sync culturally, not unprofessional (despite them calling it that — I mean, there are people who think that natural Black hair is unprofessional too but it is not).

            1. Mr Jingles*

              I wonder if people saying this really mean it’s unprofessional. I have afeeling that ‘unprofessional’ is more the word they use in the hope to quench questions upfront they don’t want to answer because the answer would be: I don’t like it.
              Just like the one boss I once had telling me red hair was ‘unprofessional’. (I’m a natural redhead) Or then, when my hair turned grey, that not dyeing grey hair was unprofessional.
              Asking for an explanation why the thing they have issues with are unprofessional often shows it has nothing to do with professionalism at all but is a mere preference.

              1. Sydney Ellen Wade*

                “I have afeeling that ‘unprofessional’ is more the word they use in the hope to quench questions upfront they don’t want to answer because the answer would be: I don’t like it.”


    2. Taxachusetts*

      my HR rolled out optional pronouns earlier this year and it was just so wonderful. No fuss, no argfment. This is the world now.

      You know what’s unprofessional? Comic Sans. Please don’t change your email font to something that burns my eyeballs.

    3. Courageous cat*

      From a devil’s advocate standpoint, my guess would be (aside from bigotry) because it’s something that seems inapplicable to the workplace, much in the same way many other traits about a person are – age, hair color, race, etc. All things that would seem kinda out of place in an email signature.

      (I am definitely not trying to equate gender identity with the above characteristics by any means, but sharing a potential reason)

      (Reminder that I do not personally feel this way and I think it’s fine in the workplace so I don’t have a great argument for it past this!)

      1. anone*

        I mean, how many workplaces have you been in where referring to someone using third-person pronouns was inapplicable? I’m guessing zero, since talking about people in the third-person is extremely common. And since it’s not possible to correctly guess everyone’s pronouns by looking at them or reading their name (for so many reasons as has been thoroughly documented in replies to this post), it’s functionally pretty helpful to provide them somewhere. Would it be inapplicable to tell each other our names?

        1. Courageous cat*

          I don’t have a great rebuttal here, other than to say that people’s signatures traditionally (at least everywhere I’ve worked) included only name/title/company, and not much else, so perhaps that’s why.

          And as I said, I feel like you (and others may also) are slightly misinterpreting this as me agreeing with OP when I do not. But there are enough earnest-sounding “why do you think it’s unprofessional” comments going on that I figured I’d throw out what I view to be a potential explanation, despite the fact that I don’t think it makes sense (the definition of “professional” can be classist/racist/etc, and also morph over time).

          1. Courageous cat*

            (To further clarify a little what I initially meant: inapplicable to the workplace in terms of like, not being *directly* related to work itself. Being related to the person, but not work specifically. Still very relevant info imo)

    4. NRG*

      I kind of wonder if they are quite old. There was a time when job applications were specifically gendered, and “sex” was a check box on early everything whether it was relevant or not. This was of course to make sure you were applying to “sex-appropriate” jobs, and got the “appropriate” salary and so on. Including this information went from required, to optional, to unprofessional as discrimination became less blatant. This would be my parents’ generation, though, and I’m not young myself.

  7. Polyhymnia O’Keefe*

    I work in an organization that has a lot of involvement with youth and their families, and I’ve had my pronouns in my signature for several years. Didn’t ask anyone; just put them in. Not many of my colleagues have them in their signatures, but many do in their Zoom display names.

    Anyway, a few months ago I got a note from a high schooler at the end of an email chain about something totally unrelated, telling me that including my pronouns made them feel “comfy” that people are normalizing the practice, and that was the best validation I needed for keeping them there.

    1. Super Admin*

      That’s lovely to hear. That’s why many of us do it – to make others feel safe and aware of their allies if they wish to share their pronouns.

    2. BookMom*

      Yes! This is a large part of why I include mine in my work email sig, Zoom name, etc. My first name can be male or female in English speaking countries, but my spelling is considered feminine, so anyone who “guesses” would likely guess right (she/her). But, I have non binary and trans coworkers and clients. Including my pronouns is a way I can support them and signal that our agency is a safe place.

  8. cause and effect*

    LW#5 –
    First, I’m sorry you’re in so much pain; I empathize as a chronic pain sufferer myself.

    However, please do not use chronic conditions you’re not suffering (e.g. migraine) as a scapegoat. By using an excuse, you unintentionally harm those of us who do have migraines by making it even harder for us to be believed by management and coworkers when we are incapacitated.

    Also, using randomized excuses (migraine, stomach bug) instead of generalized vague language when you don’t want to share details (medical condition under investigation, etc.) will create problems down the road as people start questioning you – or dismissing your pain as “not that bad” – due to the frequency of your absences. It’s extremely hard to recover when you’ve been branded unreliable due to trying to hide your suffering.

    I clearly empathize that it’s hard to find the words/phrases that you feel comfortable with using, but I implore you to think about the consequences of your status quo in addition to using Alison’s language.

    1. Julia*

      I get what you’re saying, but as someone who suffers from (what I assume is) the same thing as OP5 and has also had bosses who pressed for details, this can be a huge double bind. “A medical issue I’m working on getting treated” has not been enough for people who had the power to fire me or at least make me life hell, unfortunately.

      I agree with your point about making difference excuses every time though. Here’s to hoping OP’s boss (and my next one) will let things rest at “medical issue that is being treated by professionals”!

      1. chronic pain*

        Seconded– as someone with both a female reproductive system chronic pain disorder AND migraines, I’ve definitely found it easier to just say migraine rather than get into the details of my lady parts. I don’t think that claiming one kind of chronic pain instead of another invalidates either.

      2. Chriama*

        I don’t think calling it migraines when it’s not will be any more pleasing to those boundary-crossing bosses, though. Something like “severe intermittent pain” might help, but could easily provoke even further questions. I don’t think there’s a happy solution in those situations. Have you found one?

        1. Uranus Wars*

          This! Especially if it’s a boss who thinks “migraines = headache” therefore anyone who calls off for a headache is not committed to the job.
          I know the answer is that boss’s need to get better about understanding medical issue = medical issue and it does. not. matter. what kind of medical issue.

          But until they do I think many boundary-crossing bosses will not accept any reason well. These are usually the same ones who require you to report to work following a car accident on the way in if you weren’t admitted to the hospital overnight.

      3. princessbuttercup*

        Yeah, I remember I was planning on saying something like this to my boss and intended to be honest that it was ovary/period related, because I felt like that would contextualize the recurrence, the appointments (checking for endo, PCOS, etc) and wasn’t too much detail. Then she went on an unprompted rant in the lunchroom that women who take time off for “period issues” are lazy, whiny and don’t care about their careers. I tried the vague “medical” issue and she pressed so much, I lied out of the anxiety of it all and said migraines. No more questions.

        I completely agree about not using random excuses or claiming conditions you don’t have, but if a manager won’t accept “medical issue” (or that period pain can be crippling, my god), it’s kind of their own fault they’re being lied to IMO.

        1. Quill*

          There’s sort of a trailing edge as one diagnosis gains awareness and acceptance that it’s a Legitimate Medical Thing where it’s always on the verge of authority figures deciding it’s not excuse enough (migraines, but see also: ptsd, anything nerve related) and everyone else with a lesser known diagnosis going “fine, I’m going to tie myself to this boat rather than justifying my diagnosis to every third person I talk to about accomodations.” It makes it easy to blame the people who are undiagnosed / misdiagnosed / clinging to the raft of “THIS slight lie is how I finally get accommodations” when someone decides that it’s no longer a sufficient excuse for being a human with medical problems in a work environment because “too many people” need accomodations for it. But it’s never their fault, it’s the fault of a system that is set up to expect perfect health from everyone all the time and to invest a lot of time and labor into discovering who is ‘faking’ being ill.

          And the people who decide that too many people have migraines, so someone must be a faker, are generally people who would also decide that you, the migraine haver, have Too Many Migraines on Fridays so you’re obviously a faker.

          1. Safetykats*

            This is why it’s important to talks not just to your boss but also to HR, and particularly once you have a diagnosis, to look into FMLA or some sort of formal accommodation under ADA. It’s not widely advertised that you can take FMLA one day at a time, but you can. It’s also not widely advertised that a reasonable accommodation could be flex time, but it certainly could. The problem is, in a lot of organizations a manager is not even going to think about referring you to HR to request something like this. However, OP is right in that they don’t have to talk about their private medical details with their boss, and many commenters are right in that the OP is not making their position better by just calling in with random and changing excuses. They way to protect your job is to get this on the record – which is so much easier with a formal diagnosis.

        2. emmelemm*

          I have found that there are women who, possibly because their periods are generally average and non-terrible, have like zero sympathy for those who have serious chronic issues. Like, “Doesn’t everybody have cramps?” There are cramps and then there are CRAMPS.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood”*

      OP5 Try “intermittent abdominal pain” and “my dr is trying to figure out what’s causing it.”

      1. anone*

        Nope, don’t mention the part of the body. It’s not necessary and can just fuel nosy people theorizing and guessing. It’s not about finding a way to be as honest as possible, it’s about saying no more than is strictly necessary.

        1. Julia*

          Unfortunately true. I did once try to vaguely say I had abdominal pain, and my boss asked whether I was drinking too many cold drinks. As if I weren’t an adult who knew how her own body works…

    3. Chriama*

      I do think that if it’s an ongoing issue, OP is better off clarifying that up front. A migraine once a month is different from a migraine once a week, especially when migraines as a chronic health condition are underplayed (like the way the flu has been reduced to mean a bad cold, downplaying the fact that it literally kills hundreds of thousands of people a year). State up front that you’re dealing with a health issue that makes you completely unable to work when it flares up, you’re talking with your doctor about it, but you might need to take more sick days than in the past.

    4. twocents*

      That’s a very good point and reminds me of the view managers AND coworkers can have of someone who is “always” sick for a new reason. It’s technically plausible that you have migraines, a stomach flu, a bad cold, food poisoning, etc back to back to back, but it starts to look like you’re just making stuff up and the coworkers who are picking up the slack can become particularly resentful.

      I like the other commenters’ suggestions about this being an “ongoing medical problem that’s under investigation.” Unless the manager has never been sick, then everyone can understand that sometimes doctors run tests to confirm a diagnosis.

    5. Chance of thunderstorm*

      LW5 I’m sorry you are in so much pain! Right after I read your letter I read a news article about one persons 7 year struggle to be correctly diagnosed with endometriosis. I hope you are getting the support you need from your doctor and if not, find another one! (I know, easier said than done). You deserve an accurate diagnosis, hopefully you will be able to get this sorted soon.

  9. Aspie_Anything*

    Ugggghhhh….it sucks, but at my previous job, I would have definitely told a subordinate to delete their pronouns from their signature. I worked for a construction trade association with 2-4 employees at any given time; there was no HR department, no cultural competency, no D&I, etc. It would have been so out of touch with the culture and the person would have at the very least been ridiculed behind their back with no recourse in our state.

    Hence, it’s my previous job. Regardless, I think Alison’s answer is spot-on in an ideal world, but many people don’t work in an ideal world.

    1. Emma*

      The only way those kinds of cultures change is by people doing the awkward thing until it no longer seems weird. I understand that it can take a lot of courage to be that person, especially if you are already a bit of a misfit for other reasons, but if someone else *is* willing to be the outlier then there’s really no reason to stop them.

    2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I could see there being value in letting subordinates know about the general culture (although ideally that could be done during the interview) so they understand how they’re recieved….but I feel differently about telling someone to do it.

      That said, letting someone know how something might be percieved without insinuating that they should stop is a delicate dance. I’m not sure how I would have handled it.

      1. Dete*

        People who put pronouns in their signature can, imo, be trusted to be aware they’re existing in a more conservative environment and to know what including their pronouns might entail for them regarding coworker pushback.

        1. I’d Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

          When I was first working and in a position that meant collaborating with client groups across different regions, I found it very helpful to get a brief review of the company culture and general attitudes (including, sometimes, a company’s general political/religious stance). It didn’t necessarily change my behaviour (as far as I know) but it help me to set my own expectations — and it could be really helpful to my confidence, especially if my supervisor was upfront about possible cultural obstacles and reassuring me they had my back.

          That said, I’ve no doubt this differs widely between fields and between employees.

          1. Deplplte*

            Thanks, that makes sense. I guess I should have said that I feel like people will either be aware of the culture, unaware and thus not risking anything and not putting pronouns in signatures, or unaware and willing to risk it anyway.

            I could be way off base, and yeah if it were me I definitely would appreciate a manager saying, you’ve probably noticed it’s not a thing that people do and it’s possible you might encounter pushback from coworkers but I have your back.

            1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

              I agree it’s sticky. Because sometimes a manager saying “I want you to be aware that the culture is X” could across as an admonishment rather than an FYI. I don’t really know what would be best.

      2. ratatatcat*

        Yeah I agree that being made aware would be helpful, although I think not as far as asking them to remove it. At my workplace, a new employee would definitely be seen as making a big, showy Political Point by doing that, and even beyond internal snickering, it would probably affect their reputation with some of our clients; all of which is fine if you understand those implications, but that understanding really shouldn’t be taken as a given.

        1. Aspie_Anything*

          The political point thing is spot-on. It’s exactly how it would be taken, and I’m 1000% positive that if I were to allow an association coordinator to list pronouns, I would have been reprimanded by the board of directors for it, and told to make him/her/they delete it. So for the sake of my standing and my subordinate’s, I would nip it immediately.

          Maybe unprofessional isn’t the right word, but I definitely think that fitting into industry culture is a professional responsibility, especially when you work for something like a trade association where you represent the whole industry and every interaction is ‘external’. EDs actually have very little authority and what the dues-paying board of directors says, goes. I love association work, but it’s a different environment, especially when there are fewer than 5 paid employees.

          “I get what you’re trying to do, and I really respect it, but in this industry it’s not ok and you need to remove it or you risk making a political statement the BOD has not approved” would definitely come out of my mouth or we would both be in trouble.

          Related: the Department of Labor has added gender identity to the list of protected classes for registered apprenticeship (yay!!!) but my apprenticeship committee, made up of member contractors, pushed back on the DOL because adopting the language in their Standards would be embarrassing and political. Spoiler Alert: the DOL didn’t budge and all apprenticeship contractors had to agree to the nondiscrimination policy.

