Words Matter: Guidelines on Inclusive Language in the Workplace

Feb 17, 2023

Inclusive language is language that is free from words, phrases or tones that reflect prejudiced, stereotyped or discriminatory views of particular people or groups. It is also language that does not deliberately or inadvertently exclude people from feeling accepted.

The use of inclusive language plays an important role in promoting higher employee engagement, superior customer service and increased productivity—all important aspects of a positive work culture. Building and maintaining respectful workplaces is a shared responsibility in the BC Public Service. Paying attention to how language is used in the workplace is a key part of this responsibility. Language is not always intended to exclude a person or a group, but it may unintentionally have that effect. Becoming conscious of how language impacts others can help prevent feelings of exclusion and discomfort in the workplace. This guide sets out some key guiding principles and suggestions to support using inclusive language. This guide does not set out to be comprehensive or definitive because language is constantly evolving. Rather, the intention of these guidelines is to provide supervisors and employees with supports to promote a greater sense of inclusion and engagement in the workplace.

You can build from these guidelines by remaining curious, seeking out information from diverse, thoughtful authors, and asking appropriate questions about what language might mean to others and inquiring into others’ experiences, needs and concerns. In taking these steps, supervisors and employees can better reinforce inclusion and diversity in the workplace. Having a curious and empathetic mindset to approaching the use of inclusive terms will be helpful to the application of these guidelines to various forms of communications. Honouring, welcoming and championing inclusion may entail seeking out unique points of view and perspectives. Talking about inclusive language welcomes diverse people into conversations and offers the potential to deepen understanding and connection.

This guide supports BC Public Service employees to model the use of inclusive language in the workplace and with citizens.

Access the guide here

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