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The Use and Misuse of Pronouns in the Workplace

Estimated Lesson Time: 3 minutes

I do not have many pet peeves; in fact, peeves do not make very good pets. One I do have is people who work with me isolating themselves from rest of the team or organization by using words such as “I,” “me,” or “mine,” and assuming credit or ownership of that which belongs to the team or organization. For example, we once had a system administrator who would constantly refer to our servers as “his” servers. This annoyed me a bit, considering I was the one who paid in excess of $5000 per server, but it also isolated the rest of the members of our team who all had a piece of ownership in our company.

One of the biggest business faux pas one can make is taking credit for a team effort. Taking credit does not have to be telling others that you did all the work; it can be as simple as making an assumptive statement using the word “I” instead of “we.” Even when you are working on behalf of a company, it is admirable to share the glory of your work and successes with the other members of the organization by using words such as “we,” “us” and “ours.” This says much for your character.

By simply using plural pronouns, you can make others feel more of a part of what the organization is doing. This gives the others in the organization a feeling of importance that leads to motivation, increased productivity, and greater self-confidence. It encourages participation and feedback and creates an environment for learning and growth.

Here are a few suggestions in the art of using pronouns to empower:

  • Change your vocabulary. When discussing anything that belongs to the organization, or work done that others had a part in, no matter how insignificant, use words such as “we,” “us” and “ours.”
  • Share the good and take responsibility for the bad. To a child, this would seem very unfair. But we are not children nor are we expected to act like children in our professional lives. Sharing your successes with others, even if they really had little to do with it, is an admirable act, so is taking full responsibility for mistakes or failures in which others may have had a part. It is during these times that using the words “I,” “me” or “mine” become admirable.
  • Give up credit. If you are really out to make someone feel important, take yourself out of the pronoun and give the other person full credit for the victory. For example, the employees in the design department who won an award may credit it to the team leader by referring to it as “her” award. The team leader would most likely correct the group by calling it “their” award, but the gesture has been made and appreciated.

Use caution when using pronouns in the workplace. A childhood habit of selfishness can develop into a bad habit that keeps success at a distance when you are an adult. Pronouns can also be used as tools to empower and motivate. Choose your words wisely.


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    From the Course:
    Personal Development
    Year To Success
    Bo Bennett, PhD

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