Inclusive vs Exclusive Language and Corporate Culture

The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA.gov) website recently published an article about how they customized a Slack bot to gently correct people who use the word “guys”.

The GSA has a big job and a big audience and they wanted to make sure that the people writing content for that audience were aware of the language they were using. They didn’t want anyone to feel bad, but they wanted to answer to the question: “How do you nudge people to make better decisions with their language?”

Trying something different, they set up a Slack bot that would watch for the use of the word ‘guys’. Then, it would probe the individual who used the term. Most importantly, they did it from the perspective of seeking clarity, rather than as the language police. For example, the bot would reply with phases like these:

  • Did you mean team?
  • Did you mean all?
  • Did you mean pals?
  • Did you mean gang?
  • Did you mean crew?
  • Did you mean people?
  • Did you mean y’all** ?

They took a subtle approach and it apparently did the trick! They found that even this small change promotes a positive team atmosphere and a corporate culture “that ensures that every person feels comfortable to be themselves at work”.

And that’s something we can all appreciate. After all, didn’t Google confirm recently that psychological safety is a significant factor for creating long-term, effective teams?

I love that something so simple could produce such positive results! It reminds me that even small things can have huge impact. As Sheldon Mopes says, in “Death to Smoochy”, “You can’t save the world, but you can make a dent.”

** This one is, by far, my favorite!

Get useful tips and valuable resources every month

Join the thousands who know just how much we share.

Powered by ConvertKit

Author: Liz Fraley

Liz Fraley has founded two companies, sits on the boards of three non-profits, and is constantly coming up with new ways to share knowledge in the technical communications and content industries. https://www.linkedin.com/in/elizabethfraley/