General Etiquette > All In A Day's Work

Gender-unclear names?

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cwm:
So I currently work in a job where I deal with a lot of files from a lot of people. I also email the people who referred those people to our company with weekly emails.

Frequently I come across names that are gender-neutral (Alex, Erin, Chris, etc.) and with several names that are of ethnicities where I can't discern gender readily. It's impractical in my emails to keep referring to the client's name or to not use gender pronouns, but at the point where I deal with the file, frequently there's nothing in the file giving me any clues either.

Is it wrong of me to make a best guess? Usually when I have made mistakes in the past, the referring client will correct me gently, which I have no problem with when I make a mistake like this, but I don't want people to think that I'm not even trying to get correct gender with their clients that they're sending us and expecting our company to provide equal service to.

camlan:
My first inclination would be to solve the problem at its source. Is there any way you can get the clients to give you gender information on all these people when they send the information the first time? If there's a form they are filling out, could a gender question be added to the form? Or in some other way, could you get that information?

That's a lot easier on you than side-stepping the issue, having to word emails carefully, or possibly upset a client.

If you can't work out a way to just get the information you need automatically, I'd just shoot off a quick email to the client. "Thanks for sending along the information on Alex Smith. Can you tell me if it is Mr. or Ms. Smith, so that I can start processing the file? Thanks!"

DottyG:

--- Quote ---If you can't work out a way to just get the information you need automatically, I'd just shoot off a quick email to the client. "Thanks for sending along the information on Alex Smith. Can you tell me if it is Mr. or Ms. Smith, so that I can start processing the file? Thanks!"
--- End quote ---

I like this. I think that people who have gender-unclear names are probably not that unused to having the question asked.

Lynn2000:
Do you need to know the gender for a processing purpose, or just to make your narrative emails less awkward? Like, does it really matter for your job if Chris Smith is male or female, or do you just want to avoid writing, "We can provide him/her with XYZ services, if s/he completes ABC forms..."

In some places/industries asking about someone's gender and/or marking it down on their file (as the OP would have to as it sounds like there are too many to just remember) is illegal/otherwise not allowed. So if the only consequence is awkward him/her, s/he emails, I would just be awkward; and if the response indicates a gender ("Mr. Smith told me...") the OP could mark it down in the file, if that's allowed. If it really matters for the job (like, say, calculating medical insurance rates), I think it should be on the initial form/application. Etiquette-wise I don't think it's rude to do him/her, s/he if you aren't sure.

wolfie:

--- Quote from: cwm on May 17, 2013, 01:09:58 PM ---So I currently work in a job where I deal with a lot of files from a lot of people. I also email the people who referred those people to our company with weekly emails.

Frequently I come across names that are gender-neutral (Alex, Erin, Chris, etc.) and with several names that are of ethnicities where I can't discern gender readily. It's impractical in my emails to keep referring to the client's name or to not use gender pronouns, but at the point where I deal with the file, frequently there's nothing in the file giving me any clues either.

Is it wrong of me to make a best guess? Usually when I have made mistakes in the past, the referring client will correct me gently, which I have no problem with when I make a mistake like this, but I don't want people to think that I'm not even trying to get correct gender with their clients that they're sending us and expecting our company to provide equal service to.

--- End quote ---

I note that you included Erin as gender-neutral. Erin is usually a woman, if it is spelled Aaron then it is usually a man.

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