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Wrong words in the workplace

Posted at 8:15 AM, Oct 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-09 09:15:43-04

We all want to work in a positive and inclusive place but sometimes, experts say, we can make seemingly innocent comments, that could be insulting.

Experts say watching what you say isn't about just being politically correct, it's about caring about your coworkers.

Arizona President of Employers Council, Jennifer Ward says, "Everyone has a different experience in life--you don't know what their history is, you do know what kind of challenges they've faced in their lives, how other people have treated them, and so the things you say can be triggering based on those experiences."

Some things are obviously offensive, like using racial or religious slurs, or the "R" word.

But workplace etiquette expert Ward says there are popular words and phrases considered to be micro-aggressions.

Here are some examples:

  • Referring to a group of women as "Girls" or ladies" can be insulting or diminish their place in the workplace.
  • Or calling something or a situation "Crazy."

Ward says, "If somebody has mental health struggles, if you're calling challenging situations or situations that don't make sense, calling them "Crazy," that can be insulting that have negative health challenges."

Ward says as a rule, you should stay away from comments referring to age, sexual orientation or gender.

If a person indicates a comment or phrase is unwelcomed, and you continue to use it, that coworker could make a hostile work environment claim.

"When you cross over that line, thats when you run risk of discrimination lawsuit or harassment lawsuit," says Ward.

It depends on the situation, the point is, be mindful that words can have an impact even if you don't think they do.

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