          Construction is very, very conservative and I’m glad I made it out before the pandemic hit.

    3. Juniper*

      I am all for inclusivity and pushing industries, one company at a time, to change for the better. But I think your example illustrates the wall a lot of us run up against in real life as we try to reconcile our values with prevailing norms. I would never ask an employee to remove it from their signature, but they may want to understand how it may be perceived (if only so they know that their boss has their back if there’s confusion or push-back).

      1. pancakes*

        Those are two different sentiments, though, and they don’t always go hand-in-hand: “Awful people might ridicule you for this,” and “I will have your back if they do.” Instructing someone to remove their pronouns from their signature only communicates the former.

        1. Juniper*

          Oh, I would never even suggest that someone should remove them. Sorry if that wasn’t clear. But I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad idea to talk about how it’s out of step with industry norms and might raise some eyebrows (and that that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but be aware of it).

          1. pancakes*

            I wasn’t trying to suggest you would, but the person you were replying to said they definitely would.

            1. Aspie_Anything*

              For sure I would. I’m the environment I’m talking about, there is no “have your back.”

              I am confident that if this turned into A Thing where the Board didn’t like it but office staff continued, there would be new office staff (see my response above)

  10. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    LW 2 – I had similar things like that happen to me over the years. You just have to be careful – and watchful. I’ve had managers pull stunts on me over the years…

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        I know the reference to ‘Guac Bob’ but is it clear that the hotel (along with other, non-hotel, vendors it sounds like?) is on the do-not-use list because of cost/penny pinching?

        excluded party list (a list of companies, agencies, people, etc. that the company does not do business with).

        To me it sounds like there could be any number of reasons a person/org ends up on this list – a few potential reasons I can think of off the top of my head include poor relationships with the company in the past (e.g. defaulting on bills, or maybe even the company has a poor history with the companies!), lack of trust, lack/conflict of ethics, etc etc.

        I think if the company has a policy like this specifically calling out companies and people we don’t work with — the onus ought to be on the company to make sure all employees that travel for business are aware of this list – not only in the abstract (OP said she was aware that the list existed, but not that this company was on it) but specifically, e.g. is it feasible to have a copy of the list with them (printed or in their emails or something like that?)

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          I think if the company has a policy like this specifically calling out companies and people we don’t work with — the onus ought to be on the company to make sure all employees that travel for business are aware of this list – not only in the abstract (OP said she was aware that the list existed, but not that this company was on it) but specifically, e.g. is it feasible to have a copy of the list with them (printed or in their emails or something like that?)

          Yes, I was wondering that about this list – it would make sense for that option to be available. If it was 2am for OP, I don’t know how different the time zone they were in was from the company’s but it’s certainly possible it was the middle of the night for the company as well and not feasible to have checked with anyone in the moment. So having the list available would have made it easier to avoid that hotel – although I have to wonder what the company would have done if hotels on the No list had been the only options.

  11. JKP*

    #3 – The last employer I worked for before starting my own business wanted to pay for training and development and move me into a more senior position. I was upfront with them I only planned to stay another year or so until I could go full time with my side business.

    In hindsight, it would have been better for both the company and myself if I had said nothing. In that year I stayed, they hired and trained a few different people for that role and it was empty again when I left. The company would have been better off if I had worked that role for the year instead of trying to hire and train for it multiple times.

    1. Moving On*

      OP here, Thanks for sharing your experience. That’s my feeling after Alison’s response and reading comments like your. I could be a valuable asset to them in the mean time, and who knows what the timeline really is.

      1. Artemesia*

        And you don’t know what a year will bring. It isn’t as if you were leaving in two months. Hang in there — do the thing — and perhaps the world will look entirely different in a year and you will move or not in ways you haven’t thought of.

    2. Snow Globe*

      LW, even if you didn’t have plans to leave 12-18 months, that’s the kind of thing that could end up happening anyway if a great opportunity presents itself. People leave jobs all the time, and any reasonable manager would know that you can’t expect any employee to stick around forever. By the time you leave, you will have spent 1 1/2 to 2 years with this job, there is no reason to feel guilty about leaving too soon.

  12. Not Always Right*

    I’m not understanding what y’all mean about putting his/her in email signatures. I’m having trouble picturing it. I can see signing off as Mr. Jo Brown or Ms. Michael Smith but I am not “getting” what the signature looks like. I’m just asking so I can understand, so please be nice

    1. frystavirki*

      I think the way I’ve seen it done would be like, a little block that goes at the end of the email — like,
      Michael Smith (he/him)
      Sandwich Consultant
      House of Lunch
      Emerald City, Oz
      etc. etc. etc.

        1. frystavirki*

          I think the fact that both Alison and I went directly to meal-based companies might indicate something. Possibly that we’re hungry.

    2. MBK*

      Not the actual “Regards, Kenneth” part, but the automated footer after that. So:

      I look forward to hearing from you soon.


      Kenneth W. Teapot (he/him)
      Assistant to the Regional Manager
      Teapot Widgets, Inc.

    3. AnotherLibrarian*

      So, you sign off the email:

      Best Regards,
      – AnotherLibrarian

      And then you have an automated email signature that attaches, which might look like this:

      AnotherLibrarian (They/Them)– Or whatever pronouns
      Business Name

      Confidentiality Statement/Indigenous Land Acknowledgment/Whatever else

      Does that makes sense?

    4. Cant remember my old name*

      Jim Jones
      title, department
      Company name

      So not in his sign off but in his formal email signature. Hope that helps!

    5. Tamer of Dragonflies*

      Ya know,I’m kinda liking the pronouns after the name but before the title..In my mind,it flows nicely:
      My name ( address me as “pronoun”)
      My job title
      My employer
      Use this email/phone number to contact me

      Like how I tried to show above.I rarely use email,but next time I do, I’m gonna do it like that.

    6. Liza*

      After the message, I have an auto-signature:

      [full professional name] (she/her)
      [email address]
      [phone number]

    7. Paperdill*

      I’m so glad you asked because that’s not something I have seen before (in Australia).
      I’m contemplating whether I should amend my own signature – I’m wanting to act in solidarity but it’s sometimes hard to tell whether this is a cultural thing, as well.

      1. londonedit*

        I’m starting to see it here in the UK. A couple of my colleagues in different departments have added their pronouns, but so far only (she/her), I haven’t seen anyone with (they/them) yet. But maybe if it becomes more of a thing generally, then people will be more confident in naming their own pronouns whatever they are.

      2. Ermintrude*

        I’m in Sydney, and I think it needs to be normalised that people share their pronouns. I haven’t felt the need as a cisgender woman who reads ‘female’ with an obviously feminine name, but now I’m considering adding mine to my resume and email sign-offs.
        I personally think it should be a neutral thing to include pronouns, the more people do this, the more culturally normal it will be.

      3. Queer Earthling*

        I’ve definitely seen Australians use pronouns in professional emails, but my industry is pretty queer.

      4. Hillary*

        My global employer recently added it to our global email signature template – the uptake has been highest among the USians, but I’m starting to see it used everywhere.

        I particularly appreciate it from my Chinese and Japanese colleagues since I’m less familiar with gender norms around their given names and they often don’t have pictures in outlook. I don’t miss finding a Japanese-speaking colleague to make sure I’m properly addressing a customer at my last job.

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          This reminds me of something I’ve read in the past — accessible design is actually just *good* design. Those cut outs in the curbs in many areas of the US (perhaps international as well, I didn’t know to look for them last time I was abroad) were originally intended for those who use wheelchairs, but surprise! they’re also helpful for people wheeling luggage, people on crutches or with canes, people pushing strollers. It’s just good design to have a way for all of those people to safely get off and on the sidewalk. In kind of the same way, inclusive design is also just good design.

    8. JT*

      In my organization it generally looks like:

      First Name Last Name, PhD (they/them)
      Position Title
      Business # | email

    9. Sleepless*

      A lot of people who write to Captain Awkward include their pronouns, if you want to see some examples.

  13. Edwina*

    LW #2: another way this was the company’s fault is that as soon as you were en route, they should have checked you in online to the hotel.

    If this happens again, it’s something you can also do: check in online as early as you can, and also, if you’re delayed, send an email or call them to let them know you’ll be arriving late.

    When I was taking care of my ailing elderly mom, I’d fly up and go directly to her house to deal with everything, shop, clean, spend time with her, and often didn’t check into my hotel (yes, I stayed at a hotel for my sanity) till after 11pm. I would check in that morning, and also called and added it to my check-in instructions that I might not be arriving till 11pm. Arriving this late, esp. with a lot of international travel, is so common in traveling that, as I said, I’m surprised your company didn’t take care of this. Meanwhile, of course they should reimburse you–they are responsible for the inconvenience! I’d definitely take Alison’s advice and escalate this.

    1. Robert*

      I have sent an email to the Corp head office seeking reimbursement along with a photo of the bill that I paid. I’m somewhat hopeful I will get reimbursed.

      1. Artemesia*

        Good. It is outrageous that they are playing this game with you. In future, call ahead etc — but we have all been in this situation of arriving late and having no room if we travel much for business. Usually the hotel ‘walks you’ to another property and covers it with the original reservation; I am assuming a late arrival was not guaranteed since this didn’t occur, but in future it is wise to alert to a late arrival.

        And the minion in your accounting office is a jerk —

    2. cncx*

      yes, i do this a lot when i visit my bestie- i leave after work which means i don’t get in until late, so i mention my check in time when i make the reservation, and call if the train is late. like you said, i’m not victim blaming OP, this is still on the company to make right.

    3. mreasy*

      I wouldn’t want to do business with a hotel who released my reservation after only 3 hours late. Usually they have your credit card on file and will just charge you if you don’t cancel on time. This seems like a very bad practice given how common late flights are!

      1. Chriama*

        I absolutely agree, especially for business travel. It makes no sense to cancel a reservation rather than charging you for the first night and cancelling subsequent nights after trying to contact you.

      2. Mr. Shark*

        Right. That’s crazy. I’ve arrived a a hotel at midnight or even after during business travel and they had my reservation just waiting there. Why would they cancel the reservation when they have your card? Typically hotels say they will charge you for one night if you cancel less than 24 hours before the start of your stay, so they have to hold your reservation for you until then.
        I’ve never had that problem before.

    4. Sneaky Ninja for this one*

      Part of the contract of the my employer’s preferred hotels is 24hr check in. It doesn’t matter if it’s 2 am or 2 pm. Our rooms are ready and not given away. If someone no shows, the stay gets charged. In non0-Covid times, parts of the company are heavy on travel and it can be hard to predict when you’ll get to where you’re going.

  14. AS87*

    #1. I haven’t fully embraced the pronouns yet. Not because I don’t want to but just because I hadn’t really thought of it. I have no problem at all with the employee using pronouns. With that said, I would be upset if someone gave me grief for not using pronouns in my email signature.

    Forgive me for bringing up politics here but I’m conservative and from what I can see, the employee used his individual freedom to promote inclusivity. Good for him. :-)

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        I think AS87 is saying that they themselves don’t include pronouns in their email signature, not an objecting to others including it.

        1. HollyTree*

          I know, that’s not what I was asking. :) I’m asking how they’d like to share their own pronouns, or if it’s more of a ‘I’ll correct you if you guess wrong’ thing.

          1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

            Of course, that makes sense. I misinterpreted the tone of your comment, I think. :)

          2. Asenath*

            I’d let them guess. I wouldn’t worry if they got the pronouns wrong, especially if they were sending me a one-off business interaction, so I wouldn’t correct them.

          3. Antilles*

            Depending on your first name, it’s often easy enough to just go with “correct you if you guess wrong”. Many first names are pretty strongly gendered one way or the other – a man named Michael or a woman named Jennifer probably aren’t getting misgendered very often.

          4. not a doctor (shh)*

            While it is true that not everyone has a clearly gendered name, some people live in countries where their clearly gendered names are unfamiliar to most and thus are not clearly gendered to everyone, and not everyone who has a clearly gendered name uses the pronouns that generally correspond with that gender, if AS87 uses she/her pronouns and is named Rachel or Emily or Sarah, or if AS87 uses he/him pronouns and is named Anthony or Edward or Jonathan, it’s virtually certain that people are going to get them right, and thus AS87 may have never really needed to share pronouns.

            1. Jackalope*

              Yup, that’s been my experience. A) my full name is a name that is exclusively one gender, and b) when I’ve lived in other countries that didn’t have my name they were countries with gender in the language (think something like Spanish), so anyone talking about me, introducing me, etc., would obviously be using the gender specific adjectives and so on, so it would be super obvious. I understand that misgendering can be an issue, but it’s never happened to me personally.

      2. AS87*

        If I had to, I would use my pronouns in email. Where I live, it hasn’t really caught on yet. I’m in grad school right now but was working up until late spring last year and no one at the company where I worked was using them yet when I left.

      3. MassMatt*

        I can see why people share pronouns and am all for inclusivity but this question makes it seem as though of COURSE people absolutely MUST a know your pronouns in order to respond to your email. But emails generally use the first and second person:: I want the TPS report, do you have it?” Third person pronouns only come up when we talk about someone in another email. “I emailed Jane asking for the TPS report and she said she gave it to you”.

    1. Dete*

      Well, you’ve thought of it now, so you can decide if moving forward you also want to promote inclusivity or not.

      1. Hamish*

        This is pretty passive-aggressive. There’s no need for that. There are a lot of reasons people can be aware of this phenomenon and still decide not to put their pronouns in their signature yet.

      2. I'm A Little Teapot*

        I can’t control the automated signature on my emails. I would literally have to change my name in the employee portal to include them, which would then show up on my paychecks and W-2. IT would have to do some significant rework to make it possible, and I have no influence over these things. Do you blame me for not promoting inclusivity?

        Just because someone doesn’t have pronouns in their email doesn’t mean they’re trying to be nasty.

        1. she/her*

          No one said that at all. No one is advocating for forced pronouns, and none of this has anything to do with a place that has automated signatures.

        2. Gina*

          I don’t blame you for not promoting inclusivity. I do wonder if you’ve tried though. Have you asked for this to be changed? Questioned your company on why the signature is auto-generated? Raised the issue at all? How do you know you have no influence?

