Moving as much as I did made me a master of the first day. I’ll never forget what it felt like walking into my first day at school and looking around. Wondering if I could fit in.
The moment that always felt like it mattered most was lunch. Typically that first day was filled with dread for that mid-day break where I’d sit alone at a very long table and wonder if anyone was going to join me. The answer was usually no.
Lunch in the workplace was typically no different. While the first day was filled with meetings and team lunches, the next day wasn’t. I’d often sit there still waiting for my laptop and dreading this lonely lunchtime while other coworkers would find time to connect. I had to find a way to just pass time. I had to make sure that even if I was alone, I looked busy. I didn’t want to think about why.
First Days Are Different LGBTQ+ Employees
Do you remember the first day at your job? If you don’t, you’re lucky. You’re also probably not queer. You’re probably not worried about coming out or people trying to figure out who you are, or messing up your pronouns. Deciphering all the reasons they possibly won’t like you.
As educators and speakers around the world build more awareness of the LGBT+ workplace experience, I have received more questions from managers regarding how to start this process. They want to know how to build belonging, teach about pronouns, and create relationships with managers on day one for gender non-binary workers. It’s far more complicated than planning a team lunch, that’s for sure.
This week, I wanted to share one of those notes and the advice I offered so that anyone can have access to that answer – not just the people who are brave enough to trust me with questions that might feel scary.
I attended one of your recruiting webinars a few months ago and really loved what you had to say. I have since followed your blog and again have really enjoyed it. Your blog is why I’m reaching out today for your opinion/guidance if you are comfortable providing.
We had a candidate accept an offer today and will be starting on Monday. They use They/Them pronouns which I believe will be a first for our company. While I have experience with non binary pronouns, I do not know if that is the case for the teams they will be working on.
I want to ensure that we are providing the most supportive environment possible for the new employee. My instinct is to speak to their team and manager about whether they have experience here and if not talk to them about how to prepare to use they/them pronouns (practicing beforehand and with each other). As well as how to correct other team members if they are misgendered in conversations that the employee is not present in (and asking the employee how to support them best when they are present) Many of the team members met them in the interview process so are already aware of the preferred pronouns.
All that being said, I do not know if my instinct is correct. I don’t know if that is supportive, or intrusive. Would it be better to speak to the employee first and ask if that is the best way to support them? Would that also be intrusive? On the first day, I meet with all employees to chat and offer support as they go through their journey here, that is my first time interacting with them usually as our recruiter handles interviews. Would it be more appropriate to ask then what kind of support they want from me after I’ve met them?
My main goal is that they feel safe and supported as they start this new role with us. Hoping you can provide some guidance.
My Advice For Improving the Day One Experience For Gender Non-Binary Workers
Here’s how I responded:
I have two thoughts. The first one is just to ask them. Do they want you to communicate this beforehand? How? I speak as a non-binary person that does a lot of these introductions themselves and would genuinely feel a little awkward if someone did it for me.
Now, the second piece is that managers do need training. Ideally, they’d work with an external trainer because it takes less pressure off the person who is using they/them pronouns and HR to “be the expert.” I wrote about this a few weeks ago in the Managers Guide to Correcting Pronouns.
Their response was heartening. It makes me think maybe we’re doing something right putting it all on the line to talk about these hard things.
Katrina – Thank you so much for this. I appreciate you helping me be a better ally to our employees. This blog was very helpful and I will share with the manager who has already asked me how they should handle this type of situation.
I really appreciate your blog and all that you put out there to help us be better and more supportive humans. Thank you for all your work. I know it must be exhausting.
If there is anything I can ever do to help you…please do not hesitate to reach out.
One thing you can do to help? Hire a speaker that can share real stories and teach your team about how to be better allies – on day one and every day. It’s not just a talk for Pride month. It’s a conversation for companies of all sizes that are growing.
One in five people in Gen Z report being a member of the LGBT+ community. If your company is growing, your managers need to have this education.
Kat Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.
Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster, Care.com, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.
Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.