How To: Support Non-Binary Colleagues at Work

Photo Credits - Alexander Grey via Unsplash

In today’s diverse workplaces, it is essential to foster an inclusive environment that supports employees of all gender identities. Your non-binary colleagues, who do not identify exclusively as male or female, may face unique challenges in the workplace. 

As defined by Stonewall, non-binary is an umbrella term used by individuals whose gender identity does not align comfortably with “man” or “woman”. People who identify as non-binary are varied, they may include aspects of binary gender identities or reject them completely. 

Under the umbrella term, some individuals may identify as gender neutral or gender fluid as well. Gender neutral refers to a gender identity under the umbrella term of non-binary but also the adjective that means “inclusive of any gender”. Gender fluid is a type of non-binary identity that does not align with one gender exclusively. 

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In the UK, there is no legal recognition for non-binary gender identities. However, there is legal protection in place through the Equality Act 2010 as non-binary counts as a protected characteristic under gender reassignment. 

As a colleague or supervisor, there are several proactive steps you can take to ensure a supportive and inclusive work environment for your non-binary colleagues. Here are some tips on how to support non-binary colleagues at work:

Educate Yourself

Take the initiative to educate yourself about non-binary identities and gender diversity. Read books, articles, and resources that provide information on non-binary experiences and challenges. Understanding the terminology, pronouns, and struggles faced by non-binary individuals will help you create a more respectful and inclusive workplace.

Respect Pronouns 

One of the most crucial aspects of supporting non-binary colleagues is respecting their pronouns. When introducing yourself or addressing others, share your own pronouns first and encourage colleagues to do the same. Make sure to use the correct pronouns when referring to your non-binary colleagues. If you’re unsure about someone’s pronouns, politely ask them in private or use gender-neutral pronouns like “they/them” until you receive clarification.

Avoid Gendered Language

Pay attention to the language you use in the workplace. Eliminate gendered terms and phrases that reinforce binary assumptions. Instead of using phrases like “ladies and gentlemen” or “guys,” opt for more inclusive alternatives such as “colleagues,” “team,” or “everyone.” By using gender-neutral language, you create a more welcoming atmosphere for all employees.

Foster an Inclusive Culture

Actively foster an inclusive culture within your workplace. Encourage open and respectful discussions about gender identity and diversity. Implement policies and guidelines that explicitly protect individuals from discrimination based on their gender identity. Celebrate diversity by recognizing important dates like International Non-Binary Day or Pride Month. By actively supporting and advocating for inclusivity, you set a positive example for others to follow.

Address Bias and Microaggressions

Non-binary individuals often face bias and microaggressions in the workplace. It is essential to address and challenge these behaviours promptly. If you witness someone using derogatory language or making insensitive comments, intervene and explain why such behaviour is harmful. Support your non-binary colleagues by actively challenging gender stereotypes and standing up against discrimination.

Use Inclusive Facilities and Policies

Ensure that your workplace has inclusive facilities and policies in place. Provide gender-neutral bathrooms or make existing bathrooms more inclusive by adding signage that welcomes all genders. Review company policies, such as dress codes, to ensure they do not enforce binary expectations and allow for self-expression. These steps create a physical environment that respects and supports all employees.

Engage in Active Listening

Create opportunities for non-binary colleagues to express their experiences and concerns. Practice active listening by genuinely engaging in conversations and valuing their perspectives. Provide a safe space where they can share their thoughts, ideas, and challenges without judgment. By demonstrating empathy and understanding, you build trust and foster a sense of belonging.

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Lead by Example

As a colleague or supervisor, your actions speak louder than words. Lead by example in creating an inclusive work environment. Ensure your behaviour aligns with the principles of respect, acceptance, and fairness. Challenge your own biases and actively seek ways to learn and grow. When others see your commitment to inclusivity, they are more likely to follow suit.

Supporting non-binary colleagues at work requires ongoing effort and a commitment to creating an inclusive environment. By educating yourself, using inclusive language, challenging bias, and fostering open communication, you can contribute to a workplace where everyone feels valued and respected, regardless of their gender identity.


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