          Or have you kept quiet, ignored the issue, done nothing? If you can’t change this, what HAVE you done to promote inclusivity?

  15. Finland*

    Is it wrong of me to continue to take on more responsibility, knowing I will eventually leave? …they gave me a job when no one else was hiring, and it’s the reason we were able to keep our heads above water…

    LW2: as an employee, you make an investment in your employer just like your employer makes an investment in you. Them giving you a job is not a favor; don’t frame this as betraying your employer or being dishonest with them. Everything they are doing for you, they would do for any employee who gives them a return on their investment. You have to think the same way about yourself, your value and your worth. You give your loyalty, for as long as it works for you, to the company that rewards your time and labor investment. No more, no less. Having an amazing boss and/or coworkers is the cherry on the sundae. When you are absolutely certain your plans will change (i.e. you accept another position, etc.), feel free to let them know, with adequate notice, that you will be moving on and do so without a shred of guilt. In this, you are doing exactly what any professional would be expected to.

  16. Finland*

    Is it wrong of me to continue to take on more responsibility, knowing I will eventually leave? …they gave me a job when no one else was hiring, and it’s the reason we were able to keep our heads above water…

    LW2: as an employee, you make an investment in your employer just like your employer makes an investment in you. Them giving you a job is not a favor; don’t frame this as betraying your employer or being dishonest with them. Everything they are doing for you, they would do for any employee who gives them a return on their investment. You have to think the same way about yourself, your value and your worth. You give your loyalty, for as long as it works for you, to the company that rewards your time and labor investment. No more, no less. When you are absolutely certain your plans will change (i.e. you accept another position, etc.), feel free to let them know, with adequate notice, that you will be moving on and do so without a shred of guilt. In this, you are doing exactly what any professional would be expected to.

    1. inspector parker*

      Yes, this. This is the nature of the business relationship, and employers (should) understand and expect nothing else. It’s a two-way street. Employees invest in employers and sometimes get laid off or fired, employers invest in employees who sometimes quit. They already know LW might not be there to take on the role they’re priming her for, because that’s the case for any employee.

  17. Eye roll*

    LW2, please push back hard. Tell them plainly you cannot shoulder any of the business’s expenses and that paying for your hotel room is their responsibility after the initial arrangements fell through. I assume they did not give you the home and cell phones for a contact you could call to arrange a hotel at 2-3AM and they did not check you in in advance, so this is entirely on them.

    1. UKDancer*

      Definitely push back. It’s very difficult to find a hotel when you’re late and in an unfamiliar city. The least the company should do is pay for it.

      I’ve had something similar happen to me when I went to a meeting in Brussels. I arrived late on a Sunday night (and it was raining and cold). The hotel had no record of my company’s booking for the hotel room. I was seriously quite worried what I’d do. I mean I knew the hotels there quite well but it didn’t mean I wanted to find one late at night. If you get somewhere unfamiliar and can’t get in at the hotel you’ve booked, the company should accept that you’re likely to go to the closest / most convenient place and not bother to check other things.

      Fortunately in my case the hotel was willing to sell me a room (at rack rate). Even more fortunately my boss didn’t argue and just signed off on the large expenses claim when I put it in.

    2. Kiko*

      Yes, OP#2. If the company refuses to pay for this (business!!!) expense, I would consider them unsympathetic and question if this is the sort of company I want to work for. Also, a one night stay is incredibly cheap in the grand scheme of things and I generally disdain this sort of penny pinching.

    3. New Here*

      This must vary by company, but there’s no way my company would pay for a disallowed hotel. In my case, I work for a non-profit and our leadership owns part of a hotel chain. Legally, we are not allowed to stay there because it is consider double dealing (I don’t remember the technical name for it). On the other hand, we have 24-hour travel service so the expectation would be to call the agency rather than booking something on one’s own. I’m also surprised that the hotel themselves didn’t book you in a sister hotel – that’s pretty common as well.

      1. MassMatt*

        I can see having a list of preferred vendors/hotels, maybe with discounted rates, or your case where a particular chain is prohibited due to conflict of interest rules. But LW indicates there’s an actual list of forbidden hotels. That seems very weird!

        What sins do these hotels commit to be put on this forbidden list?

        1. UKDancer*

          I was wondering that. I mean my company asks us not to spend more than x per night on accommodation if possible (x varying depending on where you are). They ask us not to stay in more expensive hotels than necessary, e.g we would use the Premier Inn rather than the Intercontinental. I’ve never worked anywhere that forbade using certain hotels so find that’s a bit unusual to my way of thinking.

          Also if I turned up in a strange city late at night and found there was no booking, I’d expect my company to understand that I would want to find a safe place reasonably quickly and may not be able to do a detailed hotel search.

        2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

          What sins do these hotels commit to be put on this forbidden list?

          Unclear, but what seems clear from the OP (at least as I read it) is that it can’t be just based on cost, as “agencies” and “people” (whatever that means!) are also on this list.. One has to assume that there’s a legit (or at least backed up by something) reason for ending up on the list, that can’t be gotten around by (e.g.) reimbursing the amount of money they would have spent on an “allowed” hotel (if the actual amount was more).

          NewHere’s (above) case is a specific example… legally they are not allowed to stay in a hotel in that chain, so if things break down (leaving aside the 24-hr travel agency service) and they stay in a hotel in that chain, the company legally can’t pay for it, so they could only stay there as “NewHere (Self-Representing)” rather than “NewHere (employee of Acme)” and it would be paid for accordingly.

        3. Sacred Ground*

          No sin committed by the hotel. There’s a conflict of interest.

          From the comment: “In my case, I work for a non-profit and our leadership owns part of a hotel chain. Legally, we are not allowed to stay there…”

          The non-profit can not spend its donors’ money on businesses owned by the non-profit’s leaders. It’s illegal, it could easily be a form of fraud, tax evasion, or money laundering. Even if it wasn’t illegal, it sure looks awful.

          1. Sacred Ground*

            Kind of like, oh just for a random example off the top of my head, if a high government official were to own a hotel that was constantly booked up at above market rates by parties with business before the government.

      2. Observer*

        Well, there are two key issues here. One is that your leadership has clearly made it plain that this is an issue. Secondly, they have provided an alternative solution!

        1. Used to Work Hotel Front Desk*

          Right – NewHere’s employer has a very valid reason for the why and (this is key) they are giving employees the resources to avoid the conflict of interest that would result. They have also clearly stated the problem and who is on the no stay list.

          As for how hotels get on a do not use list, it’s probably along the same lines as how a guest gets on a hotel/chain’s No Rent List.

  18. SW*

    LW 1: I would encourage you to give yourself a thorough investigation of everything that you deem unprofessional. Odds are that this is just the tip of the iceberg with regards to your criticism of the behaviors of marginalized people under the guise of “professionalism.”
    Eg. Are you criticizing the dress of women with large breasts when they wear the same clothes as their smaller-breasted peers? Do you think that LGBQ people shouldn’t talk about their relationships at work? Do you grumble when your employees take Rosh Hashanah off?

    1. E*

      Do you really think that follows, SW? New things, especially if they have no relevance to the person encountering them for the first time, often seem odd, and something odd may seem unprofessional. Same-sex relationships have become so normalised in western society over the past, let’s say, two decades, that OP would have to be bigoted indeed to have such a reaction. I’m not in a country that has a significant Jewish community so I can’t speak for Rosh Hashanah, but surely the concept of non-Christians having holy days isn’t new in western society either.

      1. Dete*


        Yes, some people *are* “bigoted indeed”, like you’re acting like it’s not a big issue, I’m… confused, at best.

        1. E*

          Apologies, I’m maybe not being too coherent, didn’t sleep well.
          I’ll try this analogy and if it doesn’t work, I apologise in advance and will step back!

          I read SW’s comment as somewhat analogous to: “Hello person, you shout at people unprovoked. You should do some self-analysis because based on that information I suspect it’s likely you also punch people in the face unprovoked.”

          Act #2 is far less acceptable in society than Act #1 is.

          1. Dete*

            Thanks for the reply.

            I disagree with the word “far”, but that is somewhat subjective.

            But aside from that, I definitely think that LW1 could be bigoted in multiple ways but also could be generally not bigoted and just happened to not like.. take two seconds to google why people put pronouns in their signatures. We don’t know for sure.

            What we do know is LW1 used the reasoning of it being unprofessional, which really calls into question what they think professionalism *is*. So while I could see a quibble with SW’s use of “odds are” might make sense (although I have no quibble personally), I do believe the encouragement for examination is good to mention in case it is an issue

          2. Dete*

            Thanks for the reply.

            I disagree with the word “far”, but that is somewhat subjective. But aside from that, I definitely think that LW1 could be bigoted in multiple ways but also could be generally not bigoted and just happened to not like.. take two seconds to google why people put pronouns in their signatures. We don’t know for sure.

            What we do know is LW1 used the reasoning of it being unprofessional, which really calls into question what they think professionalism *is*. So while I could see a quibble with SW’s use of “odds are” might make sense (although I have no quibble personally), I do believe the encouragement for examination is good to mention in case it is an issue

          3. SW*

            Yeah, actually I do think it follows. Professionalism is a term that gets chronically used as a weapon against marginalized people. All of the things I mentioned have been things I or people I know have heard at work in the recent past at supposedly progressive institutions in the United States.
            People who feel that they should regulate their employees’ email signatures seldom stop at that level of control. This incident represents an opportunity for the OP to evaluate how they’re trying to control others’ behavior at work and whether there’s a bias to it.
            Also to continue your analogy, as unhelpful as I think it is: the problem is that the people who shout and the people who both shout and punch use the same justification that the other person deserves it. The root is the same, and the latent threat of the punch is also still there. ‘He yells at me, but he’d never hit me’ is still a red flag that abuse is happening. The road from yelling to punching is far smaller than you imagine it to be, and the road from using professionalism to criticize an employee’s work of inclusion is also just down the road from criticizing someone’s natural hair as unprofessional.
            How we conduct ourselves with regards to the small things has bearing on how we conduct ourselves on big things. It’s why Allison comes down so hard on people who are dishonest about small things; it’s a sign that their judgment is flawed.
            I don’t think it’s unreasonable for this OP to thoroughly look into the worldview that leads them to think that an employee should be disciplined for doing “unprofessional” things that benefit excluded people. That worldview drives all of their decisions and is likely harming other people. I did not realize that this would be such a radical proposition.

      2. pancakes*

        “New things, especially if they have no relevance to the person encountering them for the first time, often seem odd…”

        Learning how to get along with someone who doesn’t resemble oneself in a professional context seems pretty relevant. Characterizing anything that seems unfamiliar to oneself as “unprofessional” is quite unthinking and reactionary.

      3. Annie Moose*

        Well… yeah, actually, people who have a problem with putting pronouns in signatures often are less accepting of LGBT people, a variety of religions, etc., certainly in the US and I would suspect other countries as well. Of course it isn’t a guarantee or anything, and I don’t think SW is trying to say “OP is SUPER BIGOTED in EVERY WAY”, but–it is worthwhile in these situations to stop and examine ourselves and go, why do I think this way? If the way I’ve handled this situation is wrong, are there other situations I need to examine as well?

      4. Sacred Ground*

        The concept that non-Christians’ holy days ought be respected isn’t new either. The degree to which the concept is applied in the workplace varies quite a lot. Acceptance of the concept seems on the decline in parts of the US while expressing opposition to it is on the rise.

    2. Liza*

      I’d be interested to know if they think of locs and other Black hairstyles as “unprofessional” too

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I’m reminded of a career advisor at uni who suggested I flatten my hair and flatten my chest to look more ‘professional’. At 20 I honestly went into the workplace thinking that being professional meant acting and appearing as much as possible like a white cis guy.

        1. Observer*

          “flatten your chest”?! I can understand someone thinking that it’s reasonable to “flatten” their hair. (I know that it’s not but I understand why many people do not realize this. BTDT, and I’m glad I wear a wig.) But how does anyone think that it’s reasonable to ask someone to “flatten” their chest? Where they really suggesting that you get breast reduction surgery?!?! (And, of course they would be judging you for that, too!)

  19. Finland*

    LW2: as you were expected to check into your hotel by approximately 11 PM, any delay could have resulted in you losing the hotel reservation. Your employer should’ve had a contingency hotel booked already, or had plans in place to notify your hotel that you were planning to check in sometime after 11. If it were my company, I would’ve never booked a hotel that is going to give away a confirmed reservation from a business simply because a guest arrived late. That is the kind of hotel that would be on my “NO“ list.

    Any company that sends employees on travel would be making these adjustments and, if not, then allowing the employee to make an emergency reservation at another hotel. As adamant as they are at not doing business with certain lodging chains, they should be even more adamant that their employees are not going to be sleeping at the doorstep of an approved hotel. We all have to make exceptions in life when things don’t go as planned. If your employer can’t do the same, then they should never send anyone on business travel.

      1. D3*

        I’ve had BOTH happen. Hotel charged my card *and* gave the room to someone else. They said the charge was not a charge *for the room* but a “failure to cancel” fee. In the exact same amount.
        2:30 in the morning and I’d been traveling for nearly 18 hours and I had a meltdown on the poor clerk. They reversed the charge and I found a room elsewhere.
        And I won’t use that chain ever again if I can help it.

    1. Used to Work for a Hotel*

      Former Front Desk Hitel clerk here (spent almost six years at it), at the chain I worked for we would have to no-show all rooms that didn’t arrive by Two AM in order to close out our business day and actually process the credit cards to bill rooms that had checked in earlier in the day. We didn’t charge a no-show fee except for particularly egregious cases (like the group that reserved and no showed on 25 rooms – we charged them for three rooms, not the full block) where we had no advance warning that you were going to be unable to make it to the hotel before checkin time ended.

      The policies vary widely by chain, and any priority standing a frequent traveler may have can help with getting around those policies. I know the reservation emails we sent out would include the whole policy list in the body (that fine print at the bottom that almost nobody ever reads), and we would state that if you are going to be later than midnight to call us – because at that point we are going to sell the room (checkin time started at 1pm, reservations were no longer guaranteed at midnight – but like I said we generally never charged a no show fee, we just resold the room instead). If you called us, we would hold your room for you though.

  20. anone*

    LW #5 – so much sympathies. I have had a similar issue since I was a teenager and the stigma and assumptions associated with menstrual pain made it so much harder to navigate first in school and then in work places because it felt like it wasn’t allowed to be a problem (and it became extra uncomfortable once I also realized I’m trans). I have learned to understand it as a chronic pain condition, which is exactly what it is, and I just don’t bring up the menstruation connection ever because it’s just so hard to know how people will react (cis women and cis men have both been terrible to me about it, in different but equal ways, including people I respected and trusted beforehand). Even mentioning it as a chronic pain condition can bring up a different kind of stigma, so Alison’s language about “health issue” with periodic flare-ups is exactly right in terms of the level of detail your manager needs.

    Please do let your manager know that you are managing a health condition though! Alison’s advice is spot on.

    1. WS*

      +1, I have PCOS and I would absolutely agree with “don’t bring up the menstruation connection ever”. People can be terrible about it in various ways. Same for “chronic pain”.

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        Yep! I have PCOS too. The first day of my cycle can be pure hell, so if I need to use a sick day for it I just tell my boss that my chronic illness is flaring up.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        PCOS and two other chronic pain conditions! Learnt the very hard way to be as generic as possible at work. ‘Flare up’ can cover all from the PCOS agony, to the arthritis making it impossible to move, to the spinal injury…

        Useful phrase.

    2. chronic pain haver*

      Same– I have interstitial cystitis (autoimmune disorder that feels like the worst UTI ever), and I find that this particular type of pain can also make you feel really vulnerable? Which, in my book, means you tell people whatever makes you feel safe– for me when I was first diagnosed and learning to manage it, I would just say “dealing with a chronic pain condition flare up.” That generally shut down any further questions. Sending you love and healing vibes. (and advice that if your condition is anything like mine, stocking up on 4-5 ice packs to rotate in/out of the freezer and investing in an electric heating pad was a lifesaver)

      1. anone*

        My electric heating pad changed my life too. And then chemical heating pads that I can comfortably wear under my clothes changed my life again, letting me actually walk around and leave the house on low-to-moderate pain days (not high pain days but that’s a different story anyway).

        Agreed about the vulnerable feeling. OP5, I really hope that you’re able to get swift diagnosis and treatment. If this does end up as a longer-term condition, be kind with yourself as you start that journey. There can be a lot of grief and other emotions that go along with it, but you do not have to be alone. There are a lot of us out here and we look out for each other and live really good, satisfying lives with lots of joy and pleasure too.

    3. itsme*

      I recently started listening to the podcast “The Cure for Chronic Pain with Nicole Sachs” and it has really turned my quality of life around. Would recommend giving it a listen LW #5 and anyone who can relate! :)

  21. Genderly confused*

    I have the opposite question to LW1. Adding pronouns to signatures is becoming common at my work. This is great and I want to add my support. But seeing “she/her” next to my name makes me feel sad and uncomfortable.

    At the same time, I present and act 99% like a straight cis white woman, so I feel like adding “they/them” would be appropriation?

    Perhaps adding to my confusion is that I just had my first child so am feeling at my most feminine and also more aware than ever of how much I’ve always hated being defined by my gender.

    Does anyone have any suggestions of ways I could format my signature to be supportive of LGBTQA+ colleagues without feeling as sad as I do putting “she/her” next to my name? The standard at my workplace is to add them in brackets directly after the name :

    Genederly confused (she/her, they/them)
    Teapot designer
    Works from home Tuesday Wednesday Thursday

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I don’t think it’s appropriation if you’re doing it from a sincere and earnest place, which it sounds like you are. You don’t need to ‘earn’ the right to non-cis pronouns by presenting in a certain way, IMO.

      1. Dete*

        It’s a small part of your wording but important so I wanted to comment – cis people can use they pronouns, just like nonbinary people can use he and she. Just don’t want anyone to think gender labels have to be figured out before certain pronouns can be used.

      2. SW*

        Yeah, I think that if it’s making you feel icky than there’s definitely something there.
        I also do think that there’s a lot of value in people who don’t “look” androgynous or don’t “look” trans using they/them pronouns(the look is in scare quotes because there should be no set way to look nonbinary or trans). The practice creates space for nonbinary people to be seen as nonbinary without having to drastically conform to ideas of gender non-conformation. I dream of the day when I don’t get misgendered because I decide to wear a skirt to work.

    2. Dete*

      It is NOT appropriation, I promise. I hear you, I second guess myself about identifying as nonbinary because I present as my agab. But we deserve what makes us comfortable with regards to gender/language like everybody else.

      If she/her makes you uncomfortable, you aren’t hurting anybody by saying “those aren’t my pronouns”.

      1. Allonge*

        I agree. In this sense it’s like indicating your preferred (version of your) name: if Beth makes you happier / more you, you would put that and not Elizabeth in your signature, right?

    3. BubbleTea*

      I don’t know if this would help you at all, but you could put she/they, if you are willing to accept either.

      If you feel uncomfortable seeing pronouns that people are likely to assume apply to you, then I’d say that 100% means that you are entitled to request different ones. Not appropriation at all. I’m cis, and I’ve never felt uncomfortable with she/her pronouns. The fact that your experience is different doesn’t automatically mean you’re trans, but it certainly means you’re in a place where different pronouns might feel better. There’s no objective entry test, it’s about how you feel. Good luck!

    4. Nita*

      Honest question from non-native English speaker: Isn’t they/them proper, if you don’t know the gender?

      That’s what I was taught as a kid in the 90′ when I was first learning English. I’ve used it ever since, but lately I’ve started to see comments that have made me question, if that is approved and alright. (sorry for being offtopic, but your question made me puzzled. )

        1. Seeking Second Childhood”*

          It’s more complicated than that. It WAS a proper option for hundreds of years. (Shakespeare to Jane Austen). Then there was a push to match quantity of people (late 19th century?). And now it’s opening back up.
          Many grammar teachers were so strict that some people find the reversal hard to accept.

          1. Asenath*

            That’s a bit of an over-simplication. The earlier usage was different from that proposed today; it was more like “The family lived there for generations, and they built that house in 1776.” Only one, member of the family, not identified by name or gender, built the house. Singular they was used to refer to one unidentified member of a group, not an individual whose name and gender was known.

          2. Deplplte*

            It’s proper now, and I have no, none, zero sympathy for people who use grammar as any sort of excuse or reason to not try. I understand people have to get used to it. So I expect people to try.

            1. Quill*

              The window in which it was prescribed against linguistically is vanishingly brief. I remember being a kid in the 90’s, and having my parents staring at permission slips that said “each child on the field trip must bring his/her own lunch. He/She must arrive promptly at…” and saying wow, this is a grammatical nightmare, just use ‘they’

          3. Third-person Singular!*

            English professor here, and yes, “they” as third-person singular is increasingly accepted now. It’s even in some style guides! And it’s infinitely preferred to the he/she or (s)he awfulness, which is both inaccurate by perpetuating the binary and terribly inelegant.

            1. londonedit*

              I always wonder whether this is a US/UK difference, because when I was growing up and going through school ‘they’ as third-person singular was always fine (I’m nearly 40). I was never taught this ‘OMG you must never use they’ thing that people seem to raise whenever the issue of pronouns comes up.

              1. doreen*

                It might be a US/UK difference, but it’s almost certainly also an age difference – and also, as someone noted above there have been times and places where using singular “they” for an unknown or unidentified person (“Someone forgot their book”) would have been acceptable while using it for a known, identified person would not ( “Anthony forgot their book”)

              2. YetAnotherAnalyst*

                It might be! I’m nearly 40 and in the US, and I remember being taught that “they” was plural, but I was taught a lot of prescriptivist nonsense that doesn’t match how English is actually used.

                Singular “they” has always been the norm when gender is unknown (even in the US) for spoken English – “Someone lost their hat! I’ll put it here so they can find it.” is more natural than “Someone lost his or her hat! I’ll put it here so he or she can find it.”

                1. Shad*

                  So much of that prescriptivist bull is also coming from privilege and bias on a number of levels, ranging from possibly unconscious privileging of white English dialects to very intentionally placing specific cultural backgrounds on a pedestal (the split infinitive “rule” was intentionally and artificially lifted from Latin, because Latin was seen as better, when the “rule” is simply a syntactic quirk of how Latin forms the infinitive).

    5. Ellie*

      I’m as cis as they come, but I prefer they/them to she/her. In my head, I’m just uncomfortable identifying the gender. I don’t think it should matter. It is not common where I am, but if it becomes so, I’d go with she/they.

    6. Grace*

      Lots of people use she/they (or he/they) for anything from “non-binary but don’t mind these gendered pronouns” to “cis but don’t mind someone using they/them”.

      Feeling distressed by defining yourself purely as she/her is practically what that was made for, imo.

      1. Super Admin*

        Seconding this. I’ve got colleagues who present as female, identify as cis, but use she/they or they/them pronouns in their signature to indicate they’re comfortable with either. You do not have to identify as non-binary or gender fluid to use they/them pronouns – you aren’t appropriating anything by doing so and no one I know in the community would resent you using the pronouns you feel comfortable with.

        That said, if you aren’t comfortable using any pronouns right now, you don’t have to include them in your signature – not including them shouldn’t be seen immediately as someone who isn’t inclusive or supportive of the LGBTQ+ community, and no one should be forced to put their pronouns in their email if they don’t want to. Allies show themselves in many ways, and as long as you’re speaking up against anything that is oppressive or anti-LGBTQ+, or clear in conversation that you’re an ally and support safe spaces, that really is enough.

        In fact, putting ‘Ally’ or similar in your signature, or if your company has a Pride ERG or other LGBTQ+ resource, using their logo in your signature, is a great way to show support without forcing you to decide on your pronouns when you’re not comfortable doing so.

    7. WS*

      When I first ran into “declaring your pronouns”, I also felt uncomfortable using she/her. It prompted me to think a lot harder about my gender and ended up some years later with me realising I am actually non-binary, and had been uncomfortable with “she” since I was a small child. I just hadn’t given myself the opportunity to think about it. I used “she/her, they/them” to start with, and eventually “they/them” when it felt right.

      1. Most definitely she*

        I kind of had the reverse realization–I am a cis woman and I had the luxury of never having to really think hard about my gender until someone who did not know me personally used “they” to refer to me so as not to misgender–and I did actually feel misgendered. I realized that no, I am most definitely she/her and most definitely am NOT comfortable using or being addressed by nonbinary pronouns.

    8. Disabled trans lesbian*

      In addition to all the excellent advice already given, I would like to add that it’s perfectly fine to experiment with pronouns! Try out what works for you, in situations that feel safe and comfortable for you, and you do not have to stick with one particular pronoun. You’re not appropriating pronouns, because pronouns are personal.

    9. Lobsterp0t*

      A ton of people use both – you can’t appropriate a pronoun. It’s totally personal to you. Embrace as much of your gender confusion as you want! You don’t have to be just one thing.

    10. PolarVortex*

      There’s a reason there’s a Q for Questioning in the giant LGBTQ+ acronym. Appropriation is not what you’re asking to do. You have every Crowley be darned right to explore your own gender identity. Just because you feel feminine 99% of the time doesn’t mean that 1% doesn’t count. It’s the same with Bi people, just because they’re married to an opposite gendered person doesn’t make them less bi. There are trans men who have been pregnant and given birth to their children, it doesn’t make them any less masculine.

      You should be happy seeing your name. You should be happy seeing your pronouns. Life is too short to be sad over that. Fly free and be happy with your email signature including they/them.

      PolarVortex (Never to be known by my full feminine name HeatWaverly)
      He/Him, They/Them (And maybe once a blue moon She/Her)

    11. Liza*

      You should not have to use a pronoun that makes you feel sad or uncomfortable (barring some kind of safety threat or something, of course). It’s not appropriation, it’s figuring out what works for you.

    12. Tamer of Dragonflies*

      This may come off as trying to be a horses arse but if your a cis woman and you want to use her/she pronouns, then there shouldn’t be any shame in that. If your more comfortable with they/them, no shame there either. Its about letting there know what you prefer, whatever your situation, and that should be respected by others. Use the pronouns that YOU want others to address you as, and don’t feel bad in being who you are and letting folks know how you want to be addressed.

    13. c-*

      Putting she/her pronouns next to my signature also makes me sad, but I don’t want to deal with the hassle of educating people about they/them at work, so I don’t include any pronouns and just go with what people guess.
      Please feel free to drop the pronouns if they make you sad! You are not appropriating “they” if you like it, cis people can use “they” too. The point about pronouns is, you get to choose ’em (and to deliberately not choose any, and to switch between pronouns depending on context, and to be confused and unsure and change your mind).
      One way to signal you’re an ally with no pronoun signature required is being very diligent about adressing people in a correct and respectful manner, and enforcing that for others around you: “Yesterday I spoke with Dr. Kirby, and they said…”, “Actually, Alexia uses he/him pronouns. No, Joanne, you cannot adress him as ‘she'”, etc. That’s super helpful and very validating.
      Please don’t put yourself through unwanted pronounship to signal that you’re an ally, that doesn’t help anyone. And you deserve to feel happy and safe too.

    14. Not Driving*

      You don’t have to put your pronouns in your signature if you don’t want to. I’m trans, and I don’t list my pronouns anywhere, and I don’t give them when asked. I just let people assume and move on, because that’s more comfortable for me. And that’s fine. You can do the same, you don’t have to provide pronouns. Or you can use they/them. That isn’t appropriation. I don’t think pronouns even can be appropriated.

    15. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Pronouns next to name shouldn’t be mandatory, just accepted. I’ve got staff who don’t include pronouns at work and I’ve no reason to ask them why they’re not putting theirs down.

      It doesn’t send a ‘I’m appropriating a culture’ message to include your pronouns on a message, regardless of what they are. It’s just whatever you personally want to be addressed by. Not really any different to including a pronouncination guide next to your name.

      The only time I’d consider it offensive is when it’s a blatant bigotry take, like (Attack Helicopter/Teapot/Carpet Tile).

      1. Third-person Singular!*

        +1. That’s why I’ve moved to “feel free to share your pronouns in use” language with my students instead of “please share your preferred pronouns”– not everyone is sure yet and the pressure to declare pronouns can be counterproductive.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Oh I really like the ‘feel free’ wording you have there! It’s a great way of saying ‘it’s optional, but whatever you say will be cool’. Really like this.

    16. Em*


      I’m a cis lady entirely comfortable with my she/her pronouns, but I do have some friends who don’t fall at the ends of the binary and use they/them (or e/eir, or a couple of other neopronouns — it’s very cool how language is evolving, as it has always done!). Some of them look very much like the traditional idea of a cis woman or man — dresses, makeup, facial hair, whatever. That doesn’t actually change who they are. Nonbinary doesn’t mean androgynous.

      Taken another way — when I was a teenager, I wore cargo pants, baggy shirts, and sneakers. I cut my hair short. I was into going to airshows, video games, and a host of other things that in the nineties were considered generally-male pursuits. Before puberty really took off, it wasn’t uncommon for people, especially older people, to think I was a boy. But I was still a girl, using she/her pronouns.

      You’re not appropriating something if it belongs to you. You’re the one who gets to decide who you are and how you would like people to refer to you.

    17. I'm just here for the cats*

      You can use both. Just attended a webinar about this topic.amd we all went through out identities. The presentor identifies as she/they. They are non binary but also a person of color and feels woman of color is part of her identity that she can’t take away.

    18. TJ*

      If you feel more comfortable using they/them then those pronouns are for you! You could also include she/they if that feels better to you? Pronouns are associated with gender but not necessarily indicative of it- one can be a cis person that uses they/them as long as its from a place of being genuine.

    19. Llama face!*

      Thank you for asking this question. For different reasons I have also contemplated using they/their pronouns but was worried about appropriation and also about giving people unnecesarily confusing signals. Fwiw, in my case I’m a cis female ace aro gal who is just tired of the binary gender/gender presentation emphases in society (most of which seem to function mostly as partner-finding cues so are irrelevant to me as an aromantic asəxual). The pronoun “they” feels like it has less of that baggage but, on the other hand, feels like I may be borrowing another group’s identity marker, ie. giving people the impression that I’m nonbinary or agender or etc., when I’m not.

    20. Genderly confused*

      Thanks for the replies everyone. Especially the comments about not having to “earn” pronouns by presenting in a certain way. For some reason I have always felt somewhat like I do have to (I once stayed in a phd program long after I knew I needed to quit for health reasons, motivated only by the idea that “dr” was a gender neutral title!!) you’ve given me a lot to think about

      1. kt*

        And thank you for asking the question — it was really interesting for me to read the answers! I wrote about my own discomfort with she/her above and it was illuminating to see someone else ask about this.

  22. MistOrMister*

    OP5, if you’re in the US you might also want to talk to HR about FMLA options. Although, I believe in many places you need to be at employed for a year before you’re eligible. I would definitely tell your boss that you have a chronic condition that you’re working on getting treated. That way they will hopefully keep it in mind when you have to call out.

    Sorry to hear you’re having ovary/uterus issues. I have endometriosis that has been causing all sorts of problems, and the pelvic pain is highly annoying. For me it is, luckily, not debilitating most of the time. But it just sucks to have your work output decrease over something like this that you have no control over and to have to worry about how it will impact your work. I know you didnt ask for any advice regarding your condition, but would just like to say, a heating pad could be helpful. Mine has become my best friend when my issues are flaring up. Things might still hurt, but at least having the heating pad is soothing. Good luck getting a diagnosis and treatment.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      If LW is in the UK I have to agree with keep it general ‘medical issue that causes severe pain’ because I’ve had so many problems with getting time off or consideration for the fact that system of mine simply doesn’t work (adenomyosis and PCOS) and that there’s no cure or help for the pain anymore (there’s a lot of ‘but you might want kids’ attitude in the NHS).

      If I’ve mentioned the real reason for the intermittent pain I’ve had managers tell me it’s just ‘take ibuprofen and use a heat pack’ and carry on.

      Keep it generic, if at all possible. If you need to provide a doctors note ask the GP to make it generic too (they will do this! Severe pain, ongoing issue, that sort of thing is perfectly ok to put). HR may ask for more specifics or ask that the company healthcare talk to you (I’ve had mixed outcomes from that) but that’s still something you don’t have to do.

      1. MistOrMister*

        Yes, I was a little hesitant to suggest the heating pad because it can seem dismissive, I think. It seems to be one of those basic things people think will fix your uterus magically and now you’re fixed, so back to work with you!

        I guess as with everything, it comes down to what you’re comfortable with and your relationship with your boss. But keeping it general seems to be usually a safe way to go. I think most bosses will accept when you say you have a chronic condition. But if you give details you do run the risk of being treated like you’re overreacting or like it’s all in your head, etc.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Definitely agree with you. Although I’m open about a lot of my chronic issues online, I’m not in real life simply because I’m tired of the ‘oh that’s not a real problem/it’s in your head’ or the ‘just do yoga/green tea/lose weight/take x vitamins/juggle sloths and it’ll go away’ stuff.

          (Side note: do not juggle animals)

      2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        As a fellow UK-er I was curious about this:

        If LW is in the UK I have to agree with keep it general ‘medical issue that causes severe pain’

        (Without feeling like I’m asking about specific medical details of yours, which I’m not of course!) have you found that this level of detail is generally “enough” either when calling in sick with individual incidences of your issue, or talking about it ‘bigger picture’ with people like managers or HR?

        The reason I’m asking is that at all the companies I’ve worked, over about 20 years, both sick leave in the moment (i.e. “sorry won’t be in today boss” type of thing) and the bigger picture discussions (“I have a medical issue and it’s likely to affect me intermittently in xyz type of way”) have always required a specific, though not overly detailed, description of the illness. Something more general like ‘severe pain from a medical issue’ would have been probed deeper and it would need to be recorded as, e.g. “follow-on pain from dislocated shoulder”, “flare up of chronic back pain”, “RSI exacerbated by last week’s activity”, “borked achilles tendon while playing football”, “migraine” or one of any number of other specific things that could be described more generally as ‘severe pain due to a medical issue’.

    2. This name thing is hard*

      FMLA is a federal law, so it should apply equally throughout the United States. Employees are not eligible until they have been employed by their current employer for 12 months. There are, also, requirements about company size; smaller companies are not covered (I think it’s 50 or more employees, but I could be wrong).

      OP, if you are in the United States, once you have been there for 12 months, do look into it. You could, with your doctor’s agreement, be eligible for intermittent leave, so calling out cannot be held against you. Once you have a course of action, if it involves an extended time off, this would also qualify. And look into short term disability for extended leaves as well.

      Bear in mind that FMLA allows for a total of 12 weeks off over the course of twelve months. Separate FMLA claims (for example intermittent and extended leaves) still pull from the same pool of 12 weeks, however, so it doesn’t reset for each claim.

      I am not in HR or an attorney. I am simply a husband who (as the stay-at-home spouse with the time to keep everything in order) has navigated several FMLA and disability claims for my wife, as she has spent several years, and multiple surgeries, dealing with abdominal/ovarian/uterine pain.

      1. mlem*

        FMLA is indeed national, but some states have been enacting related policies — sometimes even with similar or identical names — that might be more generous. MistOrMister might just have been nodding to that.

      2. Mockingjay*

        Since you don’t qualify yet for FMLA, can your company provide assistance in another way? Perhaps an altered work schedule, so long as you fulfill the required hours in each pay period.

        My old company did this for a worker with painful back issues who was waiting for surgery. If she had a bad day, she’d rest (because the pain meds knocked her out) and then make up the hours on the weekend. Her job wasn’t time-sensitive, so it worked out. We did have to do careful timesheet tracking to stay within the pay period. Perhaps you can work something similar with your manager while your doctors are exploring solutions for you.

  23. Mr Jingles*

    #1 I’m working in customer service for years.
    Gender or no gender, honestly I’d love this to happen everywhere kust for convenience.
    Globalization is A Thing nowadays and I can’t count how often I mulled over an e-mail wondering how to adress that … person with that foreign name I’d never heard before.
    Dear Mr? Dear Mrs? Mss? Oh hell give me pronouns and I’m happy dear Fradental Mandalecku and dear Petra Martin! A combination of two first names is especially funny in a country where it is optional if jou start with your first name or last name! Is it Mr Petra now or Mrs Martin?
    Hey What ever you are I really don’t care, I’ll serve men, women, neutrums, speaking animals, sentient plants and extraterrestrials equally, see if I care as long as they’re halfway decent it’s all the same for me but it’ll help me tremendously to get my quality boni up if I adress you properly. So by all means: put your pronouns in your signature! CS Agents whose final salary depends on getting it right will love you for it!

    1. Deplplte*

      Hi, please don’t compare trans and nonbinary people to animals, plants, and aliens. It’s like a person saying “I don’t care about skin color, doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, brown, green l, or purple” – it’s NOT as supportive as you think it is.

      1. MistOrMister*

        As a POC, I have used the “I don’t care if you’re black, white, purple, blue with yellow polka dots, etc” line myself, and I don’t find it insulting or unhelpful if anyone else says it. Not unless they are, say doing something blatantly acist and trying to pretend they’re not. I can’t speak for the LGBT community, but I didn’t take Mr. Jingles’ comment as an insult to trans people. Perhaps I am wrong and many would find that insulting, but it really didn’t come across to me as trans = talking animals/aliens/etc

        1. Deplplte*

          I used the comparison because I’ve seen others say they’re personally harmed by it but I shouldn’t have, it’s not my lane.

          To rephrase:

          Hi, please don’t make a list of things that reads as “man, woman, and whatever the heck else”. As a nonbinary person, it personally feels dismissive to be lumped in with nonhumans. If I was being uncharitable I might say it gives a vibe of “Look at me, how much I am so tolerant that animals and aliens wouldn’t bother me, or those people with silly genders!”. I don’t think that’d what you’re going for at all, but it’s easy to not give that impression by just saying you would serve people the same regardless of gender.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Speaking from one with a twenty year career in customer service (hi tech support people!) please take a moment, or several ideally, and step away. Starting to think of your clients, customers or callers as objects and trying to completely remove humanity from them is a road to destroying your own mental health. Even if they’re angry. Even if they’re unpleasant.

            That kind of depersonalisation on any level, especially when it starts to fire back on yourself, is a road to ruin. Please believe someone with more than one mental breakdown under her belt when she says it’s better to try and get help now, rather than potentially lose a job and sanity later when it all cracks open.

            Sincerely. Please. You can get out of this. There is help.

  24. Deplplte*

    Thanks, that makes sense. I guess I should have said that I feel like people will either be aware of the culture, unaware and thus not risking anything and not putting pronouns in signatures, or unaware and willing to risk it anyway.

    I could be way off base, and yeah if it were me I definitely would appreciate a manager saying, you’ve probably noticed it’s not a thing that people do and it’s possible you might encounter pushback from coworkers but I have your back.

  25. Pronoun Pickle*

    R.e. #1: I wanted to point out that there are mixed feelings within the queer community about the convention to include pronouns in professional signatures and bios. On the one hand, it’s a positive sign of the growing recognition of trans and nb identities within mainstream culture and a movement towards greater inclusivity. For many non-cis people who are sick and tired of having to constantly assert their pronouns and identity, it’s a welcome step forward.

    On the other hand, there are plenty of trans, nb and otherwise genderqueer or GNC people who *don’t* want to state their pronouns in this way, and who are nervous about this convention becoming more prescriptively normative. For example, if pronoun signatures start to be common enough that *not* including your pronouns is seen as regressive or out-of-step, that puts trans or nb people who aren’t out at work in a really tough spot. There are also a lot of nb and GNC people for whom the whole idea of having to publicly identify with and broadcast a fixed set of pronouns in this way is anathema. The problem with pronoun signatures is that it’s yet another way for culture to insist that people label themselves; and it’s precisely this normative force of gender that a lot of people’s queer identity is set in oppostion to.

    I’m not saying that the convention is currently so normative that it’s reached that level yet – at the moment it’s an opt-in rather than an opt-out thing, and it’s a good thing as long as it remains so. I’m also certainly not defending LW1, as I’m sure his objection wasn’t coming from a nuanced appreciation of the differing needs of various types of queer people! I just wanted to state this view because I think it’s one that a lot of cis people may not be familiar with and I think it’s an important perspective to consider.

    1. Old and confused*

      I wish we had a like button so that I could like this! I think it’s super important. My organization has been pushing everyone to include pronouns, but I just don’t know what to put and I’m not sure if I want my colleagues to know that I’m not sure! I present as a woman, but she/hers just doesn’t fit right, and they/them also doesn’t feel like me. I guess I prefer that people use my name. But until I feel like I know what I want to use, I don’t want to put she/her and then end up changing it. I know that’s not a big deal to change and expect people to adapt to updated pronouns, but I do think that employers should be aware of the difficulties they can push people toward by requiring pronouns.

      1. mreasy*

        This is a great point. It’s much easier for us cis folks to include pronouns because we’re not opening ourselves up for discrimination as our non-cis coworkers may be. I think encouraging pronoun inclusion but not requiring it is the way to go on this. It’s about demonstrating inclusion, which means including people who aren’t comfortable with sharing their pronouns.

        1. Everythingshouldbeorange*

          I genuinely don’t understand this.

          Women who include she/her pronouns on their email signature ARE opening themselves up for discrimination. Not the same type, sure, but I’m not sure you can argue one is worse than the other. There are lots of studies that show it’s harmful to women to constantly raise awareness of their sex in professional settings.

          If you’re comfortable doing it, that’s fine and I don’t think it’s unprofessional necessarily to do so. But sadly, I think going out of your way to be visibly a woman at work will likely be more a negative than a positive to your career. For this reason I don’t want it to become a mandatory thing.

          1. Sydney Ellen Wade*

            Could you elaborate on this more? I’m genuinely curious as to why a woman putting pronouns in her signature (assuming her company supports that choice) is “constantly rais[ing] awareness of [her] sex” and could be discriminated against?

            1. MCMonkeybean*

              I assume they are referring to some of the things I’ve read about comparing how people are treated in email correspondence with women versus with men (I know I remember in particular one that was like “I am a man who pretended to be a woman on email and was shocked at how much less respect I got!” or something like that). But if you are a woman at work mostly emailing with people who already know you or if you have a name that will make people assume you are a woman anyway, then adding pronouns isn’t going to change anything.

            2. Lucy*

              You are reminding the person you email of your sex/gender, and this may subconsciously or consciously influence how they respond to you. There’s been various examples of cases where people have tracked responses depending on type of signature used.
              This already happens because you can *usually* tell someone’s gender from their name, but for some of us there’s no reason to increase the probability.

              1. Observer*

                It’s not just anecdotes and stories. There are a lot of studies that indicate this kind of bias.

                When gender gets stripped out of resumes, women get as many calls as men, but when the gender gets included the SAME resumes wind up getting fewer calls.

                The same action / case study gets rated positively when the actor is a man and negatively when it’s a woman eg he’s assertive or exhibiting leadership while she’s aggressive and bossy.

                A woman makes a suggestion, and it gets ignored. A guy makes the SAME suggestion and it the smartest thing since the wheel got invented.

                I could go on, but this is a real and well documented issue.

            3. Haha Lala*

              I don’t have any of the studies, but I agree with Everythingshouldbeorange’s point. I’m a woman in a male dominated field, and I’m often the only woman in meetings or on email chains. My name is pretty obviously female, but if I were adding in “she/her” in my signature, it’d almost be yelling “Hey, I’m the only woman here! Don’t forget about me!” I don’t feel the need to draw any more attention to my gender– especially since my field has nothing to do with gender/sex and my gender has nothing to do with my ability to do my job.

              1. pancakes*

                Where does that leave nonbinary people, though? I’m a cis woman, fwiw, and it doesn’t seem on point to characterize not wanting to be misgendered as yelling about gender, or drawing attention to it.

                1. Starbuck*

                  You’re right; but I think the above commentor is also right that that’s how such a move would be *perceived* in her cis-male dominated workplace. It would be nice if those men would take the lead on addition of pronouns to signatures etc!

            4. Delphine*

              Not the OP, but I have a name that most people wouldn’t immediately recognize as a woman’s name. Some clients will realize I’m a woman if we get on the phone or if they check my LinkedIn, and their entire demeanor will change. It benefits me and my work to be able to avoid this when I can. I won’t go out of the way to suggest that I’m not a woman, but if they think I’m a man while we email and that prevents them from treating me differently, so be it. So, I am a cis woman, but if I had pronouns in my signature it would be increasing the chances of discrimination.

          2. Everythingshouldbeorange*

            Hey folks – glad to know I’m not crazy for being worried about this being made mandatory from a sex discrimination point of view.

            Apologies, new to posting so not sure if I should be nesting under my original comment or directly to Sydney Ellen Wade but here are a few studies to help explain further. I think these types of articles are pretty prolific so easy to find others if you want to Google :)





            Interestingly I experienced the email thing myself at an old job! When I used a man’s name the responses were noticeably different to when they knew I was a woman.

            Also when I Googled one of the things that came up was something called ‘stereotype threat’ – I have literally only spent the last 5 minutes reading about this so not sure how robust the studies are but it seems to suggest women in some fields where they aren’t stereotypically expected to do well can psyche themselves out and perform less well by having reminders of their sex. Interesting, and one I think I’ll look into further.

          3. Everythingshouldbeorange*

            I have just tried to respond with some links to different studies but I can’t see my post – are we not allowed to include links?

            Not trying to break site rules – if it’s not okay then it’s really easy to find studies on this online if you’re interested Sydney Ellen Wade.

            1. twocents*

              I think links get caught by the filters but Alison will let the post through once she confirms it’s not spam or breaking the rules.

          4. Julianna*

            I mean, most signatures have the person’s name in it, which is going to lead to people assuming gender anyway unless they have ambiguous name?

            1. kt*

              Yeah, I both have a non-Anglo name that can obscure my gender for some folks and I’ve also published under initials only to get a fairer review of my articles.

      2. MEH*

        I agree with your comment completely. Also present as a woman, but don’t identify with she/her nor they/them. Most definitely not he/him. Since my feelings about my gender are mostly because of the disconnect I see between what a woman *should* be and what I am, it’s harder to discern what to do about it. In other words, I don’t feel like a woman, but it’s more because of what I’ve been told a woman should feel/look/act like.

        I would say I’m more gender apathetic than anything else, which is similar to my sexuality. I’m bi by default more because I don’t like the other identifiers (pan/omni) than anything else. I, too, would prefer just to be called by my name.

    2. The Original Stellaaaaa*

      It also puts a bit of a burden on people who aren’t cis men and work in fields where they’re better off not leading with gender. I don’t need to draw even more attention to the fact that I’m the only woman in my department. This pronouns thing has become a de facto way to show support for the LGBTQA+ community but it really isn’t one-size-fits-all.

      1. Blue Eagle*

        Agreed. One of female co-workers uses a nickname for work and people who interact with her only by e-mail generally think she is male. Which seems to give her added credibility with them in an industry that is mostly male.
        Reminds me of a time when I made a decision and told a supplier my decision and his reply was “can you run it by Frank”. So I put the phone down and did paperwork for 1 minute, picked up the phone and said Frank agreed and his response “ok”.

      2. Anna Badger*

        I’d just like to gently push back on the idea that the only reason for cis people to list their pronouns is to ‘show support’ – the reason cis people started listing pronouns in signatures, bios etc in the first place was so that trans people who wanted or needed to list pronouns weren’t waving a massive flag saying ‘HI I’M TRANS’. It’s become a vague indicator that the signature-writer is accepting of trans people, but that’s not how it started, it was originally much more practical.

        I suppose that the shift from the original usage to the current one shows that the strategy was successful, so that’s something!

      3. Everythingshouldbeorange**

        Oops, I should have scrolled down further before posting.

        This is a more articulate version of what I was trying to say.

    3. Elliott*

      Yeah, it can be a complex issue. I fall on the side that I’m glad for it to be normalized but don’t think that anyone should be singled out for not participating.

      Personally, I also think it’s important to remember that this is a very surface level attempt at inclusion. I work in a culture where sharing pronouns is common. And I’ve found that people who are already knowledgeable about gender diversity and who know a lot of trans people pay attention and use the pronouns I request, and everyone else still misgenders me a lot. One time I was misgendered by a co-facilitator during a diversity workshop where we were talking about pronouns! Slip-ups happen, but I think it’s important for people to remember it can take practice to be a good ally/advocate.

  26. Seeking Second Childhood”*

    Hi LW5– Businesses that go across more than one state may make their timesheet policies work with the most restrictive set of laws. My state law says a 30 min lunch break must be *made available* at 6 hrs, but my company says I must *take* the 30 min because they have one country-wide policy.

    1. WS*

      Yes, here it’s “must take 30 minute break after 5 hours work”, which startled someone who had come from another country and would have preferred to skip lunch and leave 30 minutes earlier.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I have this where I work because we are a large organization that is in all 50 states and are unionized. The employment paperwork lays out when and how breaks are to be taken to ensure coverage and nobody being overworked. It can feel restrictive, but it’s meant to be fairest to all while not breaking any employment laws from other states.

      1. OP4*

        Thanks, SSC, good point. This business doesn’t span multiple states, though.
        I’m not going to buck the system. I’ll just do what they want. Problem solved.

  27. Bookworm*

    #1: Unprofessional is not the word I’d use. I’m not sure what industry or where you are where that’s considered “unprofessional” but let’s just say I would feel sorry for your employees

  28. Hogsmeade Airbnb*

    OP1: I work for one of the biggest credit agencies in the world. Where I work, it’s unprofessional NOT to have your pronouns listed, and it’s definitely unprofessional to be closed minded.

    1. Not Driving*

      As a trans person, I have a problem with it being unprofessional NOT to list my pronouns. I personally choose not to do so, there are a lot of valid reasons for trans and non-binary people to choose not to, and accusing us of being close-minded or unprofessional for not wanting to share pronouns isn’t being inclusive. I’d be very careful about who you stigmatize within your field, here.

      1. Juniper*

        I’ve heard this argument as well, and it’s an interesting perspective. Seems like we’ve come far enough that if someone wants to share their pronouns, it’s no longer a political statement or outing themselves, and if they don’t that’s perfectly fine too.

    2. Nerdy Library Clerk*

      Well, that’s going to be awkward for any non-binary or trans coworkers you have who *aren’t* comfortable being out at work. There are a lot of good reasons for including pronouns, but I’m still deeply uncomfortable with outing myself at work. I know I have coworkers who would think less of me if they knew I was nonbinary, and I’d rather not have to deal with that. (I’ll be honest with the coworkers I trust, but putting they/them in my email signature is not something I’m ready to deal with.)

  29. Sunflower*

    #4 Check the laws where you are. Where I’m from, we must take at least a 20 minute break after 5 hours per law. If the state finds out it’s not followed, the company can be in deep deep deep trouble and you will be fired for causing that trouble.

    1. OP4*

      Thanks for the tip – I don’t need that kind of trouble!

      I believe that I looked this up when I started, a few years ago, and found that it was not state-mandated.
      However, if it’s company-mandated, it’s the same difference!

  30. C'est Moi*

    LR number one brought up a cringey memory for me. I started a new job (not my current one) shortly after it became acceptable to list ones pronouns, and my company encouraged us to do so. There was one employee, though, who instead of using existing pronouns, used something outrageous. Think along the lines of “thou/duchess”.

    Clients questioned this and Management and HR couldn’t figure out how to address it. The employee said thou (!) would sue if thou (!) was forced to change the signature.

    Left the job within a couple of months; never did find out how it ended.

    1. Deplplte*

      While it is very possible it was just a mockery of the whole pronoun thing, some people do use pronouns like that. However, the pronouns are usually the same word. Like thou and duchess being different words and not different forms of the same word isn’t something I’ve seen before.

      1. c-*

        Judging by the Duchess thing, I bet they were a TERF being an asshole about pronouns. Neopronouns exist (i.e: ze/zir), but they tend to have correlation with cases in the English language (i.e: ze, nominative; zir, accusative and dative, and so on) because they’re intended for actual use in conversation, being someone’s actual pronouns.
        But bigots will often try to break inclusivity tools so everyone else is miserable. Hence, demanding people use impossible pronouns in bad faith, because the words chosen are not meant to be used as pronouns. The goal was probably to make it too much of a hassle for the company to become more inclusive.
        If you find that in the wild, you can call their bluff (I would just *love* to see them try and sue) or you can go the malicious compliance route and take them very very seriously: in this case, you could say something like “thou are behind on those reports” or “Terfalina said Duchess reports would be ready by Monday, but Duchess has not sent them yet” every single time you have the chance to.

        1. C'est Moi*

          That is actually pretty hilarious, c-! I kind of wish I’d stuck around long enough to do that!
          I wonder, though, in this lentiginous society, what actually would happen is thou sued. Would whomever have to give this person the benefit of the doubt that they truly and sincerely believe their pronouns should be thou and duchess? Or could the powers that be just say, “Look, you’re being a bigot. Make your pronouns something normal.”?

          1. Not Me*

            Management could very easily say “look, you’re being a bigot.” with just the tiniest bit of due diligence.

          2. c-*

            Oh, I don’t know what could happen if thou sued, but I’m enjoying picturing a) Duchesss lawyer’s face, b) the resulting court documents, c) a bigot dropping big cash into legally defending the cause thou’re trying to torpedo (i.e. people having the right to be adressed by the correct pronouns), and d) having to be adressed as “thou” and “Duchess” in court while keeping a straight face. Might be a good plot for a novel!

      2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        the pronouns are usually the same word.

        This just reminded me of something — I came across a profile with the pronouns listed as (I think it was) “he/them” or maybe it was “they/him”. As someone with probably not as much knowledge of this as I ought to have — is this common? Would I write something like “John is working on that proposal and he said he could hopefully complete it by Wednesday. If you haven’t heard anything by Friday could you please reach out to them directly?”

        1. BBA*

          Generally speaking, if two sets of pronouns are indicated, using either one is okay… but intentionally alternating between the two would, for a lot of people, be a very considerate thing to do.

          If I, personally, told someone I use she/her and they/them, and they used both for me in my hearing? It would make me feel happy and seen. I know other enby folks who feel similarly.

          On other other hand, if you encounter someone who uses multiple sets of pronouns but you find out, upon getting to know them better, that they really like one over the other, it’s obviously nice to act accordingly.

          I think it’s probably *not* the case that is person wants you to use ‘he’ and not ‘they’ along with ‘them’ but not ‘him’ (or vice versa) – but if you’re not sure, it never hurts to kindly/respectfully ask exactly what someone prefers.

        2. Tinker*

          I use this in some contexts, and what I mean by it is that either of those pronouns are okay to use. I don’t particularly have any expectations that individual people should make a point of alternating among them, either on a per-encounter basis or within the course of a conversation — that latter I wouldn’t mind, but I’d find a little surprising and possibly briefly confusing (it’s not a usage I have a lot of exposure to).

          What it amounts to in practice is that the people who were already going to call me ‘he’ continue to do so, and the people who have some inclination to call me “they” — which is often people who knew me when I primarily used those pronouns, but there’s also some overlap with folks who have a policy of leaning toward the less conventionally normative of the options presented — do that. This is pretty much what I intend to enable when I specify my pronouns in that way, so I’m happy with that.

          Another thing I’ve considered is that I’d like to make myself available for people who felt like they needed to practice using “they/them” and didn’t know enough exclusive users of gender-neutral pronouns — they’d have the option of doing that with me without it constituting misgendering. In practice, though, I don’t know as I’ve ever been taken up on that — the folks I’ve met who wanted to try but were super not used to “they/them” mostly seem to have landed with relief on “he/him”, which I’m okay with but gets me to wondering how they will cope when I want to introduce one of my multitudes of very distinctly nonbinary friends.

          Well, I say “wondering”, but I’m now interacting with those friends in a community that isn’t very gender-literate, so I now know how folks tend to cope: they don’t.

    2. pancakes*

      That’s pretty inept on HR’s part. Mocking people in one’s signature shouldn’t be any more acceptable at work than mocking in any other context. “You need to take this out of your signature because it makes the company look bad to treat pronouns as a joke,” for example, would’ve worked.

    3. Jean*

      Reminds me of John Maclean (the YouTube beauty guru) – when asked for pronouns their response was “Your Grace”

  31. Anonynonymouse*

    LW5 – if you’re in the US, you aren’t eligible for FMLA until you’ve worked for your employer at least 1 year, and they also have to have at least 50 employees within a 75 mile radius. But even without FMLA, if they have at least 5 employees, they have to follow the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Which means that if you are disabled – even temporarily – or if they could regard you as disabled – they have to provide reasonable accommodation that will allow you to perform the essential duties of your job.

    These accommodations can be time off, or scheduling flexibility, or any other host of options that would make sense. But they have to get the info from your doctor and you about what you can and can’t do, and work with you (officially it’s called the interactive process, and it really is a dialogue between you all). They’re not entitled to the exact details, so your doctor can say that you have pain and here’s how it affects your ability to work.

    If you don’t want to talk to your boss, get with someone in HR to start talking about your options. If you want to make things very clear, tell them, “I’ve been having a medical issue that’s been making it hard to work and I need to see what my options are for accommodation.” My company would then provide a letter explaining the process and a form for the doctor to fill out with a summary of the medical issue and requested or suggested accommodation; after review and discussion with the employee, it would all be documented and signed by HR and the employee, with a copy to the supervisor so they know the accommodation. Sometimes these are permanent, but my company does a LOT of temporary accommodations, sometimes for as little as 1 week, if needed.

    I hope you feel better soon! Chronic pain sucks.

    1. Mimmy*

      But even without FMLA, if they have at least 5 employees, they have to follow the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

      The minimum under the ADA is actually 15 or more employees, although some state laws may have a lower threshold.

  32. AvonLady Barksdale*

    LW #3, when I left my last job, it was right after I was given a major project that I had been lobbying for for a while. They finally decided to move forward, with an investment of time and resources, and I thought long and hard about whether that was enough to make me stay in a job that had made me miserable for years. And yeah, I felt a little bad when I got an offer from a great company closer to the industry I had been missing for a long time, but ultimately I realized that the Big Deal Project was not going to become 100% of my job, my issues with management were not going to go away, and the BDP was not good enough to make up for the low pay.

    My boss was pissed. But you know what? That’s life, and that’s business, and I left with a clear conscience. They adjusted. And even photoshopped me out of the team photo. When the time comes, move forward with what’s best for you– the company will deal.

    1. Moving On*

      Thanks so much for this. That’s why I love this community, sometimes you just need someone to tell you its fine. And this is not a bad problem to have, at least I am employed in a job I like. Reading the other questions today help put that in perspective, and moving forward I am just going to chill out a bit.

  33. LGC*

    1) I love it when we start off the week with ~*~controversy~*~

    Although I do have to ask – this is a semi-rhetorical question, but why would it be “highly unprofessional” to include pronouns? I’ll admit that I don’t include mine in my signature – partly because I hardly use it, and when I do it’s usually to the same group of people (there’s a small list of external emailers I have).

    4) Even if it’s not The Law, it may well be company policy or department policy. Officially, my company’s mandated that lunch breaks are to be given to people who work longer than 5 1/2 hour shifts. We’ve made some exceptions, but my bosses (the department heads) are…kind of rigid, and I don’t have the power to override them every single time (even though I honestly don’t care what goes on as long as it’s reasonable and legal).

    I’ll also be honest: I think you might be jumping the gun a bit here, LW4! Or rather, you’re assuming that you’ll be forced to take a lunch when right now all they said is that they want you to handle your own clocking in and out. (I assume your supervisors have been entering in your time until now, which…IME, can be pretty tedious, especially for larger teams.) I’d really wait for more details before asking that question. (Also – if you’re working through your lunch, that is, you’re working 8-4:30 straight when you’re supposed to take a half hour lunch at 12: please stop that! If you’re working 8-4 instead of 8-4:30, then that’s slightly different.)

    5) I’ll be real here: it’s definitely in your best interest to share that you have an ongoing thing. It’s also been my experience that – fairly or not, management does notice when you call out numerous times in a month.

    Also: this is not the question you asked, but you asked whether you shouldn’t bring it up until it becomes more problematic. However, you yourself said that you’ve called out several days this month due to pain and even on your days that you’re able to work, you can only manage up to half your productivity. It might not be problematic to your company yet, but it sounds extremely problematic already for you personally. And – like – I’ll be honest, if one of my employees told me they were going through what you are, I’d be Extremely Concerned For Their Well-Being.

    Honestly, the way we handle gynecological health is absolute garbage (at least in the US, I can’t speak for other countries). I don’t think you’re wrong to worry that people are going to react with, “LOL WOMAN PROBZ.” But it sounds like…you’re downplaying your own suffering a bit. I hope that you get better soon, and more importantly, that you’re able to get better and your company supports you in doing so.

  34. Delta Delta*

    The question about pronouns in email signatures has me thinking about signature generally. Maybe Friday a good open thread discussion could be about effective (or not) email signatures.

  35. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

    To everybody asking about LW1’s location or industry, let me add something.
    Most inclusive language detractors say that
    * it goes against our language rules and guidelines
    * it’s shoehorning politics in everyday life, like doing the v-sing, using a sports bag with your union logo, wrapping a green cloth around your wrist or wearing MAGA hats

    Which doesn’t make sense, because language is more than a set of rules (checkmate, prescriptivists) and people have been expressing themselves using clothes and their bodies for a long, long time…

    1. LGC*

      And to get a bit further into the weeds (and I think you probably know this already, but I’m just adding it on for the crowd): a lot of times when someone says that something’s “political,” they really mean it challenges the default assumptions. (Sometimes, it’s actual politics! But a lot of times, it’s that.)

      Maybe I’m just salty about this in general since the message I’ve gotten from society is that my entire existence is political (which…thanks?), and again, this isn’t directed at you. But for a case like LW1’s, where they’re clutching their figurative pearls over an employee making his gender explicit, it sends the message that anyone who deviates from the currently accepted constructs is inherently doing it For The Attention.

  36. Quill*

    #1 It might be fruitful to ask yourself why you think it’s unprofessional. Is it simply that no one else in your company does it? Your employee adding his pronouns has several side-benefits that you might not have considered – it’s a signal to outsiders, including customers, that your company is (or is trying to be) queer-friendly, it shortens or eliminates the email chains where people accidentally use the wrong pronoun (which is pretty common in my, admittedly very international, field) and it took your employee less than five minutes to do.

  37. MCMonkeybean*

    LW3: I think always the best thing you can do in this situation, especially since they are a start up and it sounds like they are pleased with the work you are doing for them, is to make sure to create good documentation as you learn or create new processes. Work to get everything into a good place for someone else to easily take over if you do eventually leave.

  38. Throwaway*

    #2 – My guess is that if they’re being this strict about reimbursement it’s because of the DPL (Denied Parties List). Government contractors cannot do business with anyone on the DPL and that list changes daily.

    I work in software and one day we had a IBM rep visiting our office for something. There was a mistake in the DPL and when he checked in at reception, we saw that IBM was on the DPL that day and we had to turn him away. It was silly, we all recognized it, but the Government takes that list seriously and you can lose contracts.

    Now, what they probably could do is give you a bonus later to cover that, but then I’d auditors found it, you’re in double trouble for trying to hide business.

    I’m so glad I’m out of that world! It’s crazy what kinds of regulations you have.

    Why would that hotel be on the DPL? Maybe they are a big enough government contractor to have to follow the DPL and they accidentally gave a room to a foreign national from a naughty country (Iran, North Korea, etc).

    I’m not defending the practice, but many people don’t realize it exists.

    1. Former military contractor*

      True, but they still owe the money to the employee, it may just not be able to come from a government-provided bucket. Oftentimes, the employee and/or their manager got some training about how to pick audit-acceptable hotels/suppliers/vendors or whatever for the “next time it comes up”. In my past life as a military contractor, we’d have $$ owed to employees that couldn’t come from a government bucket, and the company had to eat it from profit, but the employee still was made whole. That’s what unallowable/overhead coding is for, in a lot of cases.

      1. Throwaway*

        Yeah, I bet you’re right there. I’ve been around a couple of different contractors, and behavior surrounding things like the DPL inside the company often is controlled by how strict the company lawyers interpret the law. My last place had super paranoid lawyers so our DPL behavior was insane.

        The DPL is quite contagious, dealing with a company on the DPL gets you on the DPL and bad things keep happening :)

    2. Brett*

      The other possibility I am seeing here is that maybe the company uses third party ethics auditing, and the hotel is not an approved vendor for the third party ethics auditing. I have seen that with my current employer, and unfortunately the employee has to eat the costs. (In particular, I have seen where the disallowed cost was charged to the company card, and the employee had to pay off that portion of the card of their own pocket.)

      1. DKMA*

        Depending on the context that’s a bullshit rule. If this is an expense that the employee had the ability to know ahead of time wouldn’t be allowed, and that ability could be reasonably exercised, sure. If it’s at all like the example included in this letter, the company is just greenwashing pushing expenses onto their employees.

        1. Brett*

          “If this is an expense that the employee had the ability to know ahead of time wouldn’t be allowed, and that ability could be reasonably exercised, sure.”

          That’s a big difference with the OP’s scenario. With the way our systems work, there is no way an employee in OP’s situation would not know the expense was not allowed. It would have been flagged immediately in all the travel applications we use and that are connected to our card. (Which is why using your own card to bill, like the OP did, would also not be allowed.)

          An employee using their own card for business expenses is a red flag right away if you are doing that kind of ethics auditing, because it provides an easy loop hole to getting around the auditing.

      2. Observer*

        You gotta love this – in the name of ethics the company is doing something completely and utterly UNethical.

    3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Thank you, thank you, thank you, gracías, merci, gratia mea.

      You defined an acronym on first use. You are a shining beacon of the light of communication to us all!

  39. Heidi*

    I’m a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. I don’t have my pronouns in my email signature—but not because I thought it would go against my company culture or look “unprofessional.” The only reason I don’t include my she/her pronouns because I live in a conservative state (my team is very liberal, though) and being misgendered doesn’t happen to me.

    My partner, however, uses they/them pronouns. They add their pronouns because they actually do have to deal with being misgendered on a daily basis. If a boss told them they couldn’t include their pronouns, it would be a big, invalidating blow.

    And, if I were to ever add my pronouns and then be told to remove them because they’re “unprofessional,” I’d assume my boss wasn’t an LGBTQIA+ ally. I’d then feel a little like I had a target on my back. Just my take…

  40. JelloStapler*

    LW1: Not unprofessional (albeit not yet widely common) and actually a sign that the organization is inclusive and may put potential clients that are nonbinary, LGBTQIA+ and allies more at ease. My University encourages this this campus wide, no matter our identity. As others have said- perhaps do some pondering as to why you feel it’s “unprofessional”.

    1. JelloStapler*

      By the way, I say this as a cisgender heterosexual female, so those in other situations will have different perspectives and I look forward to reading through the comments.

  41. Evelyn*

    Regarding pronouns – not only do they signal openness to trans/non-binary folks, but they are also great for culturally diverse workplaces. You can’t always tell a person’s gender by their name, and if the name is from a culture you’re not familiar with it’s even harder (even if the name is strongly gendered in the language/culture it’s from). It’s hard enough in American English! My name, for example, is technically gender-neutral, though mostly used for women now. I once dated a man named Ashely. What gender is someone named Jordan, Taylor, or Alex? What about Zhang Wei? Gender isn’t the most important thing to know about someone when you’re communicating about TPS reports, but if they have their pronouns in their signature it helps you not misgender them when you’re speaking about them to someone else.

    1. NeonFireworks*

      Yeah, I work in a Western country but most of what I do interpersonally is via email, and about 80% of the people I communicate with/about are short-term contacts across a huge range of countries and cultures. For many non-Western names, I have no intuitions about gender connotations, so I just end up using ‘they’ a lot when referring to requests and inquiries with colleagues. Even if I had a better grip on naming practices cross-culturally, there are plenty of exceptions, both cis and trans. I’d love it if a lot more Western names were gender-neutral and if they stayed that way, because gender’s a deep internal thing and shouldn’t be left to inference, surely.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      This is largely how I operate too. I definitely appreciated being corrected on not only the gender but even pronounce of my overseas colleagues.

      (In my 40s and literally just learnt how to say ‘Xia’ or ‘Zhang He’ properly)

  42. Bored Mail Clerk*

    #2, it depends on the hotel policies, but if you had a credit card guaranteed reservation, which I’m assuming you did, and the hotel didn’t honor it, it should be up to them to find you comparable alternate lodging, and for them to cover the cost.

  43. DKMA*

    The only quasi-charitable explanation I can think of for LW1 is if this is a jerky dude with a gender ambiguous name and the LW is annoyed by what she sees as him being frustrated for being mistaking for a woman. Even so, they guy would have the right to present his appropriate gender identity.

  44. Philly Redhead*

    LW #1, I can’t think of a single industry where being inclusive would be “unprofessional.” Unless you work at Hobby Lobby?

  45. CommanderBanana*

    LW#1 – I started putting pronouns in my email signature because my name is one letter off from a common masculine name, and I get a lot of emails for Mr. Banana, and since those emails often turn into meetings (now Zoom calls), I’m trying to save people from embarrassment when they realize that I’m not a Mr. Another coworker’s first name is a common name for men but not for women, and she puts Ms. in front of her name for the same reason.

    It’s not unprofessional. You just have a problem with it.

  46. Melissa*

    I am lucky to work at a welcoming company and I decided to put my pronouns (she/they) in my email signature. What was a lovely surprise was emailing with someone outside the company who did not have pronouns in his signature. But after receiving my first email, I noticed on his reply to it that he had added his pronouns! It was a really nice realisation.

  47. BigRedGum*

    LW1: I work on the medical research side of a very liberal university. Loads of people from the academic side have their pronouns in their emails and it’s no big thing. People barely read signature lines, in my experience. However. We have one female doctor who is a super big deal in her field and she doesn’t like it and therefore, most the doctors and scientists don’t do it. So loads of us, who don’t even work adjacent to her, aren’t supposed to put our pronouns in our signature field (or have a photo of ourself that isn’t a professional headshot) and that’s pretty rude. She says she is a doctor and doesn’t care what you call yourself, she needs to understand your internal workings. So, if you are her, and you have that much pull in your job, it’s rude as heck to ask people to delete them, but you do you, I guess.

    1. Shad*

      I get that a doctor treating me may need to know what hormone-producing organs I have and what my surgical history is, including sex related surgeries. But the narrative summaries in medical records are full of pronoun references to the patient, and it is rude at best for a doctor to decide the only relevant one is the one that matches up to those hormone-producing organs and surgical history. Someone who has had a hysterectomy is not necessarily a woman!

    2. Hamish*

      That stuff makes me so mad from doctors, and it doesn’t even make sense. If I or my partner were interacting with her by email, and she was guessing our “internal workings” from our name or appearance, she would be wrong. Ugh.

      It’s this kind of stuff that leads to trans people getting bad medical care. Like another trans male friend of ours calling in to his OBGYN’s office with urgent follow up questions about his hysterectomy a couple days after it, and getting put on hold over and over for almost an hour because every time they picked up they heard his male voice and immediately decided he was lower priority than all other callers. (He eventually got someone to talk to him by loudly saying I AM THE PATIENT as soon as they picked up.) /rant

      1. BigRedGum*

        well, she’d never stoop so low as to deal with a patient by email (Sarcasm there). she’s really something else. she’s considered an incredible powerhouse of a rockstar in her field, so most of us just do what she says so that she doesn’t bother us. ngl, it sucks.

        She’s the type who might say “pronouns are nothing when you’re faced with stage 4 cancer.” she just sees everything as black and white. not cool at all, but maybe she’ll retire soon. (year right. research doctors never retire)

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Yes. There are plenty of powerful people in powerful situations who will try to make everyone fall in line, to cater to their opinions and so forth.

      There’s still plenty of important doctors in their fields out there that don’t actually believe in mental health or who approach being overweight with “Well stop eating, skip a few meals.” [Things actual doctors have said to me and my loved ones, I’m not even joking.]

  48. Minerva*

    LW2: Good employers put training out in the world so that good employees will come to them for whatever part of their career. They can’t assume every bit of training will stay with them, but they know they benefit from training their competitors put out into the world.

  49. The issue with brain damage*

    I have an illness that has caused a lot of brain damage. My memory particularly is atrocious. The cognitive deficits affect every area of cognition. I cannot recognise people unless they are highly familiar (if I’ve met you a few times I won’t remember you). Not only that, due to my cognitive deficits my head has simply switched people and I’ve suffered through the humiliation of assuming a person was another person.

    My memory for names (and countries, cities etc.) is extremely bad. Due to this I strongly avoid trying to say anything relating to names and any time of associative information (e.g., if I don’t remember your exact job I will try to gather information by saying ‘how is work going….’)

    So can people please remember that there are brain-damaged people around you who simply cannot keep up with information and have no desire to insult anyone? I still have an amazing career. Of course, I can remember bits of information for someone highly familiar but that is not what is being discussed on the thread.

      1. The issue with brain damage*

        No, that is the worst bit, my short term memory damage. I’ve seen children aged 5-6 outperform me. Most of the time, as soon as I look away I’ve forgotten it or I will get it wrong. Also, I’m seriously behind on research work because of how much time work takes. All my energy is directed towards work and even then it is not good enough.

        So I focus on the important stuff and say ‘Hi… then deal with the issue’. If you’re wondering how I’m still in the job our episodic memory is extremely damaged when brain damage occurs but our semantic memory is incredibly immune to damage. My knowledge of psychology is part of my semantic memory but it doesn’t change the fact that I am incredibly slowed down. Names are simply impossible. And I can’t keep backtracking for something that doesn’t relate to the important thing: the actual query or help. I have to focus on what is crucial as I’m already so behind.

          1. The issue with brain damage*

            At what point did I say having ‘pronouns in email signatures ‘ made things worse? My point was if you include them people like me might not be able to remember them so if we were to meet face to face a person like me might not connect the dots because of simple memory failure. I am in no way at all suggesting there is an issue with including pronouns in your email or in any other way.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          I think this is heading into ‘not everyone can eat sandwiches’ territory.

          If sounds to me that you are asking people to give some grace to you if you use the ‘wrong’ gender pronouns for them, because of your specific medical situation. However, your situation is very rare. People in the workplace have a reasonable expectation that they won’t be misgendered on purpose. When someone includes their gender in their Zoom header and email sig, it’s pretty reasonable for them to be miffed if that’s not used & respected.

          1. The issue with brain damage*

            I explicitly avoid it in the first place. I try not to use names for people I don’t directly know or pronouns.

            1. RagingADHD*

              How do you have a conversation with someone, or refer to someone else, without using either names or pronouns?

              1. The issue with brain damage*

                ‘Hi my name is N’ then person introduces themselves. After that there is no need for pronouns, I can talk to them without saying ‘he /she /other pronouns’. or without using their names. Everyone I’m close to is aware of how bad I am so they are used to me saying ‘I don’t remember’ on repeat. My colleagues (we’re all in psychological science) have picked up on my memory problems and also figured out I have Bipolar disorder. Instead of saying ‘he or she’ you can say simply say ‘my friend/my colleague’ etc.

        2. Karla*

          I see no way in which someone choosing to list their pronouns in an email signature makes the slightest bit of difference to what you are describing. It seems entirely irrelevant.

          1. The issue with brain damage*

            If you are familiar with this paper or papers in general you know people extend down the line. It has nothing to do with emails. My point is if you were to include a pronoun in an email I might not remember when I next see you. But then I avoid pronouns altogether so I don’t make a mistake.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      The thing is, if you cannot remember people’s names, pronouns etc and get them wrong, when corrected you just apologise, use the correct one and move on.

      That’s true for anyone. Having a brain that doesn’t work precisely well means we have to bear some of the compromises to operate in normal society ourselves – like understanding that some things in general life cannot change to accommodate all our specific needs.

      Although I’m struggling to link this to pronouns in emails?

    2. Another British poster*

      I also live with significant brain damage and short term memory loss and I find people stating their pronouns (which is the norm in my industry) to be very helpful, or neutral at least. I can’t imagine how it would make things worse.

    3. RagingADHD*

      I’m sorry that you’re dealing with that, especially when people are unhelpful or judgmental about it.

      I’m not really following what it has to do with the question, though.

      1. The issue with brain damage*

        I’ve addressed these points above and rules state we shouldn’t flood the thread so scroll up a few responses.

  50. Hamish*

    Alison, just want to say that I really appreciate the excellent moderating job you’re doing here. It looks like it’s probably taking a lot of work today.

  51. ele4phant*

    I absolutely do not think that having pronouns in your email signature are any way unprofessional, and I appreciate the broader effort to normalize sharing pronouns and making a more inclusive work environment, and it heartens me to see cis-men participating.

    HOWEVER, I struggle on a personal level that I really do not want to add my own pronouns in a work setting. It makes me uncomfortable. I personally don’t want my gender to be a part of my work persona, at all. I certainly don’t mind if others do it and I support the movement generally, but I personally don’t want to do it. So I don’t. I think it should truly be an optional, albiet professional, choice.

    1. RB*

      Yes, this is why I’ve been hesitating and I’d be interested in hearing others responses to this. It’s like keeping gender out of hiring decisions, and other things where gender shouldn’t matter. Well, ok, it’s not entirely like that, but similar.

      1. Tinker*

        Is the idea to not use gendered pronouns, titles, and other references at work at all?

        If not, then how do you propose telling which gendered pronouns are used for which people?

      2. Erna*

        Do you ask people not to use pronouns when talking to or about you? Do you tell your boss to use your name only, not to say e.g. “ask RB, she’ll help you”? If not, your gender is already as much a part of the conversation as it would be if you put she/her in your email sig. It’s just that you are in a position where the pronouns people assume the should use for you based on their assumptions about your gender are OK with you.

        Which makes you lucky.

      3. LGC*

        Okay, so – the way I see it is that it’s kind of a balancing act. On one hand, I can definitely see your point and ele4phant’s point about negating gender. You’re right that if you foreground your gender identity, people will act accordingly. Some people might benefit, but a lot wouldn’t.

        But on the other…there’s two prongs to this.

        First: I’ll be honest, given the way English works, the way people work (where yeah, the vast majority of us still fall within the gender binary), and names in general, for people who have ambiguous names or ambiguous identities, it does actually help! (I mean, Taylor Swift once dated a man that shared her first name.)

        And then…I was going to be spicy, but it looks like that’s been covered. But yeah, I think part of being the “majority” (in this case, cisgender and gender-conforming) is that your gender can just be a background part of you. If you’re not – heck, even if you’re just a woman in a male-dominated organization (or a man in a female-predominant organization), then you quickly become aware of your differences.

        That said, I think the aim of the pronoun “movement” is to make it more normal to have non-cis and non-binary gender identities. It’s to make “they/them” (and even neopronouns) as routine as “he/him” and “she/her.” In other words, it’s to make it so that NB and non-conforming people can have the same ability to not worry about their gender as cisgender people do.

      4. Roci*

        People assume gender anyway based on appearance, might as well ask the person if the assumption is correct.
        It’s one thing to remove names and identifying features on a resume so the hiring committee in an attempt to remove bias. But after the interview when you’re debating which candidate to pick, you’ve already met everyone and seen their clothes and heard their voice and learned their name. People will use “he” for “Juan” and “she” for “Emily” unless instructed otherwise–society assumes a heteronormative binary. If either actually prefers “they” and is comfortable being out enough to share that, then might as well use it, no?

  52. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

    OP2 (unapproved hotel stay that they won’t reimburse): did you edit something out of the letter before sending? I wonder why you say specifically:

    I think the company should at least reimburse me for 75%.

    … is it the case that the “intended” hotel was 75% of the cost of this one, for example?

    It won’t be a popular opinion, but I’d be inclined to think that since OP2 knew there was a “unapproved suppliers” list, and that they travel for business, they ought to make themselves aware (assuming it’s accessible somewhere, like on an intranet or something sent out by ‘admin’ periodically, etc) of this list in order to avoid falling foul of this policy.

    OP, do you know why/how this policy exists and how companies and people end up on it? I think that could give a clue as to whether the policy can potentially be ‘varied from’ or not.

    Reading between the lines I don’t think it is just a “penny pinching”, “OP already had a hotel reservation and we paid for a no-show so we don’t pay for another hotel” type of thing but rather that specifically there’s some reason they don’t engage with this chain of hotels.

    1. Juiniper*

      I would argue that at 2 in the morning after many hours of travel, it can be difficult to marshall the mental resources to navigate a company’s intranet in order to find a likely obscurely located policy. She probably picked the nearest hotel in the same class, reasonably assuming it would be ok.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      My guess is that the list is of hotels that they have corporate accounts with, that offer them discounts. So they aren’t paying rack rate. They probably get a 25% discount, so they think 75% of it would be reasonable.

      But I do agree that if there’s a list, that’s something you may want to keep on your laptop or phone or somewhere handy. Since that’s something you will run into when you’re dealing with travel!

  53. RB*

    I hope this isn’t some weirdly controversial question but I’ve always wondered why people put all three pronouns (she, her, hers). Wouldn’t “she” be sufficient? For the sake of brevity and conciseness I was going to do that in my signature but didn’t want to be different from everyone else.

    1. Hamish*

      You know, that’s an interesting question. I don’t know. It just kind of seems to be the convention (although just two, ex “she/her” is also common.) People who are comfortable with two pronouns usually list it as ex. “she/they” so I don’t see a downside to just listing “she”.

      I wonder if it came about because it was useful to have a little more information on less common pronouns. Even they/them/theirs is something a lot of people struggle with because they feel like it’s not grammatically correct, so getting a small pointer on how to use it might have been helpful?

      1. anone*

        People used to give all three. Two is faster so that’s become a convention. Sometimes people probably do give just one and let people extrapolate.

        One issue though is that for people who are unused to and thrown off by having pronouns brought up so explicitly, it can make them self-conscious and forget everything they already know about how to use pronouns. For example, I was “out” pretty early in my workplace about using they/them pronouns. Many of my coworkers meant well but were afraid of messing up and got in their heads about it, coming up with all kinds of weird constructions, like using “they” instead of second-person or first-person pronouns or using “they” instead of “them” or “their” (e.g., saying to me directly, “hi anone, I like… they?… hair today??”). I got really good at giving mini reassuring grammar tutorials to remind people they already knew how to use these words.

        So while technically “she” should be sufficient, if people are in a sudden grammar panic, then more information can help them connect to what they already know. The less cognitive work someone has to do when the situation is already cognitively demanding (with the combination of anxiety and unfamiliarity plus having to search-and-replace in your head while you’re talking and go against what your ingrained habit is), the easier it is for them to adapt. As naming and being more flexible with our pronouns becomes more commonplace and familiar, people will probably end up naturally transitioning to more brevity.

        1. Seige*

          Thank you for a laugh, anyone! I use they/them pronouns too and have had to give a few grammar lessons myself.

    2. Fish*

      It’s both to immediately give an example of the correct use of the pronouns (especially for neopronouns such as e/er/ers where it might not be obvious) and also to make it more clear that it *is* a pronoun, rather than a dangling phrase that forgot to be completed. “He/him” looks more purposeful, even to people who haven’t come across specifically stating pronouns before, than just a “He” on its own.

    3. FridayFriyay*

      I man addition to the other answers given, I think it’s too easy for people to “hear” the wrong pronoun when someone just uses one of the series, which leads to people not picking up on the correct pronoun set. For she and he especially, the listener often just defaults to thinking they’ve heard the one they’ve assumed/mapped on to the person in question.

      Not the same but I get this when I say “my wife” or “she.” People hear “my husband” and “he” even if it’s repeated multiple times because I present as pretty femme and they’re assuming I’m straight and hearing the corresponding words even when I’m saying something different.

    4. Seige*

      I personally give two or three, particularly verbally. Whenever I say the sentence “I go by ‘they’ pronouns,” I’m variably met with “huh?”.

      I don’t know the convention behind writing it out, but at least verbally I think it gives a foot hold to people who might not immediately grasp what I’m saying.